Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: The Widow's War & Giveaway

Summary: With an "inventive imagination and a crisp style," bestselling author Mary Mackey has captured readers' hearts with her epic, sweeping works of historical fiction. Now, she presents a novel of a woman's fierce spirit rebellious love, and struggle for justice against the backdrop of the early days of the Civil War...

In 1853, Carolyn Vinton is left alone and pregnant when her fiance, abolitionist Dr. William Saylor, disappears. Grieving and desperate, Carrie is easy prey for William's stepbrother, Deacon Presgrove, who convinces her that William is dead -- and offer to marry her to give her baby a father.

Carrie soon realizes that she has been betrayed at every turn by her new husband. Deacon's father is a proslavery senator, and Deacon plans on using Carrie's inheritance to support the cause. Carrie's love for William -- and her powerful abolitionist views -- have never died. And when she discovers that William is alive and fighting to make the Kansas Territory a free state, she escapes the clutches of her husband to join him.

Their passionate reunion takes place in the midst of a violent civil war that will soon engulf the entire nation. As abolitionists and proslavers battle over the Kansas Territory, fires and fury sweep across the plains, threatening to tear Carrie and William apart again -- forever. Arming a band of African American soldiers, Carrie leads them into battle to rescue William from certain death. Now only their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs -- and for each other -- can save them... -- Berkley

I wasn't big on history class when I was a kid, but one time period that I've always been interested in is The Civil War. I know it's not the same as "real-life history books," but I absolutely love reading historical fiction that takes place during this time period. When I found out that the new novel THE WIDOW'S WAR by Mary Mackey took place in the Kansas territory in the years leading up to the Civil War, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I admit that part of the attraction of this novel is that it was about a series of events that I didn't even know occurred. Had I been a better student of history, I probably would have known about Kansas' own civil war which actually preceded the U.S. Civil War. In 1854, abolitionists and proslavers began fighting in Kansas when both sides rushed into the territory to vote on whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state. Over the next seven years, an undeclared civil war took place in the Great Plains as Southern raiders attacked abolitionists and the abolitionists retaliated. This time period is when much of THE WIDOW'S WAR take place.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE WIDOW'S WAR and actually learned a great deal too -- what more can I ask from historical fiction, right? The history aspect of the novel was extremely interesting, and it's obvious that the author researched this time period extensively. Rarely do I find myself talking about books with my husband (because frankly he's not all that interested in fiction,) but I kept telling him all about Kansas' history. I even was able to share with him the origin of the word Jayhawk.

While I admit that my favorite parts of this story were how the author incorporated real-life events and people into the story of Carrie and William, I also really liked the "fictional" aspect of the story. I especially enjoyed the characters of Carrie and William and their endearing love story. In addition, I liked that the book was very fast-paced and filled with lots of action, adventure, and even deceit. There was a little bit of everything in THE WIDOW'S WAR, and I think there is something to appeal to almost every reader.

I also appreciated how the author chose to tell this story. The book was mainly written in third person and made up of six "parts;" however, at the beginning of each part, there were brief first person accounts by various characters in the story. These first person narratives were full of interesting information that definitely lured me in and made me want to keep reading. The resulting sections were written in third person (almost like a flashback) and proceeded to give the reader all of the juicy details and explanations. Just to give you a little idea of how the first person accounts "teased" the reader, here are the first few sentences of the book:

Nine days ago, I shot my husband. Tomorrow, I am going to lead a band of escaped slaves into Missouri to free eight women, four men, and three children who were kidnapped by Henry Clark and his band of border ruffians. Actually, the escaped slaves are going to lead me. They were trained int he art of war by John Brown himself, and God help any slaver who gets in our way.

Prior to THE WIDOW'S WAR, I wasn't familiar with Mary Mackey and her historical fiction books. I certainly enjoyed this story, and I am now anxious to read more of her books. I thought the author did a wonderful job of incorporating the history aspect into this story, and I definitely want to check out her other Civil War book THE NOTORIOUS MR. WINSTON. In addition to historical fiction, Ms. Mackey also writes poetry. You can learn more about Ms. Mackey at her website.

I have two copies of THE WIDOW'S WAR to giveaway thanks to Berkley books. To enter this contest, please leave a comment with a way to contact you telling me why you want to read this book. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post. This contest will be open until Tuesday, October 20th at 11:59 p.m. EST, and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.


Meghan said...

I'm not normally a fan of Civil War fiction, but I'd love a chance to win this. =) I think a book focused on a woman might be a more enjoyable read for me. Besides, I've never heard of a civil war in Kansas either, so I'm really interested in learning about that. And you like it, so it's worth a try!

meghankk at gmail dot com

Virginia C said...

Hello! Your review really caught my interest. The mid to late 1800's is my favorite time period in American history. The author sounds as though she has a unique and captivating style of blending fact and fiction. I'd love to win!

I am a Google Friend Connect Follower and a subscriber. gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I would love to read this book. I am reading a lot of historical fiction lately and this sounds like a great book to read. I am learning so much from reading historical fiction.


Just Mom said...

I didn't know Kansas had a Civil War and I spent a few years living in Kansas! Please enter me in the contest.


Madwoman-doing-cartwheels said...

I'd like to read this book because I am ready for some Historical fiction and am a little tired of Chick lit. Something new would be nice.

espressogurl at hotmail dot com

mariag said...

I love historical fiction especially anything regarding the Civil War. Pleae enter me to win.

bermudaonion said...

I'd like to read this book because I'm not familiar with that time in history either. Also, I'd like to know the origin of the name Jayhawk! milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Sandra K321 said...

My favorite genre of books is historical fiction because you can learn about the time period in a format that isn't boring. I've read several books on the Civil War this year and would like to include this one.

Beth F said...

I love Civil War books! One of my favorite time periods and settings -- the years leading up to the war and the years after.

I know a little bit of the troubles in Bleeding Kansas before the war and would love to know more.

Thanks for hosting this. BFish (dot) Reads (at) gmail.com

I tweeted: http://twitter.com/BethFishReads/statuses/4655450994

Sandee61 said...

I've always loved anything about the Civil War, and have read alot of novels about it. I enjoyed your review of "The Widow's War" and would love to be added to the list for your giveaway. Thank you!
I enjoyed your blog page too.


Beth Kephart said...

I am just so heartened to see so many loving historical fiction!!

Sandee61 said...

Oops! I forgot my email address:



Julie said...

I'm a huge fan of historical anything! (and though I am ashamed to say I had not idea Kansas had a civil war!) So please enter me to further enlight me to the situation lol!

Thanks for the great giveaway,

chey said...

This sounds like an interesting book!

chey127 at hotmail dot com

Hot Off the Shelves said...

I have always enjoyed civil war stories.

Please sign me up for the giveaway.


Anonymous said...

Historical fiction is my favorite genre. It's a way of being fully entertained while reading about historical figures and events. So, I'd love to read this book. And thank you for the possibility.


Tammy D said...

Please enter me in the giveaway. My husband is a civil war re-enactor and knows such much about the war. On the other hand, I do not. Maybe I will learn something to share with him!


Darlene said...

I'd love to enter Julie. I'd like to read it because I like anything historical or having to do with the war. Thanks!

bj19662001 (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, Julie. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this up at Win a Book.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I can't say I blame you about Kansas. I never heard that in any history book or lecture in high school or college. I love the cover and the excerpt you provided is so good. Sounds like this one is a woman with some very strong convictions.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I also really enjoy the Civil War period and books that deal with it. Nice review.

emilynumbersdittmer at gmail dot com

lag123 said...

I love civil war fiction. Please entr me!


Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading 'historical fiction'. Please count me in...thanks.

karen k

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I love Civil War books (American history major here!) and I prefer a female protagonist-Carolyn sounds very strong.


enyl said...

I have recently come to enjoy historical fiction written for the adult audience, as a history teacher I am intrested how the author will depict the protagonist and the antagonist.


Anonymous said...

This looks like a VERY interesting read according to your review!

I would LOVE to win this!! Please enter me into the giveaway, thanks!!


Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat - join us at http://forum.coolcanucks.ca/

Anonymous said...

I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks. wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

Mozi Esme said...

I love historical fiction - it's interesting, and you learn a lot at the same time!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I love historical fiction, and Civil War fiction. I just finished Enemy Women, by Paulette Jiles, and her view of the Missouri side of the Civil War. She also featured a fabulous heroine, Adair. Would love to read this one too!!

Sue said...

I'm a genealogy buff and my great-great grandfather lived in Kansas during this time. I have read several bits of nonfiction about Lawrence, KS during the 1850s and love how controversial it was there on the border between Kansas and Missouri. Thanks for sharing this!

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Trish Milburn said...

This looks like a fantastic book. Bloody Kansas saw a lot of violence over the slavery issue. I'm really intrigued by the story thread where the heroine arms the former slaves and leads them into battle.

Emily said...

I am looking forward to this book SO much! I want to read it because the last Civil War novel I read was Gone with the Wind and I am dying to read another! And set in Kansas too, how intriguing!

emily DOT wittenberg @ gmail DOT com

Oregon Kimm said...

This looks pretty interesting. I don't have a long history of reading about the Civil War, but this may be the perfect choice to get me interested in it. Sign me up!


Oregon Kimm said...

I posted on my blog as well


Oregon Kimm said...

Now you can add my tweet to the list...


Jaime said...

American History is my fave topic at the moment and I would love the chance to read this
copperllama at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

I would like to win because this sound like a great read Thanks

Mitzi H. said...

Historical Fiction (romance) is my favorite genre and I'd love to win this wonderful book!!!

mitzihinkey at sbcglobal dot net

Thank you for the chance to win!!

Katrina said...

i LOVE historical fiction! this one sounds real good

ykatrina at hotmail dot com

Asylumgirl said...

I'd like to win this book because I love all Civil War books, fiction, non-fiction, you name it.

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

Belinda M said...

I would like to win this because it sounds like a great book that i would very much enjoy reading

Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat - join us at http://forum.coolcanucks.ca/


Persephone said...

Looks like some good histor fic to, would love to read it.

patronus89013 AT yahoo DOT com

Kristi said...

I'm just a fan of historical fiction and would love to read this one!

Thanks for the giveaway!

kherbrand at comcast dot net

Jenny N. said...

Enter me please. This book sounds interesting and I like reading the history in the book.


Andrea said...

I love historical fictions, please enter me

Dawn M. said...

I'd love the chance to read this because 1) it sounds like a great love story and 2) I've never heard about the Kansas civil war...and I live in Oklahoma!

Thanks! :0)
librarygrinch at gmail dot com

Canadianfreestuff.com said...

I love war stories, and I love romance, and I think the book would give me both of these things.

Thanks HappyCappy

joyh82 said...

I would like to win this because I love historical fiction especially
the civil war and frontier era.
I will blog about this on my blog too.

Anita Yancey said...

I would like to read this book because, I am very interested in history. Especially the Civil War. Please enter me. Thanks!


Raspberry said...

This looks fabulous. What makes me want to read it was the teaser paragraph you left - what an amazing story! I'm also a huge fan of historical fiction.
I also have you on my giveaway sidebar at twoandahalfbooklovers.blogspot.com

Margie said...

Good review! I think I'd enjoy this book. Please include me in your drawing. Thanks!

mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Shawna L. said...

Shawna Lewis

Oh thanks for this chance to win this neat book I have looked at it in the book store & have almost bought it but maybe I will be able to win it instead!!!! Thanks & good luck to everyone who enters!!!!
+1 I tweeted http://twitter.com/theblindcupid/status/4924290338

+1 I posted on my blogs sidebar http://booksaremoviesinthemind.blogspot.com/

+1 I posted on facebook (theblindcupid)

Rebecca N. said...

Thanks for the chance to win this book! I love the civil war era!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

CherylS22 said...

I want to read this book because I am a fan of American historical fiction. It doesn't really matter what time period.

Thanks for the opportunity ~

Stitchin in the Sip said...

Please enter me. I love books about strong women.



renee said...

Please enter me, i love historical fiction, one of my favs to read.
reneetaylor at smypatico dot ca

cherdon said...

I love any sort of books relating to the Civil War era. Such interesting reads.

Please enter me. Thanks




Nancye said...

I would like to win this book because I enjoy historical fiction.

Tweet! Tweet!


nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net