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A Girl Reading by Hendricus Jacobus Burger, 1863

Dear Readers,

I apologize for going silent for a time. Storms are brewing in my personal life which I hope will finally get resolved, one way or another, this weekend. So I have missed a few Regular Posts you have come to love and expect. In all honesty, I was not sure I was going to post today. For once I am feeling rather optimistic and simply could not bring myself to end the month without a Pre-Reads post. The Librarian Force in me is just too strong. Besides, it is also J.K. Rowling’s, and by extension Harry Potter’s (and my brother’s and my co-worker’s son’s) birthday. Just. Need. To. Write! If all goes well, my editorial schedule shall resume. If not . . . well, I may be absent for a bit longer until I am able to straighten things out.

As for now, let us close out July on a positive note. The Pre-Reads below are a selection of eight fiction and non-fiction book titles that are recently published or soon to be published/reissued, pertaining to aspects of the 19th century. They have been highly reviewed by Library Journal, Kirkus Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Amazon and Baker and Taylor and were chosen to represent a broad selection of subgenres. I have not personally read any of these titles, so I cannot give my recommendations. However, there are some on here I certainly want to read.

Right now, I am finishing a Young Adult Steampunk series, which I am not enamored with. I am currently and slowly working my way through the Outlander series; even though it does not take place in the 1800s. In addition, the Literati Book Club resumes (Book release is tomorrow!) so I must began reading the Premiere book. Exacting stuff!


The Best of Both Rouges by Samantha Grace

Eve Thorne was devastated when her fiancé, Ben Hillary, left her at the altar on the day of their wedding. After spending two years in India, Ben returns to England, determined to woo Eve and earn her forgiveness—but she’s now engaged to another man, Sir Jonathan Hackberry. Ben even approaches Jonathan about collaborating to get her to cry off. But the possibility that Ben and Eve might be able to have a future together means that Ben will need to disclose his reasons for leaving her in the first place and reveal the tragedy of his first young love.

Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner

In this long-awaited sequel to Outlaw Hearts, notorious outlaw–turned–U.S. marshal Jake Harkner and wife Miranda have settled in Guthrie, OK, with their children Lloyd and Evita, now grown and building families of their own. No longer a fugitive with a price on his head, Jake has found some peace yet continues to struggle to forgive himself for his past misdeeds and worries for the safety of his family, as many of his former associates wish him dead. Miranda, whose intrepid and loyal character will bind readers to her from the series start, is the only one who can keep Jake from falling back into his old life. Bittner wonderfully juxtaposes Miranda’s poise and inner strength with Jake’s hard, ruthless exterior to fuel a never-ending passion. Their unlikely romance catches the attention of earnest Chicago journalist Jeff Trubridge, who’s determined to write a book that reveals the real Jake Harkner, and his outsider role becomes essential when a band of killers plot a final attempt to destroy Jake and the family he can’t live without.

The Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann

In the spring of 1877, General Oliver Howard is viewing a “city of tents” called The Dalles, formerly a Native American stronghold and bazaar for various tribes. Howard becomes the nominal protagonist, more accurately the book’s linchpin, as the war proceeds on multiple fronts. By July, what has been projected as an easy fight becomes a nightmare of small skirmishes against the resourceful Nez Perce, led by Howard’s archenemy Chief Joseph. He and his tribesmen call the Americans bluecoats. Ultimately, the superior resources of the U.S. Army prevail, in a war of attrition hastened by infighting among the tribes.

In Good Company by Jen Turano

After growing up as an orphan, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her playfulness and enthusiasm aren’t always well-received and she finds herself dismissed from yet another position.

Everett Mulberry has quite unexpectedly become guardian to three children that scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he’s desperate for competent childcare.

At wit’s end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance–with each other. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges, Everett focuses on achieving the coveted societal status of the upper echelons. But as he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the children’s parents, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

Liberty Bazaar by David Chadwick

Liverpool, 1863: Newly arrived in England, wealthy liberals enlist Trinity, an escaped slave girl, in their campaign to abolish slavery and support Abraham Lincoln’s Union. Jubal, a high-ranking Confederate officer, has arrived to find supporters and raise funds for the opposing side. When Trinity discovers a high-stakes conspiracy to win the war for the South, she must risk everything to stop it – including her new-found freedom. But who will believe a runaway slave? And who can she really trust?

Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber

Set in Scotland in 1831, Huber’s lively fourth Lady Darby mystery (after 2014’s A Grave Matter) centers on the suspicious death of Lady Drummond, whose portrait Kiera (aka Lady Darby) was painting. Kiera is sure Lady Drummond was poisoned and sets out to prove it. Meanwhile, she’s still trying to live down the reputation she acquired, unfairly, as the result of her first husband’s misdeeds. She’s also worried about her sister, Alana, struggling at the end of a difficult fourth pregnancy. Kiera and inquiry agent Sebastian Gage, to whom she’s now engaged, do a little discreet investigating of the Drummonds only to run into opposition from Lord Gage, Sebastian’s iron-willed and secretive father.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Natasha Pulley reimagines a late 19th-century London where an Irish extremist group threatens Whitehall and a telegraphist gets caught in the fight. Little changes in Thaniel Steepleton’s constrained life working at the Home Office, until one day he finds his tiny cold-water flat tidied up and a present waiting for him on his pillow. It is a marvelous watch of extraordinary design; a watch that warns him of a bomb and saves his life. Drawn into the hunt for the terrorists, Thaniel is sent to spy on the watchmaker—an amazing man who has built an octopus automaton that likes to steal socks.


The Affair of the Veiled Murderess: An antebellum scandal and mystery by Jeanne Winston Adler

Troy, New York, 1853. Two Irish immigrants—a man and a woman—die shortly after drinking beer poured by a neighbor. Was it poisoned? And if so, was their slayer the beautiful mistress of an important Democratic politician? Many Trojans soon answer yes to both questions, but others question the woman’s guilt. Rumored to be the once-respectable Miss Charlotte Wood, a former student at Emma Willard’s elite Troy Female Seminary and the runaway wife of a British lord, the identity of the glamorous accused remains in doubt, and the air of mystery surrounding her case is only heightened by the defendant’s decision to remain hidden behind a veil during her trial. As the affair widens to include the antebellum social and political worlds of Troy and Albany, the blossoming scandal threatens important people on both sides of the Atlantic.

Drawing on newspapers, court documents, and other records of the time, Jeanne Winston Adler attempts to come to an understanding of the truth behind the strange affair of the veiled murderess. In the process, she addresses a number of topics important to our understanding of nineteenth-century life in New York State, including the changing roles of women, the marginal position of the Irish, and the contentious political firmament of the time.

The Assassination of Joseph Smith: Innocent blood on the banner of liberty by Ryan C. Jenkins

Even the Prophet’s most vehement critics – then and now – can at least agree on one thing: Joseph Smith was murdered in cold blood. This account begins in October 1838; Joseph is thirty-two years old and has less than six years to live. This fast-paced, driving narrative provides a factual account leading to the murder and is sure to capture the attention of Latter-day Saints and those not of the faith.

Dark Places of the Earth: The voyage of the slave ship Antelope by Jonathan M. Bryant

In 1820, a suspicious vessel was spotted lingering off the coast of northern Florida, the Spanish slave ship Antelope. Since the United States had outlawed its own participation in the international slave trade more than a decade before, the ship’s almost 300 African captives were considered illegal cargo under American laws. But with slavery still a critical part of the American economy, it would eventually fall to the Supreme Court to determine whether or not they were slaves at all, and if so, what should be done with them.

Bryant describes the captives’ harrowing voyage through waters rife with pirates and governed by an array of international treaties. By the time the Antelope arrived in Savannah, Georgia, the puzzle of how to determine the captives’ fates was inextricably knotted. Set against the backdrop of a city in the grip of both the financial panic of 1819 and the lingering effects of an outbreak of yellow fever, Dark Places of the Earth vividly recounts the eight-year legal conflict that followed, during which time the Antelope‘s human cargo were mercilessly put to work on the plantations of Georgia, even as their freedom remained in limbo.

When at long last the Supreme Court heard the case, Francis Scott Key, the legendary Georgetown lawyer and author of “The Star Spangled Banner,” represented the Antelope captives in an epic courtroom battle that identified the moral and legal implications of slavery for a generation. Four of the six justices who heard the case, including Chief Justice John Marshall, owned slaves. Despite this, Key insisted that “by the law of nature all men are free,” and that the captives should by natural law be given their freedom. This argument was rejected. The court failed Key, the captives, and decades of American history, siding with the rights of property over liberty and setting the course of American jurisprudence on these issues for the next thirty-five years. The institution of slavery was given new legal cover, and another brick was laid on the road to the Civil War.

Mary Lincoln’s Insanity Case: A documentary history by Jason Emerson

In 1875 Mary Lincoln, the widow of a revered president, was committed to an insane asylum by her son, Robert. The trial that preceded her internment was a subject of keen national interest. The focus of public attention since Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, Mary Lincoln had attracted plentiful criticism and visible scorn from much of the public, who perceived her as spoiled, a spendthrift, and even too much of a Southern sympathizer. Widespread scrutiny only increased following her husband’s assassination in 1865 and her son Tad’s death six years later, after which her overwhelming grief led to the increasingly erratic behavior that led to her being committed to a sanitarium. A second trial a year later resulted in her release, but the stigma of insanity stuck. In the years since, questions emerged with new force, as the populace and historians debated whether she had been truly insane and subsequently cured, or if she was the victim of family maneuvering.
In this volume, noted Lincoln scholar Jason Emerson provides a documentary history of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness and insanity case, evenhandedly presenting every possible primary source on the subject to enable a clearer view of the facts. Beginning with documents from the immediate aftermath of her husband’s assassination and ending with reminiscences by friends and family in the mid-twentieth century, Mary Lincoln’s Insanity Case: A Documentary History compiles more than one hundred letters, dozens of newspaper articles, editorials, and legal documents, and the daily patient progress reports from Bellevue Place Sanitarium during Mary Lincoln’s incarceration. Including many materials that have never been previously published, Emerson also collects multiple reminiscences, interviews, and diaries of people who knew Mary Lincoln or were involved in the case, including the first-hand recollection of one of the jurors in the 1875 insanity trial.

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown by Henry Box Brown

After enduring more than 30 years of slavery, Henry “Box” Brown achieved freedom by having himself nailed inside a packing crate and shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia. Initially published in 1851, Brown’s extraordinary memoir recounts the harsh circumstances of his bondage as well as the details of his 350-mile journey by railroad, steamboat, and horse cart inside a container three feet long and two feet wide.

Southern Ladies and Suffragists: Julia Ward Howe and women’s rights at 1884 New Orleans World Fair by Miki Pfeffer

Women from all over the country came to New Orleans in 1884 for the Woman’s Department of the Cotton Centennial Exposition, that portion of the World’s Fair exhibition devoted to the celebration of women’s affairs and industry. Their conversations and interactions played out as a drama of personalities and sectionalism at a transitional moment in the history of the nation. These women planted seeds at the Exposition that would have otherwise taken decades to drift southward.

This book chronicles the successes and setbacks of a lively cast of postbellum women in the first Woman’s Department at a world’s fair in the Deep South. From a wide range of primary documents, Miki Pfeffer recreates the sounds and sights of 1884 New Orleans after Civil War and Reconstruction. She focuses on how difficult unity was to achieve, even when diverse women professed a common goal. Such celebrities as Julia Ward Howe and Susan B. Anthony brought national debates on women’s issues to the South for the first time, and journalists and ordinary women reacted. At the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, the Woman’s Department became a petri dish where cultures clashed but where women from across the country exchanged views on propriety, jobs, education, and suffrage. Pfeffer memorializes women’s exhibits of handwork, literary and scientific endeavors, inventions, and professions, but she proposes that the real impact of the six-month long event was a shift in women’s self-conceptions of their public and political lives. For those New Orleans ladies who were ready to seize the opportunity of this uncommon forum, the Woman’s Department offered a future that they had barely imagined.

Tom Horn in Life and Legend by Larry D. Ball

Some of the legendary gunmen of the Old West were lawmen, but more, like Billy the Kid and Jesse James, were outlaws. Tom Horn (1860–1903) was both. Lawman, soldier, hired gunman, detective, outlaw, and assassin, this darkly enigmatic figure has fascinated Americans ever since his death by hanging the day before his forty-third birthday. In this masterful historical biography, Larry Ball, a distinguished historian of western lawmen and outlaws, presents the definitive account of Horn’s career.

Horn became a civilian in the Apache wars when he was still in his early twenties. He fought in the last major battle with the Apaches on U.S. soil and chased the Indians into Mexico with General George Crook. He bragged about murdering renegades, and the brutality of his approach to law and order foreshadows his controversial career as a Pinkerton detective and his trial for murder in Wyoming. Having worked as a hired gun and a range detective in the years after the Johnson County War, he was eventually tried and hanged for killing a fourteen-year-old boy. Horn’s guilt is still debated.

The Victorian City: Every day life in Dickens’ London by Judith Flanders

The nineteenth century was a time of unprecedented change, and nowhere was this more apparent than London, which, in only a few decades, grew from a compact Regency town into the largest city the world had ever seen. Technology-railways, street-lighting, and sewers-transformed both the city and the experience of city-living.

From the moment Charles Dickens, the century’s best-loved novelist and London’s greatest observer, arrived in the city in 1822, he obsessively walked its streets, recording its pleasures, curiosities and cruelties. Now, with him, Judith Flanders leads us through the markets, transport systems, rivers, slums, alleys, cemeteries, gin palaces, chop-houses and entertainment emporia of Dickens’ London, to reveal the Victorian capital in all its variety, vibrancy, and squalor. From the colorful cries of street-sellers to the uncomfortable reality of travel by omnibus, to the many uses for the body parts of dead horses and the unimaginably grueling working days of hawker children, no detail is too small, or too strange.