Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

September 5th, 2014 Kimberly Review 37 Comments

5th Sep
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
by Karen Abbott
Genres: Historical, Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War. Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies. After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives. Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy contains 39 black & photos and 3 maps.

I rarely read non-fiction but from time to time, a book comes along that speaks to me. I am a history buff, a History channel junkie and have a particular fondness for early American history. Liar, Temptress, Soldier Spy by Karen Abbot screamed read me, when I discovered it was about four woman undercover during the civil war.

Abbot chronicles the lives of four very different woman during the civil war from both sides of the divide and pieces together a factual account of their deeds. Brilliant, factual and seamless Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy was a joy to read.

The Women.

  • Belle Boyd- was a feisty one and no more than a teen when the war began. This little lady had spunk, spoke her mind, was fearless and eventually seduced men into telling secrets that she shared with the Confederacy. She gained notoriety for shooting a union solider.
  • Emma Edmonds -escaped her father’s home to avoid being forced into marriage. She dressed as a man and joined the Union Army as Frank Thompson. Later she was recruited to serve as an undercover spy. At one time, she even posed as a woman. Can you imagine?
  • Elizabeth Van Lew- a privileged Virginian, used her home to hide Union Soldiers. An opinionated and outspoken abolitionist this spinster impressed me by placing a spy in the White House. She was quite clever and hide folks right under the enemies’ nose.
  • Rose O’Neal Greenhow- was another seductress who used her feminine wiles to seduce Unionist for the Confederacy. She along with her daughter were later imprisoned.

Liars, Temptress, Solider, Spy was brilliant crafted as the author took us back and forth between the woman while keeping the events of the war in chronological order as she weaved in their stories. The descriptions of the each woman listed above only scratches the surface of what these women did for their beliefs. Along the way, Abbot weaved in details and tidbits that kept me fascinated. For instance, did you know that over 400 women disguised themselves as men and fought in the civil war? Some women enlisted alongside their husbands. Most were single and faced poverty they were lured by the pay offered to soldiers. Soldiers earned between eleven and fourteen a month. Abbot’s non-fiction unfolded like a well-crafted story and flowed flawlessly allowing me as the reader to slip in and lose track of time. Despite its five hundred and forty-four pages, I consumed this in a single day.

Fans of women in history and the Civil War will find Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy to be a wonderful addition to their library.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

37 Responses to “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott”

  1. Ashley Farley

    This sounds so good! Like you said, just the kind of nonfiction book I’d want to read. Thanks for the review.

  2. Jennifer

    I just put a hold on the audiobook at the library because it peaked my interest. I am really happy to hear that she weaves the stories together! I can’t wait to listen to it! =)

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yeah it was, I generally read about 3 hrs a day or listen. On that particular day I read about 300 pages during the afternoon as it rained and my arthritis was acting up, then after dinner I finished while the hubs watched some pre-season game..LOL

  3. Katherine

    I just discovered my library has this in Kindle form. I’m on the wait list already and after this review I can’t wait to read it! I love unusual history like this.

  4. Lark

    I saw this book go by somewhere and thought – I need to read that! It looks fascinating. I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I’ve already put it on my TBR list and requested a hold at the library. It will be a while, though, because I’m number 18 in line for 5 copies, and those are still on order. 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Enjoy Lark, it is an easy smooth read and totally fascinating.

  5. Carmel

    Look at you branching out and reading non-fiction! Although admittedly, the subject matter does indeed sound intriguing. I love it how more-and-more info is coming out about women who posed as men in wars, and how half of the Viking warriors were actually female. Girl power!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      :snort: Occasionally if the subject is something interesting I dive in. No celebrity bios ever, thank you very much but history..yeppers.

  6. Melissa (Books and Things)

    I like non-fiction when it is written more like a story rather than a history book. 🙂 Sounds like this author does that well. You have me intrigued about this one. I might even have to buy this for my history loving person for the holidays… but they might get it already read. 😀

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This is like a story Melissa and honestly I slipped right in and hours slipped away.

  7. Heidi

    Yeah! So happy you loved this one. I have a copy and I am just itching to dig into it. I am such a sucker for anything related to the Civil War!

  8. Candace

    I really love this kind of stuff but have a hard time reading it. I guess I need my non-fiction on TV. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was easy to follow and even though it is packed with details it was so fascinating you slipped right into the story.

  9. Debbie Haupt

    Kimba, I’m not a fan of Non-fiction either but I love a good story and I love learning about strong women of history
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention

  10. kindlemom1

    I am not a huge non-fiction reader either but I love this era and I love a good historical of any kind so I think this would definitely tempt me to pick it up.
    Sounds like it was an amazing read about some pretty amazing women!
    Thanks for putting this on my radar Kim and I hope you have a lovely weekend!!

  11. Lupdilup

    You are a big part of the reason why I can’t catch up with some old series. Well, with all these great new introductions that happen to be on audio too! I just can’t find time to go back and catch up…lOL I have to add this to my wish list and buy next time I get offered credits..coz I’m out!..LOL

    • kimbacaffeinate

      :snort: and you are the reason I am listening to 4 or 5 audio books a month!

  12. Jenea

    I don’t read a lot of non-fiction either, but I think would be a good read. I couldn’t imagine living during this time and the things these women see and experience. Wonderful review, I am glad that you enjoyed it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I really enjoyed it Angela and it is so much more than just the women.

  13. Melliane

    Ah yes you’re right, it’s the same for me and non fiction. I don’t read a lot of them but the topic is really interesting and I confess I’m also curious now. We don’t have a lot of stories like that and it’s fascinating to see what the women did in this situation. thanks!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This wasn’t dry Melliane, and unfolded much like any story. She did an excellent job.

  14. Red Iza

    It looks like a great book and the title is catchy – it’s good to showcase women’s talents other than cooking and having babies 😉

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I agree, and often we forget the roles they play in our history