Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

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by Karen Abbott
     
 

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Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil

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Overview

Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy contains 39 black & photos and 3 maps. 

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
09/15/2014
In this riveting work, Abbott (Sin in the Second City) tells the story of the Civil War through the eyes of four women who dared to risk everything to serve as spies for their respective causes. Unlike biographical works such as Larry G. Eggleston's Women in the Civil War that devote a chapter to each subject, these women's tales move from one account to the next throughout the years. The result is a highly entertaining narrative with the pace and tone of a novel, albeit one told from the singular viewpoint of women who had an unusual amount of access to both Union and Confederate military and political leaders. Of particular interest are references to Mary Bowser, whose placement inside Jefferson Davis's household by her employer Elizabeth Van Lew is a missed opportunity for a broader perspective on undercover activities. Extensive research drawn from analysis of personal papers, newspapers, and official records provides authentic dialog, and the author takes great care in noting discrepancies or questionable claims. VERDICT This fresh perspective on what is perhaps a familiar story will cause readers to ponder the fine line between traitors and patriots. [See Prepub Alert, 1/10/14.]—Barbara Ferrara, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., VA
Publishers Weekly
★ 05/26/2014
In this gripping book, Abbott (Sin in the Second City) tells the moving and fascinating story of four women who played unconventional roles during the Civil War: Belle Boyd, a boisterous flirt and Confederate spy; Rose Greenhow, a seductive widow also spying for the South; Emma Edmondson, who disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Union army; and Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy spinster in the Confederate capital with Unionist loyalties. Meticulously researched and fluidly written, this book draws the reader in and doesn’t let go until the four heroines draw their final breaths. Abbott provides an alternate view of this tumultuous time in history by featuring previously untold stories of the impact women and civilians had on the war effort, and she brings these individuals fully to life, with their passion for their causes (Elizabeth for abolitionism, Rose for the Confederacy), personal flaws (Rose was racist and self-involved, Belle was impulsive and vain), and heartbreak (Emma by two different men, Belle for an opposing spy). For example, in an era when men had trouble even picturing women in pants, Emma Edmondson enlisted as a man in the Union army and saw action in her roles as both spy and nurse. In the end, Abbott tells a remarkable story of passion, strength, and resilience. (Sept.)
Erik Larson
“With this book, Karen Abbott declares herself the John le Carré of Civil War espionage—with the added benefit that the saga she tells is all true and beautifully researched.”
Deborah Blum
The subjects of Karen Abbott’s gripping story Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy leap up — and almost off — the page… an irresistibly good tale of Civil War espionage and a reminder that the heroes of our history are often found in the most unexpected places.
Gilbert King
“Karen Abbott’s powerful narrative is first rate American history about a fascinating, little-known chapter of the Civil War, as well as a compulsive, thrilling saga of espionage. Brilliant storytelling, highly accessible, and impossible to put down.”
Lydia Netzer
“Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is a masterwork of suspenseful plots and unforgettable characters rendered in exacting, gorgeous detail-a brilliant new take on the heroines and villainesses of the Civil War.”
Robert Hicks
“With Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Karen Abbott has taken history and written it with the eloquence of good fiction. Halfway through her book, I decided Ian Fleming could not have invented better spies…nor have written about them with any more suspense.”
Michael Korda
“Abbott…[reveals] in such vivid detail the extraordinary lives of women who involved themselves so dangerously in the Civil War. This is that rare work of history that reads like a novel — and a really good one at that — and in which the truth is more thrilling than fiction. ”
Amanda Foreman
“Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy by Karen Abbott is a masterpiece of narrative storytelling, backed by impeccable research and extraordinary material. I was gripped by every page.”
Megan Abbott
Thrilling, illuminating, heart-pounding. Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy reads like a crackling espionage novel...Karen Abbott brings to vivid life four of extraordinary and audacious women, and runs glorious roughshod over all our traditional notions of the role of women in the Civil War.
Joshilyn Jackson
“Beautifully written, meticulously researched, and paced like an edge-of-your-seat-novel—-I love this big, ambitious, unstoppable book.”
Los Angeles Times
“Not for nothing has Abbott been called a ‘pioneer of sizzle history.’ Here she creates a gripping page-turner that moves at a breathtaking clip through the dramatic events of the Civil War.”
Wall Street Journal
“Engrossing…Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is conscientiously researched and smoothly written and structured.”
USA Today (four stars)
“A revelation... Abbott profiles four [women], sometimes weaving, sometimes stacking their stories together into a compelling narrative.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“Eloquent… A riveting psychological inquiry and probing examination of the courage, incomparable patriotism, stamina, and agility of four women who repeatedly risked their lives to serve their citizenry... Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy [feels] like an operatic espionage novel, where deception, betrayal, love, and redemption are interspersed with gripping combat scenes and perilous rescues.”
Washington Times
“Compelling... Karen Abbott stitches together a patchwork narrative as complex as a pieced quilt, combining the colorful, unrelated tales of four women who fought in the Civil War as surely as Lee and Grant… [her] high achievement lies in her Augean compilation of published and archival material.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Karen Abbott’s Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy...is full of so many titillating dramas and details, you could be forgiven for periodically checking the back of the book to make sure it’s nonfiction.”
Washington Post
“Abbott’s prose is vivid, especially when she writes about battles and the terrible costs they exact.”
Bustle.com
“Karen Abbott’s Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is the kind of page-turning book you can get so absorbed in that you keep forgetting it’s nonfiction.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-01
Four Civil War subversives—who happened to be women—garner a lively treatment.Having previously written on Gypsy Rose Lee (American Rose) and the Everleigh brothel in turn-of-the-century Chicago (Sin in the Second City), Abbott finds some sympathetic, fiery characters in these four women who managed to aid their causes, either North or South, in their own particular ways. Belle Boyd, a 17-year-old farmer’s daughter from Martinsburg, Virginia, which had voted three to one against secession, declared her loyalty to the Southern cause by shooting a Yankee soldier who dared to touch her mother, and thereby took advantage of the confusion and movement of troops to slip through the lines and pass secrets; she was in and out of jail during the course of the war. Emma Edmonds, having left the family farm in 1859 to reinvent herself as a man selling Bibles door to door, offered herself to the Union cause two years later, serving mostly in a medical capacity. According to Abbott, Edmonds was one of 400 women, Northern and Southern, who posed as men. Rose Greenhow, a comely widow and grieving mother of some means in Washington, D.C., fashioned herself as a spy for the Southern cause, learning code, passing messages wound in her servants’ hair and inviting all kinds of late-night gentlemen callers; Greenhow would eventually go abroad to drum up sympathy for the Confederacy in England and France, turning her charms on Napoleon III and others. A wealthy Richmond spinster, Elizabeth Van Lew had deep Yankee roots in her family and was unique in that she cultivated intricate subterfuge right under her Southern neighbors’ noses—e.g., passing Confederate troops movements to Gen. Benjamin Butler. Abbott proceeds chronologically, navigating the historical record through quotes and personal detail.Remarkable, brave lives rendered in a fluidly readable, even romantic history lesson.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062092915
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/02/2014
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
12,429
File size:
5 MB

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Meet the Author

Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and, most recently, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian magazine, Salon, and other publications.

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