Or sit and lounge around for a while. Either or. We have now arrived at our monthly Pre-Reads! *and the crowd goes wild!* Below are is a list of sixteen books, both non-fiction and fiction, that have been carefully chosen. Since, this is my favorite standard post on 19th Century Modern, I spend at least eight hours, but usually more a month, combing through reviews on my own time to bring you these selections. All the titles listed are recently published or not yet published. You may have to pester your local librarian or bookstore to purchase these titles. They are highly reviewed from Library Journal, Kirkus Review, BookList, Publishers Weekly, and/or Amazon. The summaries/reviews below are taken directly from these sources. I chose the most interesting of these books to compile a well-rounded list for various types of readers out there. As such, I have not read any of these titles yet, so I personally cannot recommend one over the other. If you are looking for a personal recommendation from me, just let me know, but I, too, have not read many 19th century related books lately.
Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Irish immigrant Maggie Malone wants no part of the war. She’d rather let “the Americans” settle their differences-until her brothers join Missouri’s Union Irish Brigade, and one of their names appears on a list of injured soldiers. Desperate for news, Maggie heads for Boonville, where the Federal army is camped. There she captures the attention of Sergeant John Coulter. When circumstances force Maggie to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as “her boys.” And while she doesn’t see herself as someone a man would court, John Coulter is determined to convince her otherwise.
As the mistress of her brother’s Missouri plantation, Elizabeth Blair has learned to play her part as the perfect hostess-and not to question her brother Walker’s business affairs. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy, and offers his plantation as the Center of Operations, Libbie must gracefully manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. As the war draws ever closer to her doorstep, she must also find a way to protect the people who depend on her.
Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one another-until war brings them together, and each woman discovers that both friendship and love can come from the unlikeliest of places.
Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen
Molly Murphy Sullivan’s husband Daniel, a captain in the New York City police force, is stumped. He’s chasing a murderer whose victims have nothing in common–nothing except for the taunting notes that are delivered to Daniel after each murder. And when Daniel receives a note immediately after Molly and her young son Liam are in a terrible train crash, Daniel and Molly both begin to fear that maybe Molly herself was the target.
Molly’s detective instincts are humming, but finding the time to dig deeper into this case is a challenge. She’s healing from injuries sustained in the crash and also sidetracked by her friends Sid and Gus’s most recent hobby, dream analysis. And when Molly herself starts suffering from strange dreams, she wonders if they just might hold the key to solving Daniel’s murder case.
Epitaph: A novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell
A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands. . . .
That was America in 1881.
All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.
Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.
Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
Set in 19th-century India, Moran’s latest novel (after The Second Empress) recounts the story of the legendary Rani of Jhansi, the young Indian queen who led her people in revolt against the British, and Sita, one of her remarkable female bodyguards. Written from Sita’s perspective, the novel depicts both life at the royal court of Jhansi and everyday life for women in India. Most females of the time have little freedom and are raised in seclusion. Sita’s family cannot give her a dowry, so she is to be dedicated as a temple prostitute until her father intervenes and trains her to be a warrior in the queen’s service. In Jhansi Sita finds freedom, opportunity, friendship, and betrayal, and she must discover whom she can trust as there are those who plot to take Jhansi for themselves.
The Trouble with Patience by Maggie Brenden
Patience Cavanaugh has a mind of her own. Moving to Montana after the death of her fiancé and inheriting a run-down boardinghouse, she discovers that life in a frontier town can be difficult. But, not as challenging as dealing with the local sheriff, Jedidiah Jones, when she asks him to do some minor repairs. In exchange, Jedidiah needs to feed the jail’s prisoners. After a rocky start, the two realize that they need each other although neither wants to be the first to admit it.
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xavier Von Schonwerth
A rare discovery in the world of fairy tales—now for the first time in English
With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales—the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen—becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth’s work was lost—until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manuscripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive. Now, for the first time, Schönwerth’s lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.
Wicked, My Love by Susanna Ives
A smooth-talking rogue and a dowdy financial genius
Handsome, silver-tongued politician Lord Randall doesn’t get along with his bank partner, the financially brilliant but hopelessly frumpish Isabella St. Vincent. Ever since she was his childhood nemesis, he’s tried-and failed-to get the better of her.
Make a perfectly wicked combination
When both Randall’s political career and their mutual bank interests are threatened by scandal, he has to admit he needs Isabella’s help. They set off on a madcap scheme to set matters right. With her wits and his charm, what could possibly go wrong? Only a volatile mutual attraction that’s catching them completely off guard…
The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose
Sandrine Salome flees New York and her treacherous husband to find shelter in Paris with her grandmother, but as she settles in and pursues new passions, it’s unclear whether she or an infamous ancestral witch is driving the changes. After Sandrine discovers her husband is an embezzler, she sets sail for Europe, seeking refuge with her grandmother, a celebrated Paris courtesan, in the family’s mansion. But her grandmother isn’t living at Maison de La Lune; she’s moved to a nearby apartment. When Sandrine discovers the older woman is secretly visiting the mansion, though, her curiosity is piqued. She visits La Lune one day after her grandmother leaves, uncovering plans to create a museum from the space, and meets the compelling architect in charge of the project, Julien Duplessi. Together, they unlock a secret room on the property, finding paintings left by an artistic couple who lived there centuries ago. The woman is Sandrine’s ancestor, La Lune, a famed courtesan reputed to be a witch, after whom the house is named. Suddenly, Sandrine is obsessed with painting and with Julien. She’s accepted into the École des Beaux-Arts—unheard of for a woman—and enters into a passionate affair with Julien. Her grandmother suspects she has come under the influence of La Lune’s malignant spirit, who takes over women in their family when they fall in love, hoping to re-create the passionate relationship she had with her lover centuries ago. When a series of violent events happens around Sandrine, she begins to believe in La Lune, but by then, it may be too late.
Daughters of the Samuari: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura
Through her fascinating tapestry of history and biography, New York scholar Nimura weaves the strange, vibrant tale of an insular nation coming to terms with currents of modernism it could no longer keep out. With the shogunate abolished and the “restoration” of 15-year-old Emperor Mutsuhito to the Meiji throne in 1868, Japan recognized that it would need to embrace Western ideas and technology in order to compete in the civilized world, and that would include a Western education for both men and women. Japan required educated mothers to raise standards, and thus the first batch of girls to be sent to study in America for an allotted period of 10 years was recruited from high-ranking samurai families who had fallen out of favor and could spare some mouths to feed at home. Of these five young women sent across the seas in 1871, the two eldest, at 14, did not fare well and were sent back within a few months. The remaining three experienced transformative home-sharing and education opportunities in America and became fluent speakers of English. Nimura concentrates on the stories of these three singular young women: Sutematsu Yamakawa, at 11, lived with the prominent Bacon family in New Haven and eventually attended Vassar; Shige Nagai, who had arrived at age 10, also attended Vassar and ended up marrying a fellow Japanese who had studied at Annapolis Naval Academy; Ume Tsuda, at barely 7, grew up in Georgetown and graduated from Bryn Mawr. All returned to Japan to marry, yet they carried on teaching and even founded an English school for girls. From clothing to manners to speech to aspirations, Nimura shows how the meeting of East and West transformed these select young women. An extraordinary, elegantly told story of the beginning of Japan’s education and emancipation of its women.
Lost in the Yellowstone: Thirty-Seven Days of Peril and a Handwritten Account of Being Lost by Truman Everts and Lee H. Whittlesey
In 1870, Truman Everts visited what would two years later become Yellowstone National Park, traveling with an exploration party intent on mapping and investigating that mysterious region. Scattered reports of a mostly unexplored wilderness filled with natural wonders had caught the public’s attention and the fifty-four-year-old Everts, near-sighted and an inexperienced woodsman, had determined to join the expedition. He was soon separated from the rest of the party and from his horse, setting him on a grueling quest for survival. For over a month he wandered Yellowstone alone and injured, with little food, clothing, or other equipment. In ‘Thirty-seven Days of Peril’ he recounted his experiences for the readers of Scribner’s Monthly. In June 1996, Everts’s granddaughter arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park to meet with park archivist Lee Whittlesey. She brought two documents that her father had kept hidden and both were handwritten by Everts. One was a brief autobiography that gave new insight into his early life. The other was a never-published alternative account of his confused 1870 journey through Yellowstone. Both have been added to this volume, further enhancing Everts’s unlikely tale of survival”–
Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams by Margery M. Hefferon and David L. Michelmore
Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, wife and political partner of John Quincy Adams, became one of the most widely known women in America when her husband assumed office as sixth president in 1825. Shrewd, intellectual, and articulate, she was close to the center of American power over many decades, and extensive archives reveal her as an unparalleled observer of the politics, personalities, and issues of her day. Louisa left behind a trove of journals, essays, letters, and other writings, yet no biographer has mined these riches until now. Margery Heffron brings Louisa out of the shadows at last to offer the first full and nuanced portrait of an extraordinary first lady.
The book begins with Louisa’s early life in London and Nantes, France, then details her excruciatingly awkward courtship and engagement to John Quincy, her famous diplomatic success in tsarist Russia, her life as a mother, years abroad as the wife of a distinguished diplomat, and finally the Washington, D.C., era when, as a legendary hostess, she made no small contribution to her husband’s successful bid for the White House. Louisa’s sharp insights as a tireless recorder provide a fresh view of early American democratic society, presidential politics and elections, and indeed every important political and social issue of her time.
Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden by Carlo Devito
The poignant, personal, and unbelievably true story of Mrs. Robert E. Lee and General Montgomery Meigs, and the founding of the Arlington National Cemetery, in the midst of America’s greatest struggle–the Civil War.
Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden is the intensely personal story of Arlington National Cemetery’s earliest history as seen through the lives of three people during the outbreak of the Civil War: Mary Ann Randolph Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee, and Montgomery C. Meigs. With all the majesty and pathos of a Greek tragedy, this story unfolds as the war’s inevitable spiral of betrayal, tragedy, loss, and death begins, ultimately transforming the nation’s most famous country estate into its most sacred ground. In the years before the war, the Arlington estate sat like an American Acropolis towering above Washington. Mary Custis Lee was known as the Rose of Arlington, a brash, young, willful, and charming young woman, indulged by her famous father, George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of George Washington. Artistic, well read, and highly intelligent, she was an avid gardener who spent as much time as possible tending the numerous flowerbeds of the Arlington Mansion, along with her mother and her three daughters. Handsome and dashing, Robert E. Lee was easily the most promising soldier of his generation. But long before he was a field commander he was also a great success in the Army Corps of Engineers, having worked on major projects around the U.S. His friend, Montgomery C. Meigs, who had served under Robert, was a scion of Philadelphia society, and rose to become the engineer responsible for helping to complete the capital, and one of the most accomplished builders of his generation. When the time for war arose, Lee refused the opportunity to head the Union Army. He could not draw his sword against his own state, his own people, and instead accepted a commission in the Confederate Army, pitting himself against many of his old comrades. Thus began a series of events that would ultimately pit these three against each other. Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden is an intimate retelling of Arlington National Cemetery’s tragic beginnings, and sheds new light on this profound chapter in American history.
The Notorious Luke Short: Sporting Man of the Wild West by Jack Demattos and Rick Miller
Often times the smaller the man, the harder the punch—this adage was true in the case of diminutive Luke Short, whose brief span of years played out in the Wild West. His adventures began as a teenage cowboy who followed the trail from Texas to the Kansas railheads. He then served as a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian wars and, finally, he perfected his skills as a gambler in locations that included Leadville, Tombstone, Dodge City, and Fort Worth. In 1883, in what became known as the “Dodge City War,” he banded together with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and others to protect his ownership interests in the Long Branch Saloon—an event commemorated by the famous “Dodge City Peace Commission” photograph.
The irony is that Luke Short is best remembered for being the winning gunfighter in two of the most celebrated showdowns in Old West history: the shootout with Charlie Storms in Tombstone, Arizona, and the showdown against Jim Courtright in Fort Worth, Texas. He would have hated that. During his lifetime, Luke Short became one of the best known sporting men in the United States, and one of the wealthiest. He had been a partner in the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, as well as the White Elephant in Fort Worth. He became friends with other wealthy sporting men, such as William H. Harris, Jake Johnson, and Bat Masterson, who helped broaden his gaming interests to include thoroughbred horse racing and boxing.
Before he died he would become a familiar figure in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, and Saratoga Springs, where he raced his string of horses. He traveled with other wealthy sporting men in private railroad cars to attend heavyweight championship fights. Luke Short was always a little man dealing in big games. He married the beautiful Hattie Buck, who could turns heads at all the top resorts they visited as man and wife.
Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies: A Nineteenth-Century Treatise on Boxing, Kicking, Grappling, and Fencing with the Cane or Quarterstaff by Thomas Hoyer Monstery and Ben Miller
Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies is the treatise of Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, a master swordsman who participated in more than fifty duels, fought under twelve flags, battled gangsters, and was constantly involved in the great conflicts and upheavals of his time. This book is the magnum opus of this remarkable and colorful character, originally published in the 1870s as a series of newspaper articles and collected here for the first time. Colonel Monstery presents a unique look into the Victorian-era fighting world, describing styles such as British “purring” (shin-kicking), Welsh jump-kicking, and American rough-and-tumble fighting, and provides illustrated instruction in the art of gentlemanly self-defense with a cane, staff, or one’s bare hands. Fifty rare drawings and photographs from the period illuminate Monstery’s world, while an extensive glossary of terms and an introductory biography of Colonel Monstery—including fascinating details of his many duels as well as his groundbreaking devotion to teaching fencing and self-defense skills to women—update his text to make it accessible and useful to gentlemen and ladies of any era.
True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen: Victorian Etiquette for Modern-Day Mothers and Fathers, Husbands and Wives, Boys and Girls, Teachers and Students and More by Sarah H. Chrisman
Regardless of time period, some things hold true: kindness is timeless.
Invasion of privacy; divorce; relationship issues; encounters between people from different places and cultures; new technologies developed at dizzying speeds . . . the hectic pace of life in the late nineteenth century could make the mind reel.
Wait a minute the nineteenth century?
Many of the issues people faced in the 1880s and ’90s surprisingly remain problems in today’s modern world, so why not take a peek at some Victorian advice about negotiating life’s dizzying twists and turns? Gathered from period magazines and Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms, a book on social conduct originally published in 1891, this volume provides timeless guidance for a myriad of situations, including:
The husband’s duty: Give your wife every advantage that it is possible to bestow.
Suggestions about shopping: Purchasers should, as far as possible, patronize the merchants of their own town. (Buy local!)
Suggestions for travel: Having paid for one ticket, you are entitled to only one seat. It shows selfishness to deposit a large amount of baggage in the surrounding seats and occupy three or four.
Unclassified laws of etiquette: Never leave home with unkind words.
This advice is accompanied by watercolors and illustrations throughout. Though these are tips originate from nineteenth-century ideas, you’ll find that they certainly do still apply.
Victorian Secrets: What a corset taught me about the past, present, and myself by Sarah A. Chrisman