The First Lady and the Rebel: A Novel

The First Lady and the Rebel: A Novel

by Susan Higginbotham


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From the celebrated author Susan Higginbotham comes the incredible story of Lincoln's First Lady

A Union's First Lady
As the Civil War cracks the country in two, Mary Lincoln stands beside her husband praying for a swift Northern victory. But as the body count rises, Mary can't help but fear each bloody gain. Because her beloved sister Emily is across party lines, fighting for the South, and Mary is at risk of losing both her country and her family in the tides of a brutal war.

A Confederate Rebel's Wife
Emily Todd Helm has married the love of her life. But when her husband's southern ties pull them into a war neither want to join, she must make a choice. Abandon the family she has built in the South or fight against the sister she has always loved best.

With a country's legacy at stake, how will two sisters shape history?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492647089
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 171,937
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Susan Higginbotham is the author of seven historical novels, including Hanging Mary, The Stolen Crown, and The Queen of Last Hopes. The Traitor's Wife, her first novel, was the winner of ForeWord Magazine's 2005 Silver Award for historical fiction and was a Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. She writes her own historical fiction blog, History Refreshed. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and lives in Maryland with her family.

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Stream Title 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Faerytalemegan 20 days ago
This is a story of two sisters living during the Civil War. Each happens to be on a different side—one a Rebel and one in the Union. The sisters are none other than the wife of Abraham Lincoln (Mary Todd Lincoln) and her half-sister Emily. "The First Lady and the Rebel" by Susan Higginbotham is a dual perspective novel, told from Emily and Mary’s points of view. I loved learning about these women and this time period. It was fun to read about their love stories and I especially enjoyed Mary’s personality and seeing Abraham Lincoln through her eyes. This is not just another Civil War story. It is a deeply personal tale of loss, love and family. There are both good and bad people on either side of the War. The issues surrounding the War aren’t as cut and dry as we like to think. The lives of these two sisters show that love and loss are universal. If you love the Civil War Era or reading about real life characters, you will love this book! Content: I give this book a PG-13 rating. Some examples of the content are: mention of a woman’s bosom; mention of alcohol and drunkenness; a character refers to the “marital act;” the word “Negro” is used in context; the word “da**” is used; mention of alcohol and men getting drunk; the word “b**ch” is used; some gore related to descriptions of war; some talk of making love, but not super descriptive; a man talks of visits from spirits and mediums. Rating: I give this book 4 stars. I want to thank Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Sourcebooks and Susan Higginbotham for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.
Anonymous 21 days ago
I enjoyed this novel of Mary Lincoln and her rebel sister Emily Helm. It really brought to life the time, places, and especially the people. The first couple chapters are set before the Civil War, thus providing a look at the sisters' relationship before the country, and their own loyalties, became divided. These early chapters focus primarily on each woman's courtship and marriage. The sisters' differences in personality are underscored when they choose their husbands. Emily's romance is a classic type love story while Mary favored a meeting of the minds for her marriage. The way I felt about each woman changed throughout the story. Initially Emily seemed to have the more pleasant personality, but her devotion to Hardin meant loyalty to his cause. I didn't like her revisionist history concerning Lincoln's offer to Hardin, and I abhorred her unfairness toward Maggie. On the other hand, though Mary seemed to have the more difficult personality, at times I felt very sympathetically toward her, for example when she was being pressured to stop grieving for her son. The author's notes at the end were excellent, so my only complaint is about the end of Mary's story. While Emily's story gave me a feeling of closure, Mary's felt a bit rushed and incomplete. Overall, this was an excellent piece of historical fiction, and I will seek out more by this author. Thank you to NetGalley for the E-ARC.
FHlady 6 days ago
This duel perspective novel is my first read by Susan Higginbotham. Mary Todd Lincoln and Emily Todd Helm are sisters. Both are married to important men. Mary becomes the wife of Abraham Lincoln, and Emily becomes the wife of General Benjamin Helm, a southern general. I found this an intriguing look at the Civil War from a woman's perspective. The author begins the book by tracing both sister's courtships and marriages. The courtship of Abraham Lincoln and Mary was quite interesting as the did more discussing of politics and books then they did of Mary. I got ticked at Mary saying to herself she would prefer a little more hand holding and kissing than discussion. But once married, Abraham was always supportive of his "Molly." Both Mary and Emily were married to men who were away from them a great deal of the time: Abe because of his political life and then become president and Ben due to his military assignments. Mary and Emily both felt conflicted throughout the war. Mary was supportive of the union, but had family in Kentucky and wanted them safe including Emily. She also had brothers and stepbrothers serving in the Confederate forces. Emily was a staunch supporter of the confederacy but was close to Mary as well as Abe. Abe even nicknamed her Little Sister. Higginbotham shows the deep angst that developed in families as they were torn asunder by opposing viewpoints. As both sisters lost their husbands, one to assassination and the other to war casualty; their later lives weren't what they hoped them to be. Well written and very informative, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Civil War from a woman's viewpoint. The historical research was evident throughout this book. The closing information on the later lives of both Mary and Emily was very interesting.
Anonymous 12 days ago
The Todd family had quite a number of sisters. Mary Todd married Abraham Lincoln and Emily Todd married Hardin Helm. In this story Mary, of course, is the First Lady and Emily is the Rebel. As it was the time of the war between the north and the south, Mary and Abraham were with the side of the north and Emily and Hardin were with the south. This made the relationship between Mary and Emily very difficult but the sisters always loved each other. When Mary first met Abraham, she wanted very much to marry him, but he was unsure of marriage as yet so it took some time to finally “bring him around.” They had 4 sons and later lost 2 of them. Abraham was a Republican and later became President. Emily and Hardin had 3 children and were very much in love. Emily followed him as he served in the war. She and the children stayed in the homes of people who befriended them. But Hardin was killed in the war leaving Emily to care for herself and the children. The story follows both families from the time the sisters are young until after Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, along with a summation of their lives until they died. It is a very in-depth account of their lives from year to year which also encompasses the battles and many other aspects of the war. I have always felt that history as taught in the classroom can be very mind-numbing and boring. As such, I have felt that if students could read novels of the time period they are studying, along with class discussion, it can become more interesting with students retaining more of historical events. Although some readers may find that the length of this book and the continuous updates of the war and the Todd family relationships to be boring, I think that the author did a fine job of putting it all together. I know that the amount of research and time devoted to writing this book has to have been immense and I admire the author for her dedication. I do hope others who would like to truly learn about an important in history will invest the time in reading this book because I don’t think they will be disappointed. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
MerriGib 16 days ago
The First Lady here is Mary Todd Lincoln, while the Rebel is her sister Emily Todd Helm, in a depiction of their lives during the war years of the 1860’s. The situations of the two sisters differ significantly, but their lives are forever marked by the events we meet here. I found this book fascinating. I have a particular interest in the Civil War, as several of my ancestors fought in it on one side or the other. Some came home again, some did not. The author here gives us a taste of what it was like to have a war going on, literally, in your front yard and in your family. Of course, I knew the broad outlines of Mary Lincoln’s story (the author tells us she did not include “Todd” in her name after her marriage) but I came out of this reading experience with what felt like a better understanding of that story. As a psychotherapist, I was impressed with the many serious traumas Mary Lincoln sustained in her life. It seems to me it is no wonder her behaviors were odd and eccentric at times. I appreciated the vivid, well-researched double portrait offered in this book. My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.
PanglossMystic 19 days ago
Excellent book! I enjoyed this historical novel tremendously and couldn't put it down. This is a biography of both Mary Todd Lincoln and her sister Emily, the wife of a Confederate general. The author presents these women as wives and mothers who follow their husbands into difficult situations. I appreciated that it would have been tempting for the author to have focused primarily on the issues of the day, but she instead dealt with the everyday realities of coping with a war, fleeing from one city to another (in Emily's case), the constant worry of each woman for the safety of her husband, and the inevitable grief that comes during wartime. The book was beautifully researched. Even as a history major, I learned a lot of Civil War history that took place in my home state of Tennessee. The accounts of daily life during Nashville, Chattanooga, and other Southern cities during the war were well done. I had not realized that wives of Confederate officers had "refugeed" and moved from place to place so much during the war. In this sense, this novel is a nice contribution to women's history. Two great stories, beautifully intertwined! Highly recommended!
andreajanelreads 20 days ago
I was provided with a digital ARC of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Mary Todd and her sister Emily were the closest of sisters. They loved and supported one another from afar, even though their husbands fought on opposing sides of the war that devastated a young nation. This is a beautifully written portrait of the sweet courtship of a pair of opposites - the wry, stoic Lincoln and the vivacious, sharp-minded Mary Todd. It is a beautifully written portrait of the bonds of sisterhood, and the inimitable joy and often choral grief of motherhood. This is Lincoln and his beloved Mary as we have never been privileged to truly see them. All of their foibles, flaws and idiosyncrasies make them leap off the pages. This painstakingly researched book will give you a new appreciation of Lincoln's tenacity and strength of character. It finally gives us a window into the complexity that was Mary Todd Lincoln. Four and a half stars.
Rachel_Denise01 21 days ago
The First Lady and the Rebel by Susan Higginbotham is a fabulous novel describing a lesser-known facet of Mary Todd Lincoln then what we usually learn and think about when we think of her, her relationship, and her husband President Abraham Lincoln. This novel places us right into the turmoil (external and internal) of Mary and her sister Emily Todd Helm during the Civil War. External as Mary has to deal with the struggle of having her sister’s loyalty to “the other side” the South, as Mary is aligned with the North and her Husband, President Lincoln. Internal as Mary has to choose between family and spouse and what is right and what is wrong. Ms Higginbotham does a fabulous job creating these images for us so that we can feel and see this struggle as if we are there as well. Excellent read. 5/5 stars.
AFerri 21 days ago
This book is one of the best I've read this year. The story is as beautiful as the cover. It is well written and will keep you turning the pages. If you are a fan of historical fiction you will love this book. Thank you SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley for the ARC copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
Anonymous 21 days ago
I loved reading The First Lady and the Rebel by Susan Higginbotham as the author created a fictional story that brought home how the Civil War affected families. The two main female characters Mary Todd and Emily Todd Helm illustrate how the war affected their families. Mary Todd was married to Abraham Lincoln while Emily Helm was married to Benjamin Hardin Helm. Lincoln represented the north as he was president of the United States while Helm was a famous southern general. Higginbotham writes well as her book shows how the Civil War affected families personally. I also liked how Higginbotham presented Mary Todd in a sympathetic light. While this is fiction, it was good to read something that helped show how Mary Todd may have acted (and why) rather than reading typical reports of Mary Todd spending money a bit too freely and communicating with the dead in seances. Higginbotham does gloss over both aspects of Mary Todd's reported actions. The only drawback of Higginbotham's book is the book could have used a bit more depth when it came to creating characters. The characterization was fairly well done but it could have been a bit better. Recommend. Review written after downloading a galley from NetGalley.
MKF 21 days ago
If you, like me, were not aware that Mary Todd Lincoln's sister Emily was married to Benjamin Helm, a Confederate officer, then this will be an illuminating novel. Told by both sisters, this is about more than the Civil War, although that is, of course, what divided both them and the country. Mary's life is well documented (and debated). Emily's is less well known so this was a treat. Emily, like some other Confederate wives, followed her husband as he moved between battle fields. To be perfectly honest, I would have been happy (perhaps happier) had this focused only on Emily but the contrast between the two sisters is well done. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read for fans of historical fiction.