spymistressThe Spymistress (Dutton/Penguin Group) begins in 1861, right before Virginia secedes from The Union. The novel vividly narrates the struggles of a loyal Unionist family living in the Confederate capital (Richmond) throughout the Civil War.

Our heroine, Elizabeth Van Lew is a spinster liberal, living with her mother, brother, sister-in-law and two nieces in the family’s Church Hill estate.  The Van Lew family is known amongst the community to support abolition and President Lincoln. Stuck in the south throughout the war, Lizzie cleverly devises ways to support the Union while outwardly sporting the façade of loyal southern rebel.

The work is beautifully written; drawing the reader in to the point that they must know what plan Lizzie will come up with next. Heart-stopping at points, the daring tales of one of the key players in the Union underground are a must-read for anyone interested in the Civil War-era. Though it is a work of historical fiction, parts of the story are based on real events and real people, including Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Van Lew was truly ahead of her time and continued to strive for equality on all fronts after the war. Towards the end of the story, her personality is nicely summed up.  “Lizzie realized that the nation would know no lasting peace until it truly did enjoy a new birth of freedom, and became at last a government of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people—men and women, black and white…”

The Spymistress will be available for purchase on October 1, 2013.

Arielle Sidrane is the Associate Editor of Spa Week Daily.