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.