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American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence

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Overview

John Quincy and Louisa Adams?s unexpected journey that changed everything.

American Phoenix is the sweeping, riveting tale of a grand historic adventure across forbidding oceans and frozen tundra?from the bustling ports and towering birches of Boston to the remote reaches of pre-Soviet Russia, from an exile in arctic
St. Petersburg to resurrection and reunion among the ...

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American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence

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Overview

John Quincy and Louisa Adams’s unexpected journey that changed everything.

American Phoenix is the sweeping, riveting tale of a grand historic adventure across forbidding oceans and frozen tundra—from the bustling ports and towering birches of Boston to the remote reaches of pre-Soviet Russia, from an exile in arctic
St. Petersburg to resurrection and reunion among the gardens of Paris. Upon these varied landscapes this Adams and his Eve must find a way to transform their banishment into America’s salvation.

Author,
historian, and national media commentator Jane Hampton Cook breathes life into once-obscure history, weaving a meticulously researched biographical tapestry that reads like a gripping novel. With the arc and intrigue of Shakespearean drama in a Jane Austen era, American
Phoenix
is a timely yet timeless addition to the recent renaissance of works on the founding Adams family, from patriarchs John and Abigail to the second-generation of John Quincy and Louisa and beyond.

Cook has crafted not only a riveting narrative but also an easy-to-understand history filled with fly-on-the-wall vignettes from 1812 and its hardscrabble,
freedom-hungry people. While unveiling vivid portrayals of each character—a colorful assortment of heroes and villains, patriots and pirates, rogues and rabble-rousers—she paints equally fresh, intimate portraits of both John Quincy and Louisa Adams. Cook artfully reveals John Quincy’s devastation after losing the job of his dreams, battle for America’s need to thrive economically, and sojourn to secure his homeland’s survival as a sovereign nation. She reserves her most detailed brushstrokes for the inner struggles of Louisa, using this quietly inspirational woman’s own words to amplify her fears, faith, and fortitude along a deeply personal, often heart-rending journey. Cook’s close-up perspective shows how this American couple’s Russian destination changed US
destiny.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite an overblown title and occasional moments of melodrama (“Comets have a bad reputation. They are known for letting their hair down and growing a brilliant train as they head for earth”), this is a serviceable dual biography of John Quincy and Louisa Adams during the former’s service as United States envoy to Russia (1809–1814) and throughout his negotiations with Britain that produced the Treaty of Ghent and ended the War of 1812. Media commentator and presidential historian Cook (Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War) draws heavily from diaries and voluminous correspondences to render the couple’s daily and inner struggles, and she sets these against a backdrop of Napoleon’s maneuvering for Moscow and detailed descriptions of the Byzantine ceremony, intrigue, and diplomacy of Czar Alexander’s court. Old-school historians might recoil at Cook’s embellishments (e.g., invented dialogue and insight into everyone’s thoughts), but fans of historical fiction will appreciate her approach and come away with a satisfying picture of the man who would become our sixth president and his resilient wife. Agent: Jonathan Clements, Wheelhouse Literary Group. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
John Quincy Adams spent several years as the American diplomatic representative in Russia, at the height of the Napoleonic wars. Here's the story. Cook (The Faith of American's First Ladies, 2006, etc.) gives as much space to Louisa, Adams' English-born wife, as to the future president. Adams, a compulsively honest and frugal man, was hard-pressed to keep up with the extravagant lifestyles expected of the diplomatic corps in St. Petersburg. The situation was complicated by the Napoleonic wars, in which American interests seemed distant and trivial to the European powers, especially England and France, both of which set up trade barriers against American merchants. Adams' job was to work out an agreement with the Russians, giving the fledgling country at least one large trading partner in Europe. Luckily, Czar Alexander took a liking to the Adamses and helped smooth their way in the tricky maze of high Russian society. Adams' ordeal included horrible traveling conditions, stubborn bureaucrats, a hostile French ambassador and a chronic shortage of money. But Louisa, one of the few diplomatic wives in Russia, had far worse to deal with--not just separation from their two young sons, but two miscarriages and the death of her 1-year-old daughter. Eventually, as the War of 1812 broke out, the czar offered his services to mediate between England and America, an offer declined by the British. Eventually, Adams was called to Ghent, where he helped negotiate the treaty that ended the war. Louisa, after a year waiting behind in Russia, undertook a harrowing journey to rejoin him in Paris. Cook, drawing on the journals of both the Adamses, gives a detailed if sometimes overwrought account of their experiences. Interestingly, the book is set in the same time and place as War and Peace and sheds considerable light on the background of that novel. A well-researched treatment of two interesting figures in one of the most eventful times in world history. Though a bit plodding at first, it's well worth sticking with it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595555410
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Pages: 502
  • Sales rank: 123,096
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Hampton Cook is the coauthor of Stories of Faith & Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan and author of Stories of Faith & Courage from the Revolutionary War and The Faith of America’s First Ladies. She and her husband, Dr. John Kim Cook, are the parents of two boys.

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Read an Excerpt

American Phoenix

John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence


By JANE HAMPTON COOK

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013Jane Hampton Cook
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59555-541-0


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Murder Outside


Louisa Adams expected to deal with the hazards of snow and ice as she said good-bye to St. Petersburg, Russia, in February 1815. She knew traveling by land to Paris in winter wouldn't be easy. The distance alone was overwhelming—sixteen hundred miles.

What she didn't expect to slow her down was the inconvenience of a murder.

Weather woes, however, were her first worry. When she left St. Petersburg, she traveled more than 330 miles southwest along an icy, winding road toward Mitau, the capital of Courland. Centuries earlier, Baltic merchants had used this pathway to transport their most abundant natural treasure—fossilized amber—to jewelry makers and medicinal healers throughout the Roman Empire. No matter the era, ice still ruled these roads in winter.

Not far from Mitau, her carriage became stuck in icy sludge, which had refrozen after a brief thaw. Today, Mitau is called Jelgava, a city in Latvia, an independent Baltic nation about the size of West Virginia. In Louisa's day the region was a rugged country of swamps, forests, hills, valleys, and crusty roads dimpled by deep holes—and stuck wheels.

When her carriage wouldn't budge, her hired post drivers rang bells to rally the locals for help. Several Russian farmers came to her aid by bringing pickaxes and shovels. As their amber-supplying ancestors had witnessed centuries earlier, so they also saw many coaches and wagons become stuck in refrozen slush. While offering their hands and brawn and hacking around the wheels, these men made a startling discovery.

Louisa was not Russian, as her carriage's insignia indicated. She was an American, and a female at that.

Few of them had seen an American, let alone a lady from that land. To most Europeans, Americans were Yankee Doodles—buffoons in beaver hats. Others envisioned Native American chiefs with feathered headdresses and scantily clad wives who resembled Eve in buckskin fig leaf. Louisa was neither of these. What they didn't realize was this: she was more demure than Dolley Madison, the perfectly mannered, snuff-inhaling socialite wife of the president of the United States, and as sensible, opinionated, and observant as Jane Austen, the popular but still anonymous English novelist.

More than her sex, Louisa's aloneness plagued the propriety of these Russians that winter day. She was traveling to Paris without her husband, brother, or grown son. Gypsies did that—not a lady clad in clean clothing in the high-waist Empire style or riding in her own carriage. Then again, maybe American ladies were different—more independent—than European women.

With the skill of sculptors and the speed of dogs digging for bones, the farmers chiseled and shoveled until the carriage loosened and the icy sludge cracked. They cheered the instant the wheel broke free. Thanking them, Louisa resumed her journey.

When she arrived at the post house in Mitau later that day, she was emphatic. Her stay was to be short. She was already lagging behind her schedule, which was as realistic as chasing a comet. Rest, not recreate. Then resume.

"Here I stopped to rest for some hours, with a determination to proceed one stage more to sleep," she recalled.

Travelers were at the mercy of innkeepers, post house managers, and others who opened their houses to strangers. Unlike a modern voyager, Mrs. Adams couldn't use her smartphone to make hotel reservations via the Internet or call ahead by telephone. None of these advances, not even the telegraph, had been invented yet. All she had were hired drivers, called postilions. They were her communication network, the social media of the day. Postilions worked for post house managers, who furnished fresh horses and drivers from stage to stage for traveling carriages and post coaches.

For centuries Europe's postal systems were nothing more than messenger boys riding alone on horseback to carry letters to the next post or town. This system changed in the 1780s, when postal services, such as the one operated by the famed Thurn and Taxis family, began using coaches to carry both mail and passengers from post to post. Russia's postal system was similar. Louisa, however, was paying for post drivers and horses to transport her private carriage.

Russia's mammoth postal system differed in one significant way from the rest of Europe. In compact England postal stations were close together, allowing drivers to change horses every six to twelve miles. The Russians spurred their beasts much farther, forcing horses to pull a coach eighteen miles or more to the next station.

No matter the country, postal drivers were sometimes suspicious characters. One Englishman described a postal carrier as "an idle boy mounted on a worn-out hack, who so far from being able to defend himself against a robber, was more likely to be in league with him."

Despite this, local drivers knew these postal paths better than anyone and recommended places to stay. One thing was certain. Travelers could usually find shelter at post houses, but hospitality—especially along roads recently ripped by Napoleon's army and the czar's pursuing Cossacks—was no guarantee.

Louisa found an inn at Mitau, called upon its master, and ordered dinner for her party, which included her seven-year-old son, Charles; a nurse; and two servants. Everything was comfortable—at least for the first sixty minutes.

"In about an hour after my arrival, Countess Mengs, a lady with whom I was slightly acquainted at St. Petersburg, called and gave me a most kind and urgent invitation to her house entreating me to remain with her some days."

Word of this American's arrival traveled as quickly as the cook could serve soup. Countess Mengs remembered Louisa as the musical, French-fluent, intelligent wife of John Quincy Adams, the son of the former US president— whatever that meant to the countess's European understanding of America.

When Mengs realized her socialite friend was traveling alone, especially without her reserved, in-control husband, she immediately asked her to stay for a few days. She not only asked; she implored. Her demeanor suggested Louisa's life depended on it, while her words masked her true concerns. She claimed she simply wanted to introduce her to friends at her house nearby.

Though flattered, Louisa declined the kind offer. How could Mrs. Adams possibly stop to enjoy herself when her mission was so pressing? Didn't her papers imply her travels were urgent? Weren't these letters of introduction as glued to her person as her own hands? She had to get to Paris.

What her papers didn't reveal was how long it had been since she had taken a stroll with John Quincy by the river or heard him recite the most inspiring points of a sermon he had just read. Although she had dreaded the days when he would wake up with some new-fangled determination—such as scouring his floor-to-ceiling library of books to find the circumference of the earth—she now missed his calculations of trivia.

She even longed for those endless summer days when he would pull out his apothecary scales and compare the weights of European coins to American ones. Back then his weights and measurements obsession seemed a terribly boring way to tinker with time.

"Mr. Adams too often passed it [the evening] alone studying weights and measures practically that he might write a work on them," she had complained back then. Now she would trade anything for the pleasure of his most annoying habits.

Nearly a year had passed since their separation. Diligence, not entertainment, must guide each and every decision. How dare she even think of recr
(Continues...)


Excerpted from American Phoenix by JANE HAMPTON COOK. Copyright © 2013 by Jane Hampton Cook. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Author's Note: Recalling the Ones Who Were........     ix     

Part 1: Journey Interrupted....................          

Part 2: Journey Begins....................          

Part 3: Journey Resurrected....................          

Epilogue: The Birches of Boston...................     444     

Acknowledgments....................     451     

Notes....................     452     

Bibliography....................     486     

Index....................     492     

About the Author....................     502     


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    I am sure that it was in commemoration of the bicentennial of th

    I am sure that it was in commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, that inspired Jane Hampton Cook to pen American Phoenix.

    The history/ biography of John and Louisa Adams is a well researched, well crafted story of the fall of John Quincy Adams from his Senate seat, from which he expected to carry on the heritage begun by his father, John Adams. This hope was dashed when the political winds of fortune blew against him and caused him to resign the seat he so desired.

    He left the Senate, believing that the rest of his life would be spent as a private citizen, lawyer, setting up shot in Quincy Massachusetts. His future was redirected, when he received an diplomatic appointment to represent the United States to the court of the Czar of Russia. While a diplomatic appointment was an opportunity for Adams to once again serve his nation, it was also something of an exile. The Russian Court was not a desirable post for one who sought the political influence that his father held. It also proved to be a less than ideal appointment for a diplomat's wife.

    Much of the book details the day to day events of life in the Russian court: the debt they incurred to dress and present themselves appropriately in a royal court, the poor housing conditions, with which they had to suffer, and the temptation throw over their Yankee scruples for the vice of the royal court. Adams rose from his exile as a negotiator at the peace talks at Ghent to end the War of 1812.

    Cook based the narrative on the diaries and letters of John Quincy and Louisa Adams. She structured the story on the basic career arc of John Quincy Adams. She added a romantic literary quality by relating the story of Louisa Adams to the characters of a Jane Austen novel. She liberally sprinkles in biblical and mythological allusions through the narrative.

    The book sheds light on a little considered period of history and little considered characters in history. The book is highly readable. It has many references to Quincy Adams reading his bible. The weakness of the book is that Cook was almost too thorough in her coverage of the diaries and writings of John Quincy and Louisa Adams. Sometimes the day to day details of life in the Russian court made the book bog down in some portions.

    I would recommend it to people who enjoy historical romance and people who are interested in the life and history of the early national period.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2013

    I received a copy of AMERICAN PHOENIX: JOHN QUINCY AND LOUISA AD

    I received a copy of AMERICAN PHOENIX: JOHN QUINCY AND LOUISA ADAMS, THE WAR OF 1812, AND THE EXILE THAT SAVED AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE by Jane Hampton Cook from Thomas Nelson via BookSneeze.

    When I first received my copy in the mail, I opened the package an set it on the kitchen table while I prepared dinner. My father honed in on the cover – Adams and his wife ordering script – and asked what it was about. After I explained I’d gotten it to read and review, he asked, “Can I read it as soon as you’re done?”

    Fast forward to after dinner, when the book was again sitting on the kitchen table. My mother grabbed it. “Ooh, a history book. What’s this one about?” She proceeded to sit on the couch with the stack of mail, and ended up reading two chapters before getting back to her housework. She made me promise not to get rid of it when I was done, so this biography has become a permanent fixture in the house.

    After she surrendered the text, I got to experience it for myself. It really does blow the reader away. The writing is fast-paced and interesting. Despite the fact that it is a biography, it isn’t slow or boring. No detail seems needless. I had never known that much about John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa. I highly recommend this to history fans.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The American Phoenix is a book about John Quincy and Louisa Adam

    The American Phoenix is a book about John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812,and the Exile that saved American Independence. The story includes many excerpts from the diaries and letters of John and Louisa Adams. It gives a unique perspective from a woman's viewpoint during an important time in our country's history.

    Louisa Adams sacrificed just as much, if not more for our country than her husband. Jane Hampton Cook makes the story and the period of history it entails come alive for the reader. You can almost feel the raw emotions of John and Louisa Adams during each of their experiences, whether exuberant or melancholy.

    Cook artfully describes the weather in Russia, the struggles of sailing from Boston to Russia, and even the fear that each character must overcome in order to survive the long years in Russia and away from their beloved family. The plight of John Quincy and Louisa Adams as they with very limited financial assets and means co-mingled and represented the newly independent nation, America, amongst the wealthy and aristocratic societies of Russia and France and their struggle to appear to have more financial means to spend on clothes and entertainment.

    The War of 1812 is presented as crucial to our nation's gaining recognition among the nations of the world as a force capable of defending itself and as an international trade entity. American Phoenix is a must read! (rev. M.Godley and. V.Godley)

    DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence for the purpose of review from BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The War of 1812 has often been regarded a forgotten war, or even

    The War of 1812 has often been regarded a forgotten war, or even worse, an unnecessary war. In her well written book, “American Phoenix”, not only does Jane Hampton Cook debunk those theories, in the process she opens the reader’s mind to a side of two of the most influential people of that generation, John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa.

    Written in an intriguing combination of an historical biography and novel, this work reveals the romantic connection that existed, not only between the Adams’ but also between Louisa Adams and her affinity for Russia, developed during the time she spent there while her husband served as the first diplomat sent from the fledgling United States to St. Petersburg. Cook successfully explores through letters and diary entries the loving and warm relationship that existed between the strong and vivacious Louisa and her reserved New England born husband.

    More importantly, the reader is brought to see the vital importance the War of 1812 played in the establishment of the United States as a new and growing nation, capable of playing on the world stage. Rising from the national ashes after the invasion of the British and the burning of much of the nation’s capital, the American republic, struggling to survive its infant years, is seen more as the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes of the funeral pyre. Windows are opened so that the reader can see how John Quincy Adams, son of the second president of the United States, rose from the political ash heap to play the lead role in bringing about the Treaty of Ghent, which not only brought permanent peace with Great Britain, but also opened various avenues of commercial trade, key to the future success of the United States. The capability of the younger Adams as a diplomat is on full display as he deftly and successfully works to maintain the delicate balance between the three world powers of the day, pre-Soviet Russia, Napoleon’s France, and Great Britain.

    In the end Cook allows us to see the devotion of Louisa Adams to a husband she spent many months and even years separated from as he worked tirelessly to serve the nation he loved so dearly. Finally, we see the faith of both John and Louisa, a faith that carried them through the dark periods of life, including their lengthy separations and the deaths of two of their children.

    This is a well written and touching account of the most pivotal point in U.S. history and the involvement of two of its most influential citizen patriots. (Reviewed by Dr. Robert Hodges)

    DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of American Phoenix by Jane Hampton Cook was provided by BookSneeze to facilitate our honest review on behalf of the publisher, Thomas Nelson. No compensation was provided for this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    In March 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John and penn

    In March 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John and penned her famous reminder to “remember the ladies”, encouraging him to fight for women’s roles in society beyond domestic occupations. Author Jane Hampton Cook carries on the legacy of Abigail’s benchmark hope in recognizing women and their contributions to our country, with her marvelous new book American Phoenix John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence. For the first time, we “remember” Abigail’s daughter-in-law, Louisa Adams, in an equally powerful story, chronicling her role beyond simply that of the wife of John Quincy Adams and enter her world through her own words and actions. Mrs. Cook does a scholarly job of blending primary source material with historically interesting events, making Louisa an approachable character and seeing her national importance and influence so thoroughly for the first time. Mrs. Cook gives equal attention to Louisa, as she does to John Quincy, and we see the complex relationship that was the structure of this important marriage and its impact on our national story. This is an extremely interesting and important biography in deepening our understanding of our country’s heritage.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2014

    Good book, but....

    I am enjoying this book, but find the references to telephones and television disconcerting and distracting. It doesn't further the story, but adds a jarring note. A good biography takes you into the lives of the subject.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2014

    PhoenixClan

    Welcome to PhoenixClan! I am Emberstar, the current leader. Post bios here and the roleplay thread is res. 2
    I am a golden tabby she-cat whom has pale gray eyes.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Jane Hampton Cook in her new book "American Phoenix" p

    Jane Hampton Cook in her new book "American Phoenix" published by Thomas Nelson gives us the story of John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence




    From the back cover: John Quincy and Louisa Adams's unexpected journey that changed everything.




    "American Phoenix" is the sweeping, riveting tale of a grand historic adventure across forbidding oceans and frozen tundra-from the bustling ports and towering birches of Boston to the remote reaches of pre-Soviet Russia, from an exile in arctic St. Petersburg to resurrection and reunion among the gardens of Paris. Upon these varied landscapes this Adams and his Eve must find a way to transform their banishment into America's salvation.




    Author, historian, and national media commentator Jane Hampton Cook breathes life into once-obscure history, weaving a meticulously researched biographical tapestry that reads like a gripping novel. With the arc and intrigue of Shakespearean drama in a Jane Austen era, "American Phoenix" is a timely yet timeless addition to the recent renaissance of works on the founding Adams family, from patriarchs John and Abigail to the second-generation of John Quincy and Louisa and beyond.




    Cook has crafted not only a riveting narrative but also an easy-to-understand history filled with fly-on-the-wall vignettes from 1812 and its hardscrabble, freedom-hungry people. While unveiling vivid portrayals of each character-a colorful assortment of heroes and villains, patriots and pirates, rogues and rabble-rousers-she paints equally fresh, intimate portraits of both John Quincy and Louisa Adams. Cook artfully reveals John Quincy's devastation after losing the job of his dreams, battle for America's need to thrive economically, and sojourn to secure his homeland's survival as a sovereign nation. She reserves her most detailed brushstrokes for the inner struggles of Louisa, using this quietly inspirational woman's own words to amplify her fears, faith, and fortitude along a deeply personal, often heart-rending journey. Cook's close-up perspective shows how this American couple's Russian destination changed US destiny.




    I like history so when you give me a great book with historical characters and incidents I relish my time in its pages. Jane Hampton Cook has given us a wonderful historical account of what was happening in America and the world through the story of John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa. John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States taking office in 1824 however "American Phoenix" takes place in the period of 1815. By looking at the lives of John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa, Ms. Cook was able to also look at the state of the United States and its relationship with the rest of the world. America was just beginning to transform from a nation-in-name-only to an emerging world power. Adams was able to help in that transformation and also brought about the first U.S. diplomatic post in pre-Soviet Russia. All this while the couple was separated for long periods of time. "American Phoenix" is the remarkable, true story of this couple and their mark on this country and the world. This is the book to read.




    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program.. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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