A heartrending novel of courage and resilience inspired by the true story of a female Civil War spy.
September 1862. Hattie Logan is a restless young woman with a strong will and an effervescent spirit. When war ignites, she escapes her privileged family and prim finishing school to join Allen Pinkerton’s spy agency, burning to make a difference for the Union. As one of Pinkerton’s mailroom girls, she uncovers secrets that could change the course of the war. Still, she longs to do more. Dispatched as the courier’s wife, she ventures behind enemy lines, where her passion for the man posing as her husband deepens. But from the shadows of Hattie’s past, a secret threatens their plans and their lives. A sweeping story of courage and resilience, with rich historical detail and unforgettable characters who will tug at your heart. Book One in the Secrets of the Blue and Gray series featuring women spies in the American Civil War.
For readers who love anything to do with the Pinkerton Agency, then this is the book for you. Pinkerton Detective Agency, which is still in business today, was founded by Scotsman, Allan Pinkerton in the 1850s and conducted espionage acts against the Confederacy, with some of its agents hired by President Abraham Lincoln as personal security during the Civil War. One of the most remarkable things about the agency is the use of women and minorities from its founding, an uncommon practice at the time, and some were even used as spies.
Enter Hattie Logan, the very likable protagonist of this book, a single woman working in the tiny sweltering mail room of the Pinkerton Agency, where her days drift by endlessly as she and four other ladies steam open, read, and censor letters crossing their desks from politicians and residents in the Washington area. Anything of note, especially ones which contain important codes or information about Confederate activity is swiftly directed to another room where the codes are deciphered and quick Union action is taken in the field.
Hattie takes her job quite seriously, working for the cause, and as the story progresses you truly get a sense of who she is, and what she thinks of the war, and the other ladies in the room – one of whom she is not very fond of, an uppity debutante-type with an affected British accent named Lucy. When Thom Welton, one of the agency's top spies, is sent to a particular mission, Hattie prays she is selected to join him... but Lucy is selected instead. However, this does not deter Thom's interest in Hattie, even as Hattie seeks to hide her own past from him and from everyone at the agency. Her family, especially her father, are Confederate supporters; still, she longs for the excitement of a real espionage job on the Union side since she detests slavery and her family's Southern roots. Ms Lind manages to develop Hattie's character into a vivacious, determined young woman whose skill is used behind the enemy lines in Virginia, becoming “the courier's wife”, which is an assignment fraught with danger at every turn. Her former skills as an novice actress help her morph into the role with finesse, not to mention her remarkable intelligence and ability to decipher coded messages.
I must say, I was quite interested in her background from the get-go, especially with passage like this one:
“The day their parents disowned George, the day they sent Hattie off to finishing school to stop her wailing after him – that was the day Hattie had decided the big house on Cherry Street, the finest in La Conner, Indiana, was no home of hers.”
The historical background of this novel is quite intriguing, as many don't know the history of the agency, nor the use of women as spies during the Civil War era, so Ms Lind does an excellent job at weaving the actual history into a sound and entertaining novel. This is a first-class novel which represents the strength and courage of so many women during that era, those whose moral character and determination to face danger and stand up for a cause matched any man serving on the front lines of the war. At any moment she might have been killed, but still she did what she needed to do. “The Courier's Wife” is an easy read for a nice laid back afternoon, and sets the reader up nicely for the next book in the series.
And her descriptive passages really put you in the place and setting of the era, such as:
“By September 1962, the War of the Rebellion had already dragged on months longer than most anyone, Reb or Federal, had expected. Every week, it seemed, a contingent of bedraggled Federal soldiers staggered into Washington, stunned my yet another defeat. The lucky ones flocked to the saloons, thought no amount of drink could erase the shell-shocked gazes of the battle-weary. The unlucky ones were carted off to the provisional hospitals where they would breathe the fetid smell of death and wince at the screams as doctors sawed off arms and legs.”
This one made me smile:
“And those skirts! It's amazing, truly, what one can conceal beneath hoops and petticoats. Letters, quinine, even ammunition. Almost makes me wish I were of the gentler sex.”
“Spoken like a person who has never had to endure a hooped skirt.”
Ms Lind's gift for storytelling is evident in her choice of phrasing and word usage throughout the novel, and the reader is kept in rapt page-turning attention. The love story opened rather quickly, if not a bit awkwardly at first but you settle in as the story develops... and obviously, Hattie's acquaintance with President Lincoln and the notice her friend gives at a play at the Ford Theater about John Wilkes Booth's performance will develop as well into the sequel, which we all wait for in anticipation.
There are quite a few missing punctuation and typos scattered throughout the novel, but these slight mistakes do not distract in the least bit; after all, this is a good story and just like Hattie's slight imperfections, her secrets about her family, etc., the missteps add rather than take away from the overall quality of the book.
“The Courier's Wife” by Vanessa Lind receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company
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Vanessa Lind loves writing about strong women from the past, especially the ones who’ve got a secret or two. She enjoys heartfelt stories that keep readers turning pages with characters that aren’t easily forgotten.
Vanessa grew up in Illinois but has since migrated to the Pacific Northwest, where she lives near a town rich in history (and breweries). She has a serious book-buying problem, never turns down a cup of tea, and gets her best ideas while walking her boxer dog. Her goal in life, besides writing unforgettable books, is to be a good ancestor.