Reviews for Spymistress
Booklist Reviews 2013 October #1
Chiaverini follows Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker (2013) with the story of the intrepid leader of a Union spy ring, Elizabeth Van Lew. When her beloved Richmond becomes the capitol of the Confederacy, Van Lew uses her social standing, her family fortune, and an appeal to Christian charity to minister to the needs of Union prisoners. Soon she is passing messages to the North and recruiting an ever-growing network of Unionists to help her. She maintains a facade of loyalty--and she is loyal to Virginia, if not the Confederacy--by temporarily housing high-ranking Confederates or hosting a party for her nephew's brigade. Meanwhile, she feasts on fast days, frees her slaves as far as she legally can, and hollows out eggs to transport messages. There is danger, although Chiaverini does such a good job convincing the reader that Van Lew is just a well-bred Virginia woman that the extent to which she aided Union victory is not entirely clear. Readers of historical and inspirational fiction will admire Van Lew's courage and commitment to her principles and the bravery of her ring of spies. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #1
Serviceable bio-fiction based on the heroic work of Elizabeth Van Lew, Union sympathizer and spy living in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., during the Civil War. Plunging into her research-packed story in April 1861, as Virginia secedes from the Union, Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, 2013, etc.) keeps up a steady pace tracing the war experiences of wealthy abolitionist Lizzie Van Lew, a confirmed spinster whose fiance died 20 years earlier. Lizzie shares the family mansion with her widowed mother, brother John and his pro-Confederate wife Mary. As opinions polarize and fighting begins, Lizzie decides to devote herself to helping the Yankee prisoners, bringing in food and smuggling out messages from the squalid prisons housing them. Mary's Rebel sympathies cause a family rift and she and John move out, leaving Lizzie freer in her activities but in greater need of political camouflage to avoid suspicion. As the long, harsh war years pass, she becomes involved with an underground network of Unionist sympathizers taking great risks to assist the Northern cause by supplying information and an escape route. Although Lizzie receives threats to herself and her property, she and her family survive the war after which Gen., later President, Grant rewards her with the job of postmaster of Richmond. A capable but somewhat flavorless tribute to a brave woman. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.