It has been a few months since I posted a “Pre-Read.” There was some protesting, but now that I am falling into routine again, I present to you a host of pre-published 19th century books, both fiction and non-fiction. Just a reminder, these blurbs are directly from the Baker and Taylor Forecast, Book List, and Library Journal. I do not claim to review or advise on selection choice, as I have not read any of these titles. But I just may, later this year! As many of these books are not currently available, be sure to annoy your local librarian or favorite bookstore with these delightful requests. Is it not time, you indulge yourself this year and curl up with a good book?
Jury of Six by Dave P. Fisher
Fisher’s western opens with the hanging of two rustlers–range justice dispense by the MacMahon clan, who preside over a free-range cattle empire in 1880s Nebraska. Pioneers who long ago fought and made peace with the Sioux, the MacMahons are the law where there is none. Young Caden MacMahon runs the ranch with the wisdom of men twice his age. He’s honest in all his dealings, polite to everyone, but can’t be bluffed or bullied. Dillon Bruell, an ambitious thief who found his own town, enslaving residents. Bruell and his unsavory brothers, escapees from crimes in Tennessee, mean to steal every cow on the range and wipe out the MacMahons. But when Caden is bushwhacked, his brother Miles takes up the charge, and then all the family joins in.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini
When Kate Chase Sprague’s widowed father, Salmon P. Chase, is appointed to be President Lincoln’s treasury secretary, Kate moves from Ohio to the capital and soon becomes known as the belle of Washington. She has higher ambitions, however; she hopes her father will become president one day. But although Mrs. Lincoln feels threated by Kate’s superior beauty and charm, Kate can’t displace Mrs. Lincoln as First Lady. Kate witnesses the tumultuous events of the Civil War years, her marriage to Rhode Island governor William Sprague, and Lincoln’s assassination.
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Please let it be money! That is the one thought Isolde Goodnight has when she receives the news that her recently deceased godfather, the Earl of Lynforth, has mentioned her in his will. Izzy, desperately hopes that she has inherited at least 200. Even 100 would help because after her father’s death, Izzy is near penniless and without a home to call her own. Instead, Izzy discovers that she is now the proud owner of Gostley Castle, a rapidly crumbling pile of stones deep in the wilds of Northumberland. Much to Izzy’s surprise, she also discovers the castle comes complete with one unmentioned, additional feature: its previous owner, Ransome William Dacre Vane, the Duke of Rothbury.
The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot
When Emery Jones, an idealistic Confederate solider, finally captures a Union soldier after a long standoff, he comes to respect his adversary on the trek to the infamous Andersonville prison and vows that he will be safe. When Emery meets Dance Pickett, an aristocratic Southern militiaman and the estranged son of a famous father, he discovers a kindred soul who believes that the Union prisoners are also God’s children. Violet Stiles, who has devised a way to make much needed buttons for the Confederate soldiers, goes to Andersonville seeking a shipment of supplies, and sees starving, dying, and dead Union soldiers. Appalled that her beloved father, a physician who volunteers there, hasn’t done more, she decides to form a group to feed the prisoners, only to discover that doing the right thing can have unexpectedly difficult repercussions.
The Swan Gandola by Timothy Schaffert
A whimsical epic of illusion and reality at the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair. One evening backstage at the Empress Opera House, “Ferret” Skerritt, ventriloquist and letter writer for hire from the former frontier town’s rough neighborhoods, sees Cecily, a lovely actress with eyes the “color of candied ginger” and falls hard for her. Ferret is nothing if not persistent, and after she returns his affections, they–along with the precious bundle Cecily carries in a carpetbag–become an impoverished family. But as the summer ends, their sweet romance gets disrupted by a lonely entrepreneur whose money can buy him almost everything.
What the Groom Wants by Jade Lee
No matter what she does, Wendy Drew just can’t get ahead. Just when Wendy thinks she finally has enough money to pay off her brother’s gambling debts, Demon Damon, the owner of the gambling hall, informs Wendy she miscalculated the interests owed on the debt. To make matters worse, Wendy learns she has less than two days to vacate the apartment she and her mother have lived in for years. However, when an old family friend, Radley Lyncott, returns home from sea, Wendy thinks her luck may finally changed for the better. But before Radley can even begin courting Wendy, he discovers that he has unexpectedly inherited a title. Wendy is convinced that the new Duke of Bucklynde would never consider marrying a common dress shop owner like herself.
With Autumn’s Return by Amanda Cabot
The third book in Cabot’s Westward Winds Trilogy, finds newly minted physician Elizabeth Harding in Cheyenne, setting up her practice in June 1887. She quickly discovers that even though the Wyoming Territory is progressive on many fronts, having a female doctor is still too radical. Her first acquaintance is Jason Nordling, the gorgeous attorney who has the office next to hers. Unfortunately, they meet on the worst day of his life, when his client is found not guilty and immediately crows about how he got away with murder. Moving at a stately pace, Elizabeth takes on any and all patients who come her way, including the madam of an upscale bordello. Eventually friendship blooms between Elizabeth and Jason, who both are talented professionals but who face challenges in their frontier city, including the threat of murder.
Who Thinks Evil by Michael Kurland
In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Prince Albert Victor, grandson to the Queen of England, has disappeared from the sort of place a member of the royal family probably shouldn’t be caught visiting. Oh, and a young woman was apparently murdered around the same time. Sherlock Holmes is out of town, but Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, has an idea: enlist Professor James Moriarty, who like Holmes, is clever and resourceful, to solve the case. The Professor is in jail at the moment, awaiting retrial on murder charges, but that shouldn’t pose any major problem for Moriarty. The bigger problem, as he’ll soon discover, is finding out who is framing him for some brutal new crimes.
Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A story of wealth, ambition, and survival by Peter Stark
Drawing on original source material, this gripping true story, filled with high adventure and incredible hardship, documents the three-year expedition, from 1810-1813 to establish Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.
The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco writers who reinvented American literature by Ben Tarnoff
Traces the birth of modern America as reflected by the writings of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warrant Stoddard, and Ina Coolbrith, placing their achievements and personal lives against the backdrop of the post-Gold Rush era in California.
Encounters at the Heart of the World: A history of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn
Anyone who has seen the sensitive portraits of Mandan chiefs painted in the 1830s by George Caitlin and Karl Bodmer will be captivated by Fenn’s exhaustively researched history of the tribe that once thrived on the upper Missouri River in present-day North Dakota–at one time the center of northern Plains commerce. Peaking at a population of 12,000 by 1500, and still a vital presence when Louis and Clark visited in 1804, the Mandans were besieged by a daunting succession of challenges, including Norway rats that decimated their corn stores, two waves of smallpox, whooping cough, and cholera, reducing their numbers to 300 by 1838. Piecing together the journals of white visitors to this then unmapped land–from the French explorers Lahontan in 1688 and de la Verendrye 50 years later, to Lewis and Clark, and later Prince Maximilian accompanied by Bodmer, the Swiss painter–and the annual reports to the commissioner of Indian Affairs, Fenn weaves the historical fabric of this proud people, enhanced by archaeological and climate studies tracing their migrations, food sources, and intertribal conflicts.
Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How two men revolutionized physics by Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon
Two veteran science writers with special expertise in physics and engineering tell the story of how two brilliant 19th-century scientist, separated in age by 40 years, discovered the existence of the electromagnetic field, giving rise to many of the technological innovations we have today.
The Heathen School: A story of hope and betrayal in the age of the early Republic by John Demos
Documents the story of a wide-spread early 19th-century missionary project that reflected the Christian views of a fledgling United States, tracing how the successes of a Christian school in various world region were eventually tested by interracial marriages and bitter controversies.
The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, suffrage, and scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson
Describes the adventures of two forward-thinking sisters who tried to turn on its head the male-dominated social norms and structure of the late 19th century by running for president with a black slave as running mate and opening the first woman-run brokerage house.
Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and their friends through the Great War by Mary McAuliffe
A portrait of Paris at the turn of the 20th century evaluates the cultural roles of leading visionaries while exploring how power struggles between government and religion, disparate economic classes and an approaching World War I ended the era.