Book Review – The First Lady and the Rebel

The First Lady and the Rebel
by Susan Higginbotham

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Sourcebooks Landmark through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This book is currently available for pre-order. Publication date is October 1, 2019.

The First Lady and the Rebel Book Cover

The First Lady and the Rebel
by Susan Higginbotham

Amazon Description:
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?

My Take:

I was disappointed in this book.

As a disclaimer, I have two degrees in history. My biggest problem with this book was the lack of depth/interest in the characters. No matter the length of time spent with any individual, I never felt like I was getting to know that person. Everything felt very surface-level.

Truthfully, it felt like I was reading a history textbook with one of those inserted stories the midst of facts to try to make students/the reader feel like they weren’t just reading pages of dry facts.

Additionally, the characters didn’t seem to care about anything. Obviously, in a story about the American Civil War, there will be death and loss. Upon hearing of the death of a beloved younger brother, one character reads the telegram, sighs, and thinks, “I wonder if I should write to our mother.” What?!?! This happened repeatedly throughout the book. The only time grief is portrayed well is with the death of Willie Lincoln and how Mary deals with the death. I felt this was explained more because it’s been widely written about in various sources and because it directly contributes to actions later in the book.

The Final Verdict

In a book linking an extensive family across battle lines in a 5 year war there was very little connection between that family.
I was greatly disappointed.

My rating: 3 stars

Would I recommend? Maybe

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