Monday, April 22, 2019

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard {ends 4/29}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Strange. Joshua Speed had assumed there would be some comfort in seeing Mrs. Francis’s agenda at last laid bare.

“Why do you not marry him yourself?” he murmured. “I think you would if you could.”

“You’re probably right,” she answered amiably. “Diamonds in the rough have always been my weakness. Oh, you should have seen Mr. Francis when I first got hold of him. Licking his knife, balling up his handkerchief, scratching himself at all times of day. He made our Lincoln look like Beau Brummell.”

“So,” he said, “in lieu of yourself, you propose some other candidate.”

“Not as yet,” she said equably. “I must first survey the field.”

“And in so doing, you will find what? A limp, lisping virgin of, what, seventeen? Eighteen? Just enough brain to fit in her own thimble?”

“Oh, for the first time, I believe you underestimate me, Mr. Speed. And him. Do you honestly think our Lincoln could attach his fortunes to someone he couldn’t talk with?”


I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from this intimate tale of Abraham Lincoln’s personal relationships before his political life reached its peak. I suppose I’d never really considered him – or his wife and other friends – as real people, as shallow as that may sound.

Official synopsis: 
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard
When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one’s short list to be president. A country lawyer living above a dry goods shop, he is lacking both money and manners, and his gift for oratory surprises those who meet him. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with an interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: an amiable, profound man who, despite his awkwardness, has a gentle wit to match his genius, and who respects her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and inspired by historical events, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents. Louis Bayard, a master storyteller, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.


I don’t recall reading much fiction or historical fiction from this time period, so I found this book to be interesting from that perspective. The stories we hear about Lincoln are usually just surrounding his presidency and assassination. In this book I learned about the probable relationships he had before all this. Mary Todd comes to Springfield to stay with her sister’s family, and find a husband. While she passes on several suitable prospects, she seems almost more intrigued than attracted to Lincoln.

During Mary’s early days in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln and his roommate Joshua Speed are nearly a package deal. They arrive at all events together, telling stories together, and adding charm and entertainment on a regular basis. But can such a close friendship make choosing to take a wife even harder?

I liked how the book alternated between Mary Todd’s perspective and Joshua Speed’s perspective of the same events involving Lincoln. It made it feel like the reader knew the whole story, although Lincoln’s perspective was never given. Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I’m glad I read it and learned more about that time period, but the fame of the characters is something that’s only recognized from a previous knowledge of history.


Becki Bayley is a wife, and mother of two who has been blogging for more than 15 years at SweetlyBSquared.com. She loves reading, building her Tiny Tower and crushing all the candy.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Courting Mr. Lincoln!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, April 29th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard

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