Genre: Historical Fiction (US)
Type: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
First Published: July 25, 2016
First Line: "By the time I was three, I had learned to fear the dark - that was when Pa came home smelling of sharp, unpleasant odors and vented his day's worth of rage on us."
Book Description from GoodReads: Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.
Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”
But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.
Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.
Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.
This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.
Winner of the US Women's History category in the 2016 Chaucer Historical Fiction Awards
My Rating: 3.5 stars
My Review: As soon as I heard Nicole Evalina had written a book about the first woman to run for president of the United States I was intrigued. As a Canadian I don't have extensive knowledge about American politics but I trust Evalina to weave a good fictionalized story around historical settings with a strong woman front and centre. In light of the current political climate in the US it was very apropos that she take on Victoria C Woodhull, the first woman to run for US President (decades before women won the right to vote) and the early years of the fight for equality for American women.
Immediately I was pulled into Victoria's humble and often abusive upbringing at the hands of her parents and husband. This first third of the book was quite a page turner for me as we learn about Victoria's background as the daughter of a con artist who had no qualms about using his various children in order to make a buck. This was an emotional part of the book but when the story, about midway through, turns to more political fare my interest started to waiver just a bit. I know that this book centres around politics (and financial prowess) but all of a sudden there were a lot of names to keep track of as Victoria meets various big wigs in NYC. While I recognized several of these famous names including the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, poet Walt Whitman, Cornelius Vanderbilt and even President Grant, I'm not an avid follower of politics in general, let alone early American politics, so I found this aspect a bit of a slow go for me.
Victoria was a dynamic, yet flawed, character. She's a strong minded woman who had endured much abuse at the hands of those who were meant to love her and her spiritual abilities were an unexpected, yet interesting, aspect. She was determined, stubborn and knew first hand of the struggles that women face on a day-to-day basis which was the great impetus for her fight for the rights of women. She was also controversial, conceited and could be quite ruthless in her business and political dealings. And yet there were several moments when I found it very frustrating to witness how weak-willed she is with her family, many of whom felt clichéd in how they acted and routinely disrespected her. These interactions with her family gave the book too much of a melodramatic feel that I wasn't fond of.
The pace picked up for me in the last third as the tension of her fight in the political arena comes to a head. Woodhull has many detractors and much to lose as she continues to fight. Readers will find the Author's Note at the back of the book an interesting addition and epilogue to this story.
Overall, this was an interesting look at a long forgotten historical leader. Evalina shines a light on an almost forgotten historical figure in Victoria C Woodhull and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to learn more about this woman whose life was filled with much success, just as much loss, all stemming from a truly deplorable upbringing. She was not only a gifted spiritualist but had the courage to go where no woman had ventured before in the financial world and the stubborn streak and heart to fight for the rights that had continued to be denied half of the American population merely based on gender. My hope is that more stories like this will be told and that Victoria C Woodhull, aka 'Notorious Victoria', will be added to American history books so that younger generations can learn about a woman who fought for the rights that so many now take for granted.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Nicole Evalina and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. She has a trilogy featuring Guinevere and the Arthurian legend that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view.
Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, took first place in the legend/legacy category of the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Her upcoming novel, Been Searching for You (May 10), a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests. Later this year, she will release Madame Presidentess (July 25), a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America's first female Presidential candidate, which was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Nicole is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for the The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors and the Independent Book Publishers Association.