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Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray: A Novel
     

Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray: A Novel

4.6 22
by Dorothy Love
 

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A general’s wife and a slave girl forge a friendship that transcends race, culture, and the crucible of Civil War.

Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage

Overview

A general’s wife and a slave girl forge a friendship that transcends race, culture, and the crucible of Civil War.

Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/11/2016
Love (Carolina Gold), known for her works of historical mystery and romance, takes on a new challenge in this biographical novel, which traces the relationship between the wife of Robert E. Lee and Selina Norris Grey, a woman enslaved by the Lee family, between 1827 and 1873. Mary Custis Lee, a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, grew up at Arlington, a plantation that also was home to 60 enslaved adults and children. Mary and her mother were both members of the Colonization Society, working to buy freedom for the enslaved and send them to Liberia. They also took the radical step of educating the people they owned, teaching them to read and write. One of Mary’s most eager pupils was the young Selina Norris. While Mary weds Robert E. Lee and begins her life as military wife, Selina becomes a housekeeper at the house in Arlington and marries an enslaved man. The two women maintain their unlikely friendship through letters and sporadic visits. During the Civil War, Mary entrusts the care of Arlington to Selina. Love writes that her inspiration for the novel was “to bring Mary Anna Randolph Lee out of the shadow of her iconic husband... and to explore the friendship between Mary and Selina.” She succeeds on both counts, creating a sympathetic portrait of these two women that both engages and educates the reader. (June)
RT Book Reviews
4 1/2 stars. 'Based on letters and journals of Mary Anna Custis Lee, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, the wife of General Robert E. Lee and the heiress to the Arlington House and all of General Washington’s personal belongings. The historical details are incredibly accurate; some of the facts are surprising to learn. Mrs. Lee was often misunderstood, and some believed her to be a spoiled only child who always wanted her way. She is portrayed as a loving, giving woman. Readers will appreciate the research the author did to create a beautifully written novel. This is the first ever book to chronicle the long relationship between these two women.'

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780718042448
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
06/14/2016
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
108,099
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray


By Dorothy Love

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2016 Dorothy Love
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-4244-8


CHAPTER 1

Mary Custis Lee


1873

There was a time when Arlington was a magical place, enchanted and inviolate, the place where all that was beautiful in my world began.

I grew up amid its thousand acres of rolling green hills and pleasant shades, my hands stained with the rust-brown soil of Virginia and branded by the oil of roses from hot summer days working in the gardens with my mother.

A great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, I learned reverence for my family's storied history as soon as I could talk. By the age of eight, I could recite the particulars of the Battle of Trenton and recount details of the bitter winter at Valley Forge. By twelve, I had committed to memory substantial portions of General Washington's writings, and I delighted in showing off my knowledge to the constant stream of politicians, poets, and artists who arrived by carriage or boat or horseback to dine at my father's table. A man of wide interests and legendary hospitality, he enjoyed entertaining the obscure and the famous in equal measure, so long as they were interesting. By the age of seventeen, I had broken bread with horse traders, newspapermen, soldiers, and tobacco farmers — and with such public figures as Sam Houston, Washington Irving, and Lafayette.

After my daily lessons in French, Greek, and Latin, I was free to plunder my father's studio, a thrilling and amusing hodgepodge of books, maps, mementos, and half-finished paintings and plays. I spent hours poring over his volumes of botany, history, and poetry while General Washington kept watch from his portrait above the fireplace mantel. On rainy afternoons I sprawled on the floor with paints and canvas, making sketches of flowers and people and the cats that roamed the house.

My father, George Washington Parke Custis, inherited a number of slaves from his father's estate, sixty of whom lived at Arlington in quarters that stretched from the backyard and along the river to the fields of corn and winter wheat. I knew each of them by name, and they would pause in their various occupations to exchange a greeting whenever I happened by. I spent hours on horseback roaming the silent loveliness of the woods and fields, which were full of foxes, rabbits, and deer. I waded in the cold streams that meandered through dense thickets. I captured butterflies and studied the beetles inching their way along the forest floor. When I grew tired I stopped to rest at our little chapel nestled in a grove of trees. Even now, it is pleasant to recall the sound of voices lifted in song that lingered in the evening air like a benediction.

How long ago it seems. How innocent I was of the ways in which life could wind. I couldn't have imagined that one day this dear old house, the scene of so many happy hours, would be stolen from me, trampled by a lawless foe, never again to shelter me and mine.

CHAPTER 2

Mary


1827

The forty-mile journey from Arlington to the home of my mother's cousins in Fauquier consumed an entire day. My mother usually accompanied me on visits to her cousin Thomas Turner's family, but she was fighting a cough that spring. I was nineteen, old enough to make the trip without her, so it was Eleanor, affectionately called Old Nurse because she had looked after Papa and then me from our earliest childhoods, who sat with me in the carriage, her sewing on her lap, our lunch basket at her feet.

We left Arlington before sunrise, crossing the dark river that shimmered beneath a waxing moon, meandering eastward past the sleeping farms of Fairfax and Chantilly before turning north to Kinloch, every mile punctuated by Eleanor's complaints about the bumpy ride, her aching bones, and the gathering heat. It was quite a relief when through the deepening twilight the house came into view.

Though the Turner place was not to my eye as lovely as Arlington, it was pleasantly situated on a rise that afforded a view of meadows that in spring were thick with wildflowers, and beyond, acres of rich green fields that spread out in all directions.

My cousins spilled from the house to greet me. Old Nurse climbed stiffly from the carriage and trailed me up the steps and onto the porch while Daniel began unloading my trunks.

"Mary Anna." Cousin Elizabeth, Thomas's wife, squeezed my hands. "Welcome, child. We've missed you."

I kissed her cheek. "Mother sends her love. She said to tell you she hopes to come out later on, when she feels better."

Thomas, tall and spare, consulted his watch. "It's nearly seven. You must be famished by now."

Caroline, who had recently turned eight years old, said, "Papa, we are all famished." She turned her dark eyes on me. "We have been waiting forever, Mary. We thought you would never get here."

"It was a long trip." I smiled and embraced my frank young cousin. "Goodness, you've grown so much since last summer."

"I know it. Almost two inches."

"Mary!" Eliza, two years younger than Caroline, launched herself into my arms. "Guess what?"

"What?"

"No, you have to guess."

"Well, you must give me some clue."

"We have a new animal in the barn. Guess what it is."

"A kitten?"

"Bigger."

"A puppy?"

"Bigger."

"Bigger than a puppy? Let's see. Do you have an elephant hiding in your barn, Eliza Turner?"

She giggled. "It's a foal. Papa says he's a real beauty and I get to name him."

I set her on her feet and we all went inside. Daniel carried my trunks up to my usual room. Old Nurse went with him to unpack my dresses.

Elizabeth herded us to the table and rang for Wilhelmina, who had presided over Kinloch's dining room for as long as I could remember, and supper was served.

After asking for the news from home, Thomas described a series of agricultural talks he had heard at last year's lyceum in Massachusetts. Elizabeth asked after Mother and Papa. Caroline and Eliza finally nodded off and were taken up to bed by their nurse. The boys, Edward and Henry, badgered their father to continue his reading of The Last of the Mohicans.

"I'm afraid my sons have nothing but Indians on their minds these days," Elizabeth said when Wilhelmina had removed the last of the dishes.

"It's the best book there ever was," Edward said. At eleven years old, he was the younger of the two boys and, like his father, tall and thin, with a shock of brown hair and lively eyes. "Have you read it, Cousin Mary?"

"I have not. But you can tell me about it later, when I am not so sleepy. Right now I don't think I can stay awake for another minute."

"Go on up to bed, Mary," Elizabeth said. "Let me know if there is anything you need."

Old Nurse had prepared my bed and taken out my nightdress and hairbrush before retiring to the little alcove off my bedroom. I washed my face and hands, brushed my hair, and climbed into bed, where I slept like the dead until the crowing of the rooster woke me at sunrise. Old Nurse was still asleep.

I dressed quietly and went downstairs. No one was stirring except Thomas, who was in his library surrounded by crates of books.

"Mary. There you are." He picked up a book, glanced at it, and set it aside. "The boys are off somewhere, and Elizabeth has taken the girls down to the stables to see the new foal. They shouldn't be long. Are you hungry?"

"Not a bit. I ate too much at supper last night."

He nodded in that quiet way of his and poked through another crate.

I looked over his shoulder. "A new shipment of books?"

"Just the opposite, I'm afraid. The shelves are overflowing, and I need to make room for newer works. Some of these are headed for the trash heap, sorry to say."

"Oh, may I have them?"

He looked up, surprised. "I suppose so. But I don't think you will find much that interests you. Elizabeth tells me you and your mother are very fond of novels."

"Yes, but there might be something I can use for my schoolroom."

He frowned. "So the two of you are still teaching your servants to read?"

I ignored the disapproval in his eyes. "We are. I have seven pupils at present, five girls and two boys." I peered into the crates. "Maybe there is something in here to hold their attention. The girls are very keen to master their lessons, but the boys are harder to impress."

"A dangerous business, educating slaves when nothing good can come of it." He set down the book he was holding, a large volume bound in mustard-yellow leather. "The more they know, the more discontented they become."

"Papa says the same thing, but then he admits that slavery will end one day. Maybe sooner than we think. Mother and I want the children of Arlington to be prepared for it."

He nodded, tight-lipped. "I'll leave you to it then."

I rolled up my sleeves and poked through the crates. Most of the books were boring tomes: instruction on agricultural practices, collections of sermons, political treatises. Some were so moldered they fell apart in my hands. Some were missing pages. I was about to give up on finding anything useful when I opened a thick book bound in red leather and found beautiful illustrations of flowers and wildlife. Another book contained poems for children, and a third was a book about sailing ships. These three I set aside for my schoolroom.

I was looking through another crate in search of more treasures when I heard the sound of a horse approaching. I looked out the window, then quickly brushed the dust from my skirt and ran out to the porch just as the rider dismounted and handed his reins to the stable boy.

"Robert Edward Lee, what a happy sight!" I couldn't hide my joy at seeing my favorite cousin. We had been childhood playmates and the closest of confidants before he left for his studies at West Point. Cadets were allowed only a single leave at the end of their second year, and the separation seemed interminable.

"Hello, Molly," he said, using my old childhood nickname. He came up the steps and clasped my hands tightly. "I cannot tell you how long I have waited for this day."

We went into the house together. Except for the servants, we were alone.

"I went first to Arlington, and your mother told me you were here," he said. "I came as soon as I could."

"I'm glad you did," I said. "Have you had any breakfast?"

"No, but I don't want anything." He set his leather hat on the table in the parlor. "All I could think about these past weeks was how much I wanted to walk with you and read with you and ride with you."

"So you said in your letters."

Robert had been an extraordinarily handsome boy, and in his two-year absence he had matured into a strong and handsome man.

"I missed you, Cousin."

"Splendid. Perhaps I can make you forget those other beaux who danced attendance on you while I was away."

"I wouldn't call them beaux, exactly. And anyway, they have all absconded now."

He smiled, seemingly relieved. "What have you been doing?"

I told him about my book-sorting project and led him into the library to see for himself.

"You've grown up since I've been gone," he said. "You seem so much more serious now."

"Maybe I am." I was not very good at sharing my innermost thoughts, but there in the Turners' library with dust motes swirling in the beams of sunlight streaming through the tall windows, I told Robert how very badly I wanted to make a contribution to something that mattered. "After all, what is life worth if you can't accomplish in it something for the benefit of others? Especially those who are so entirely dependent upon our will and pleasure."

"Your mother mentioned that you two are still working on behalf of the colonization society."

"Yes, but progress is difficult when we are obliged to purchase slaves in order to free them. And then there is the cost of their passage to Liberia."

I nattered on, because suddenly it had become important to me that he understand. I leaned on the corner of Thomas's desk. "The children have nothing that's only theirs, and the fact of it is truly shameful. An education, however rudimentary, is something that no one can take away from them, whether they choose to go to Liberia or not. And one day when —"

He smiled then.

"Are you laughing at me?"

"Of course not. I was thinking how pretty you look in that green dress."

"Oh." For the first time in my life I felt shy around him.

"And you have changed your hair too. It's very becoming."

"Mother says ringlets are all the rage these days. I take her word for it."

"So you are still not interested in fashion."

"Not in the least."

Elizabeth and her girls returned from their visit to the foal then, exclaiming over Robert and asking a thousand questions about his life at West Point. By the time Thomas and the boys returned, it was too late for breakfast, but presently an early dinner was set before us, during which Robert described his studies and his plans to become a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Wilhelmina came in with dessert — a strawberry cake with boiled icing. Robert ate two pieces, and after a polite interval in the parlor he caught my eye.

"What do you say, Mary? Shall we go riding?"

We set out across the meadow at a smart canter, giving the horses their lead. We forded a shallow stream and passed through a forest thick with old oaks clothed in summer green.

I was so happy to see Robert I could have ridden with him all day, listening to his tales of life at West Point, but after an hour the sun disappeared and black clouds boiled up in the distance.

"We ought to head back," Robert said, and we turned our mounts for home.

But the sky suddenly opened and we were caught in a down- pour. We sheltered beneath a stand of old oaks. Raindrops glittered in the gusts of warm, humid air that blew against our faces. A low rumble of thunder startled my little mare, and Robert reached for my reins.

Our fingers touched. His eyes met mine and held, and all at once everything changed, and I knew.

The storm slackened and we rode home. Leaving our horses to the stable boy, we went inside, laughing together and shaking off the rain.

Supper that night was a feast to welcome Robert home. Everything was delicious, but I was too jittery, remembering the touch of his hand on mine. I pushed my food around on my plate, listening to the Turner clan chatter on about the new foal, all the while wondering how on earth I could continue to breathe if Robert did not return my tender feelings.

Thomas said something that made everyone laugh. Robert caught my eye across the candlelit table and smiled. And I saw then — to my great delight — that he too understood we were meant for each other.

I knew he couldn't declare himself for a long while yet. He still had two more years at West Point, and after that the challenge of his first posting as an army engineer. But on that warm

May evening at Kinloch, I was as happy as I had ever been. One day Robert Lee would be mine.


Three years later

He proposed marriage over a plate of fruitcake.

It was summer and Arlington was in its full beauty. The broad green lawn sloped gently toward the shimmering Potomac. The gardens brimmed with myrtle and roses and lilac. Children and dogs played among the trees. A family of orange cats lay sunning themselves on the front steps.

Robert was visiting, and we had spent every moment since his arrival walking by the river or talking politics with my father. Following Sunday services, Papa read to us from the new play he was writing. After that we enjoyed an hour of listening to Robert reading aloud a novel by Sir Walter Scott.

When he reached the end of the chapter, Mother caught my eye and said in that sweet, gentle way of hers, "Mary dear, perhaps Cousin Robert could use some refreshments after such a long reading."

Her smile was an unspoken apology for the disagreement we'd had earlier that morning after church. I had changed into an old yellow calico dress with a frayed hem instead of the new apricot silk she had recently made for me. To keep the peace I'd donned the silk, but during dinner I treated her with cool detachment to underscore my displeasure.

Then Robert had arrived, impeccably attired as always, and Mother had sent me a look that plainly said, See, I have saved you from embarrassment.

Now I returned her smile, for it was impossible to remain at odds with someone of such refinement and gentleness. Mother

was a quiet-spoken woman whom nothing ever defeated, a model of piety and parental love. I despaired of ever becoming her equal.

"I could do with something to eat." Robert set his book on the empty chair next to mine.

I went into the dining room to see what was available, and he soon followed. As I finished cutting the fruitcake I'd found on the sideboard, I felt his arm slide around my waist. Drawing me close, he said without preamble, "Molly, will you be my wife?"

My hand trembled so terribly I feared I'd drop the knife. I set it down and turned to face him and was struck anew by his beauty. He was nearly six feet tall, broad shouldered, with a military bearing that made him seem important whenever he entered a room. His hair was thick and dark. His eyes were deep brown and shining with the love that had been slowly growing between us nearly all our lives. I had dreamed of this moment since that magical summer at Kinloch, for I was drawn to him as sunflowers turn toward the sun.

But I had been told all too often that I was too unrestrained in my speech and too unconventional in my conduct. Also, plain and dull. Although I was not completely without male attention, my mother, when she thought I was out of earshot, confided to my aunts and her friends that she was worried about my matrimonial prospects. "Wherever will we find someone suitable for Mary?" was her constant refrain.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray by Dorothy Love. Copyright © 2016 Dorothy Love. 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.

Meet the Author

A native of west Tennessee, Dorothy Love makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. An award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, Dorothy made her adult debut with the Hickory Ridge novels. Facebook: dorothylovebooks Twitter: @WriterDorothy

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Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
A heartfelt portrait of two women who forged an enduring bond of friendship over their lifetimes. Based on careful research, the story of Mrs. Mary Custis Lee and and Mrs. Selina Norris Gray is a well-written and fascinating account set during a time when our country and its leaders became greatly divided. Told alternately from the point of view of Mary and Selina, the story begins in 1827 while Robert E. Lee was courting Mary, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. He is a large part of the story as her life revolved around his. "The entire fabric of our marriage was woven of partings and homecomings." Life as a military wife with the many times spent apart, along with the birth and responsibilities of her children, made Mary a resilient, independent woman. The many tragedies she endured must have made her even stronger, as she continued to serve wherever needed, keeping her faith and love for her husband through it all. I came to admire and respect them after realizing all they went through, and gained an understanding of why they felt so strongly about wanting to defend their homeland. Selina's perspective gave an interesting counterpoint to Mary's, as she was ever aware of their differences, yet felt a loyalty and friendship that grew through it all. Her love of reading (taught by Mary and Mrs. Custis in their schoolroom) gave her something that no one could take away from her, a form of freedom in itself before given formal emancipation. Her turmoil over wanting freedom for herself and her family, yet wanting to be loyal to Mrs. Lee, was understandable. Realization that Mary's desire for everything to stay the same would mean Selina's own dreams would never come true was very poignant. Their friendship was indeed a valued and proven one though, as she bravely rose up in a time of need, risking her safety on her friend's behalf. I really enjoyed reading the author's notes at the end, along with the list of references, documenting what was factual throughout the story. Appreciate all the careful research she did to make this book feel so authentic; it would have been extra special to have a few photos included at the end as well. Highly recommend this to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the Civil War era! (Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the book provided in exchange for my honest review.)
believerCR More than 1 year ago
Growing up in Arlington, Virginia meant field trips to the Custis-Lee Mansion and a reverence for Robert E. Lee. My mom's work in the Virginiana Room at the library, the Arlington Historical Society, and the Black Heritage Museum introduced me to other Arlington House residents, slave and free. Mary Anna Custis Lee was Robert E. Lee's wife and the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. Selina Gray was her head housekeeper, the hero who saved George Washington's belongings from looting. "Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray" illuminates the relationship of these two women. Mary Anna defied the law to teach Selina to read. Their roles of mistress and slave brought them into conflict; Selina observes, "White people always thought their problems were so much worse than anyone else's." And their location, across the Potomac from Washington, DC, gave them a front row seat at a war that brought freedom for one and the loss of a beloved home for the other. Dorothy Love's "Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray" brings history to life.
Freddikb 6 months ago
The bonds of friendship extend beyond age, race, culture and events in this remarkable, beautiful, memorable story. Mary Anna Curtiss Lee is a daughter and the wife of well-known family. Selina Norristown Gray is a d aughter born into slavery. They forge a friendship as Mary teaches Selina how to read and write. They stay close as they grow up and gain their own families. Selina even becomes Mary’s close confidante. Words cannot completely express the feelings I have for this story. As it is quoted in this very book…. “There are times where feelings go deeper than words”. This story has proved this to be true. Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray has become favorite of mine. *I received this book free from Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review. What I have expressed are entirely my own thoughts*
SemmieWise 9 months ago
Dorothy Love’s “Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray” is a delightful rendering of the real-life story of Mary Custis Lee, wife of General Robert E. Lee and great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, and her trusted servant and housekeeper, Selina Norris Gray, who helped preserve the relics of George Washington himself. The novel follows the 50-year relationship between the two women, going back and forth between the perspective of both women. Starting from the time Mary becomes engaged to Lee, while Selina is still a child, we continue to see how their lives intermingle all they way through and past the Civil War. “Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray” is an amazing, well-researched piece of historical fiction, bringing these characters back to life. It is a tale of friendship and heroism and loyalty and duty. Although misguided at times, both women have a strong sense of moral decency and courage. Ms. Love does a great job at getting to the true depths of these characters. As a person who grew up in the North all my life, she does a great job of presenting the “other side of the story” to me — helping me to see the struggles southerners had, including their struggles against slavery and the decision to enter the Civil War … even important players in the war like Robert E. Lee. Ms. Love does a great job humanizing these people — they aren’t just characters taken from the pages of history books. They were real people with real struggles and real emotions, and she does an amazing job portraying that. Anyone who loves history in general, the Civil War, the battle against slavery, and the Antebellum life will love “Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray.” Five stars out of five. Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
THersh27 11 months ago
Based on true events, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray tells the story of the friendship of Mary Custis Lee and her serving Selina Norris Gray. When the Civil War erupts and Mary is forced to leave her beloved Arlington behind, she entrusts the care of her estate to Selina. This friendship lasts a lifetime until Mary passes away. I absolutely loved this book. I found it interesting to read because it was a story you don't really read about. It seems to me it was unheard of for a slave and a mistress to have such a friendship as Mary and Selina had back then. I highly recommend this book especially if you like historical fiction. **I received this book free through the Fiction Guild program. I was not required to write a positive review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
MichelleKrim 12 months ago
I was amazed by the amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this story. Based on Mrs. Robert E Lee and one of her family's slaves, this is a fictionalized account of both their lives from childhood until death. The history of the story was fascinating and I really enjoyed the glimpses into the personal lives of the Lee family. They definitely went through their share of heartache. While this wasn't a light story, it didn't get too difficult to read either, as the family was mostly kind in the ways they treated their slaves. At times, it felt like the author was painting everything a little too rosy, but while many slaves suffered greatly, I'm sure there were some that were treated better. I felt the story moved along at a nice pace, given the amount of time it had to cover. When they were young, Mary Custis and Selena Norris weren't really friends, but as they go through life, they were drawn closer to each other. The story is written from the first person perspective of both Mary and Selena, and doesn't follow a strict timeline.. At times, that made the story a little more difficult to follow, as something would happen in Mary's life, then we go to Selena's view where it hasn't happened yet, but I enjoyed having the two perspectives. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the Civil War era. It's a stand-alone story. I enjoyed both being entertained and feeling like I was learning some history. I've always enjoyed learning more about that part of our nation's past. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
StephieJ More than 1 year ago
This is a good book. It had a little bit of a slow start. But I quickly got into the book and really liked it. Such a great story of the friendship between two women. I also love the history intertwined into the story. I will be reading this book again. I was sad to see the story end as I got really interested in the book. *I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review!
MJK108 More than 1 year ago
“I had hoped for a few hours alone with him, but the first great lesson of my marriage had been that duty would always and forever come before personal pleasures.” Mary Custis Lee, great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, grew up reciting history and memorizing the writings of George Washington as a young girl. As Mary matures and becomes a young lady, she falls in love with Robert E. Lee and ultimately marries the young lieutenant, who would later become a well known Confederate general. Mary’s heritage as heiress to Arlington, a premier home in the Virginia countryside complicates her life as she struggles with her desire to find ways to free slaves and provide education for them. Selina Norris is a young slave girl at the Arlington estate whose life becomes intertwined with Mary Lee’s from the time she is a young girl in Mary’s schoolroom until later in life when Mary leaves the keys to Arlington in her trusted hands as she flees to safety during the war. This story spans the lifetime of two women whose lives were entwined over the course of many long years. Both women marry, have families, and struggle through one of the greatest wars this nation has ever endured. Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is a novel that highlights friendship and bonds that transcend race and social status. An excellent historical biography based on historical information taken from Mary’s letters, journals, and family records. I enjoyed the historical perspective of the book and the core of the story is very interesting. Readers of historical fiction, particularly those interested in the Civil War, will enjoy this novel. This ARC copy was received from Thomas Nelson as part of the Fiction Guild Team Challenge in exchange for an honest review. The above thoughts and opinions are wholly my own.
SavannaKaiser More than 1 year ago
I know this is a fictional story, but it read more like a diary of these two fascinating women. Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray both lived in real life and they certainly lived vibrantly inside the pages of this book. Told in first person, the book sweeps readers through several decades alongside Mary and Selina. I loved the way the historical facts were woven around the fictional parts. It felt very real and realistic to me, almost like I’d stepped back in time myself. The various settings were rich and colorful, especially Arlington. By the end of the book, I found myself as sentimental and attached to the home as Mary was herself. I hope to visit there in person some day. At times, I will admit, the story seemed rather slow. Some of the daily activities of the women grew tedious and repetitious to read. Since the story covers so much of their lives during a difficult era, there were several moments of loss and heartache. There were light moments, but overall the story felt sad and rather bittersweet to me. At other times, we almost seemed to jump too quickly through certain scenes and years, where I would have liked to linger and read more details. In many ways, it read like a biography of their experiences. With that being said, I still enjoyed the tale and thought it offered a fresh and unique perspective to these women of history. It even brought me to tears more than once. Historical fans, I encourage you to look this one up! This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild for my copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful story about the bond between Mary Lee, wife of General Robert E. Lee, and a slave girl, Selina, who became her confident and best friend for over 50 years. Their friendship and trust survived separation, losses and the Civil War. Mary believed in and worked towards the education and eventual freedom of slaves
beachbumRM More than 1 year ago
I love historical fiction that weaves some facts through the story and Dorothy Love delivered. This book is about General Lee's wife and her servant (slave) and their relationship through their lives. Ms. Love tells the story from Mary (Mrs. Lee) and Selina's (Mrs. Gray) points of view. This book is a great read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my opinion. The review gives my honest opinion about the book.
LucyMR1 More than 1 year ago
Personally I loved this book. I read some negative reviews, but I enjoyed it immensely. It is based on facts, not meant to be a history book, but a novel. I could feel the pain of Mrs Lee as she suffered from rheumatism and also with the loss of her home. Mrs. Gray struggled with her loyalty to the Lee family and wanting to be free. Each women has Faith in God and struggles with raising a family along with other responsibilities. Dorothy Love pulls you in and you find yourself immersed in the turbulent times of the era. I could identify with each of these ladies in different areas. I was given a copy of Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Guild for an honest review and I have done that.
BookReviewerTG More than 1 year ago
The title of this book just didn't "grab" me but I've read other novels by Dorothy Love and I know that her books are quite interesting...so delved right into this new novel. And I'm glad I did. A very intriguing story based on true.to.life facts. Selina Gray, a slave, and Mary Custis Lee, her owner and the wife of General Robert E. Lee from a unique friendship the Mary takes Selina under her tutelage to teach the young girl to read. As they both grow and mature Selina yearns for freedom from slavery and Mary after her marriage to Robert E. Lee longs for her husband to be home more. Mary basically rears their seven children on her own. While this novel is not full of suspense or action it does read well as a slower read that portrays a fifty year friendship between two women of different heritages. Thoughts, ideas and courage of women of integrity. There is quite a bit of history between the pages of this read...a great for that historian or avid history buff. *This book was provided for review by The Fiction Guild/BookLook*
SusanSnodgrassBookworm More than 1 year ago
Dorothy Love is a very good historical author. She researches well and it shows in her books. This one is a Civil War saga, which I'm sure many will enjoy. I started reading her books from her very first.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
This wonderful story begins when Mary and Robert fall in love with each other. Selina is a young black slave whom Mary is teaching to read and write. Soon, Selina is put to work as a house slave, personally serving Mary and her mother. The author explores Selina's yearning for freedom and Mary's difficulties at being left alone to raise her family while her husband serves in the military. Duty, friendship, freedom, and southern culture are some of the themes the author explores in this novel. Beautifully written and well researched, the author has excelled at accurately depicting the tumultuous years before and after the Civil War, especially family/plantation life and slavery in the South. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Mary, her endurance in the face of illness, and her dedication to her slaves. This was a touching, human story about a fascinating woman of history. Definitely worth reading! Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.
wileysmSM More than 1 year ago
Meet Mrs. Mary Anna Custis Lee, the great granddaughter of Martha Washington. She is loyal to a fault to her husband Robert Edward Lee. She loves her 7 children, whom she raised herself with help from her slaves, in spite of some bad behavior. Mary was very kind and had friends among her slaves. She had a school for her slaves and Selina was one of her students. She had a military wife existence, moving all over the place to support her husband. She had great concern for her husband's soldiers. One of Mary's slave friends was Selina Norris Gray. Selina ran Arlington Estate during the Civil War when the Lee family had to move. Selina preserved many of the Washington artifacts. She was loyal to Mary throughout her life and also became her confidant. Then there's Robert E Lee and Thornton Gray, who married Selina. There's Mary Lee's Mother and Father and some family secrets. A novel about supreme sacrifice, kindness, military struggles, and loyalty. I know you'll enjoy the history in this book. Historical fiction makes history come alive for me. If only my history book had been this good! Enjoy!
Cynthia181 More than 1 year ago
I received this books as a win as a giveaway from Goodreads. This book is wonderful. We have had many books written abut the generals from the Civil War and little about the wives. But to read a books about what is interesting to read about a woman who was raised in the south prior to the war. And worked at helping the servants on her family plantation to be more than just slaves but to be people also. I very much enjoyed the relationship between Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray. I would recommend this book to be read but who loves a good Historical Novel
KarenLynn73 More than 1 year ago
I LOVE Dorothy Love's books! This story brought these two very different people to life and gave us a touching insight to their everyday life of friendship, joys, heartaches, courage and love. Just LOVED this book!
jacksonmomLV More than 1 year ago
I really looked forward to this fictionalized account of Mary Custis Lee and her fifty-year friendship with Selina Norris Gray - and it didn't disappoint. Based on careful research into letters and locations, Dorothy Love has made the much-maligned Mrs. Lee a real flesh-and-blood woman I admire. Her loyalty to her husband and Selina, a slave she taught to read and who later became her confidante, is both tender and fierce. Even though crippled with rheumatism, she supported her husband in his frequent extended military absences while raising their seven children. I ached for her when she lost her parents and other family members, and eventually during the Civil War, Arlington itself. Love's depiction of Selina is equally deep and captivating. She artfully shows the closeness between the two women while also examining the conflicting feelings Selina has for her mistress. I actually cried when Selina read Robert E. Lee's letter, freeing the slaves at Arlington in 1862. and again when Selina hears of Mary's death in 1873. I knew these facts historically, but Love makes you forget you're reading and not living this story. I learned many historical details from this gentle chronicle, but what I remember most is the strength of the friendship that spanned so many years and social differences. Each woman trusted the other with her heart and dreams, and both were found faithful. Love writes with the honesty and iron of a true Southern belle; you will enjoy this read.
Shelske More than 1 year ago
I must say I was interested in this book for the love of the civil war history and knowing it was from the women involved with in the life of General Lee made it even more interesting. It was a good look into what Mrs Lee had to deal with during her life. How his absence changed her life & that of her children. I also liked to hear the views of her confidant through the years & how her life was forever changed also. It is amazing that through all those years, the war & all the moving Mrs Lee endured that she stayed strong for her family even though she struggled with rhuematism. I was also happy to see how strong Mrs Gray was when she was left with the keys to Arlington at the beginning of the war & all she did to save as much as she could in those difficult times. Gives a good glimpse into the lives of people during this hard time in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Custis is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis. She has had a wonderful upbringing meeting many important people; learning about the history of her country; and getting a well-rounded education. She is very close to her parents. Her father dedicates his time to keeping papers about his famous grandfather. Her mother works tirelessly keeping the house running smoothly and teaching the slaves to read. While this is not an accepted thing to do, she insists that the slaves learn because her dream is to see them freed and able to take care of themselves. Selina is a slave for the Custis family. She loves learning to read and being taught by Miss Mary and her mother. Mary's good friend, Robert E. Lee, is currently studying at West Point and hopes to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They have been childhood playmates. When Lee proposes to Mary, she is so very happy. After their marriage, they settle at Fort Monroe where Robert is assigned. Problems arise when a slave slaughters some white people. Robert and Mary are at odds because he sees her as an abolitionist. Robert soon gets involved in fighting the Civil War. For their safety, Mary and her children move back to her parent's home where Selina has become the housekeeper. Many young men are sent to war and provisions become scarce meaning everyone must pitch in to help. The story follows the children that Mary has and the children that Selina has. The two women remain close during their lifetime and are true friends. I enjoyed this story very much. It is a good depiction of life in the south and during the war. The slaves were treated well and there is respect of both the owners and the slaves. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
StellaPotts77 More than 1 year ago
Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray is the story of the wife of General Robert E. Lee and her slave, Selina Gray, how their friendship lasted a lifetime and the many things they went through during their life in a time of great trouble. Taken from the pages of History, Dorothy Love has done a tremendous job of bringing these characters to life and helping us to live and experience the things they went through. It is a great love story as well between General Lee and Mary Anna. Also some very sad things taking place in their life. Not being that great of a History buff I learned lots of things from this novel. I recommend this book to any fan of Historicals. You will not be sorry you bought this one. This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest review which I have given. All views expressed are my own.