Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Renegade Queen” direct from the author Eva Flynn in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Seeking a focus for unique stories and heroines:
Before the New Year became to take a foothold, I decided to take a mindful step back and re-examine the kinds of stories I wanted to pursue in 2016. One thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to eventually get to the books on my personal library shelves inasmuch as I wanted to carve out a better balance between the books I would seek for review and the books I became enchanted with at my local library. Going a step further, I knew I wanted to focus on Classical Literature and INSPY stories, too.
The hard part was what did I want to focus on whilst I was seeking books for review? A bit more non-fiction? More Biographical Historical Fiction or traditional historical fiction? A nice balance of Romance and Women’s Fiction interspersed between everything else that drew my eye? It’s hard to pin-point what you want to read when you read diversely and eclectically but I had hoped this much at least: to seek dynamically those stories which truly take me by surprise at ‘hallo’ and whose potential reading might truly encompass me in a new timescape of history and/or set me inside an author’s breadth of work that might endeavour me to discover a new way of thinking and/or a new way of approaching the crafting of stories as a whole. In other words, I was seeking everything which was new and different without sacrificing what I already love to read!
Here is how I expressed my happy surprise in having learnt about The Renegade Queen:
I love Biographical Historical Fiction — and this one is unique, as it’s told from a completely new perspective I hadn’t realised existed! Hidden stories of real history are always curiously curious to me to read!
However, one thing is for certain, I wanted to be mindful of seeking out heroines and heroes who would be uniquely different in of themselves. I wanted to see if I could seek out stories whose lifeblood of heart and intention of shedding a story that could change my prospective on something not yet known could truly be found. Finding more feminist points of view and the women’s rights history movement having an unsung heroine who was never mentioned in my previous studies was a good place to begin this February!
Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History
Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.
She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.
He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.
Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.
Who were they?
This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.
Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.
It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.
But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.
When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.
Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.
Places to find the book:
Series: Rebellious Times
Published by Omega Press
on 15th December, 2015
Format: Paperback Edition
My review of The Renegade Queen:
Gaining my traction inside The Renegade Queen became a test of will and faith, as I was debating about whether or not I even wanted to proceed with reading the story as a whole. I’ve expanded my thoughts below to reflect directly on what was bothering me, but what I wanted to mention is the turning point for me was the transference of energy from the outset of abuse and humiliation, Victoria Woodhull (as she is portrayed) took up the initiative to promise herself to fight for women’s rights. She even started to self-advocate for herself as she was being continuously abused and mistreated by both her father and her husband (Dr. Woodhull; a most disappointing person); composing statements of strength and the will to overcome her past. You could start to see a shifting of perspective in her heart and mind; to offset the abuse she in turn started to question how to improve women’s lives in an age where men had the power to control them and bend their will to their own needs. Her words of courage are what kept me inside the novel, but it’s seeing how she started to step forward into her future away from her family and husband, that I truly became invested in her story.
The portions where her abuse is well outlined are beyond hard-hitting because it felt more like you were standing by whilst she had to endure the worst of the worst. Flynn did not overly focus on those moments, but the context of their scenes is quite viscerally realistic and not easily read if your a sensitive reader. Even out of this tragic beginning, Victoria is seen as a champion of her own spirit and soul; she gave in to the fact that men had owned her body but her spirit was never for sale. This is a powerful way to self-evoke an emotional trauma and Flynn mastered the method to reach past an abusive history and start to lead her character out into a moment of her life where she could make choices that re-defined herself outside of that chaos.
There are also medical details of the wounded, the sick and the dying where Victoria’s sister Tennessee has taken Victoria’s place in the household; her life brokered for profit. It is such a horrid sad circle of fate for both the women; especially when Victoria tried to get her husband the Doctor to rescue Tennessee. This is the time in her life where everything is swirling a bit out of control, where the emotional warfare of realising how destructively ill her father was is searing her spirit with anguish. Having her husband turn against her as her father had before him; opting to succumb to his own addictions rather than to make a living, Victoria used this intimate connection with women whose own anguished hearts cried out to her about their vexations of how limited their freedoms were and how horrid they had to endure their circumstances. This is another example of how Victoria’s mind was taken out of her situations and focused directly on the plight of women. How to effect change when there is little to no hope in sight?
Most of the story almost feels as though the texture of how it’s being told is that of a historical journal; there are historical references to key events and moments whose time-line runs concurrent to Victoria’s and hers to History itself. It helps keep you in step with the era but also, a gutting testament of how difficult the time was for those who were alive. War in the background, social reform a necessity that had not yet begun and medical conditions notwithstanding law and order were part of the backdrop of where we find Victoria. At the center of the fray, is her sister Tennessee who staid too long by her father and was brought down by his sinful misdeeds. How Victoria was able to make sense of all of this and keep her will strong to continue to overcome her everyday trials is a testament of her own faith.
The story took an interesting turn when James Blood entered Victoria’s life, as it marked the return of her sister Tennessee and the introduction of Commodore Vanderbilt. I knew the symbols inside the book had a symbolic reference to Victoria but how it was fashioned to be explained did not come along until James was being heroic in front of her husband. It was James who convinced her there is more to life and worth fighting for than to succumb to the everyday horror of being controlled and manipulated for someone’s gain. Powerful convictions for a woman who grew up wondering if her ideals of progress and change truly could take root and prosper. In James, she saw a new path and a future which could erase portions of her life she would rather never remember. James healed her heart and allowed her to truly understand what love can be when it is not forced.
By the time Victoria’s orbit begins to include Susan B. Anthony, the world around them are unexpectedly caught inside their revolution for change and for an onslaught of proclamations expressing why women should have the freedom to not only vote but to live their lives without the controlling power of men. They took it on themselves to find freedom through wealth (as it’s shown how Victoria took Wall Street) and then, through a determined gauntlet of lobbying on Washington. The pacing picks up haste during these chapters, as there is a fiery orb lit inside Victoria, now she is a woman whose freedom was secured through divorce and whose new lover views her equality as the mark of progress he had hoped women would start to achieve.
The interesting bit for me is how Woodhull approached reformation and the fight for voting freedom on behalf of women: she went Constitutionally rather than a straight-up new lobby for a right that might never be viewed as inherent or rightful. She found fire and proof inside the Constitution itself and through a moxie approach to re-evoke the truth she knew, her speeches paved the road towards change. It was a difficult moment I would imagine for men to dismiss her claim if the very document everyone held as reverently honourable is now being validated as living proof of her right to vote. Woodhull’s life was a myriad sea of hard choices, insurmountable odds and a lifebone of spirit whose belief in what was right was the will which carried her through despite the hardships she endured.
Fly in the Ointment: a word of caution on content & it’s opening chapters
I was a bit shocked at the opening scenes of the story, only because I had a different mindset going into the novel than the way it was being told. For some reason, I thought it might start a bit lateron when Victoria Woodhull and Susan B. Anthony were already in each others circles but Flynn pulled back time to reveal the harsh upbringing of Victoria and how a father’s abuse and injustice towards his family put her and her siblings to live life on the run. Not since I read Balm and Wench, have I felt so affected by the plight of a character, due to those who wish to overtake their innocence.
If you’ve watched Law & Order: SVU consider the opening chapters more akin to being in the middle of a hard-hitting SVU episode without a lead-in to gather your bearings. Having said that, I found myself at a cross-roads as generally-speaking despite my appreciation for Southern Lit and my past history reading historical fiction tales set in the Deep South before the emancipation of slavery; I felt a pulling of my heart to question if I had the strength to read this particularly brutal tale of a young girl who was trapped inside a family who wished not to raise her as a daughter but to use her as a commodity for trade, commerce and personal gain. Only to gain her freedom through marriage to a seemingly kind doctor who treated her just as wretchedly; if not a bit worse!
This is definitely one of those walks in faith deciding if I can or should continue to read a story, as the alarming horrid conditions of a woman’s life was affecting me. I took a break and thought more about it from a different angle of perspective. I’ve been an advocate for women’s rights and women’s equality for a long time (most women in today’s world are the same; whether we’re as openly vocal about it as Emma Watson (@emwatson) or if we voice our advocacy on a smaller scale), however, similar to Ms Watson, I haven’t fully immersed myself in the literary voices of women’s rights.
I recently found her Twitter account and her GoodReads Group Our Shared Shelf. #OurSharedShelf is happily being tweeted about as an open conversation between readers as I joined Riffle in lieu of GR. I did some back-reading about this new mission of hers to share a reading experience with readers world-wide and the work she is doing for UN Women; which led me to find @HeforShe. (as mentioned on this tours guest post) I also found snippets of her recent Porter interview where she was talking about her growth as an individual and as a woman, how her journey was unique in how she spent a decade understanding her character Hermoine but could not be as vocal about who ‘Emma’ was if you asked her about herself. This isn’t something I could personally relate too, as I was self-aware as a young girl, but I knew girls like Emma in school. I could respect her journey because I saw my classmates struggle to understand who they were as much as she had herself.
Throughout those readings of mine online, I learnt more about #OurSharedShelf (including finding the instagram feeds) and the best takeaway afterthought of my readings is that sometimes we have to remind ourselves not to back-off of a well-researched novel that is highlighting the true life of a woman who dared to make a difference in the quest for equality and women’s rights.
Thank you, Ms Watson for encouraging me to be more mindfully aware that sometimes stories which seek to challenge us past our comfort zones are worth reading in the end. Not all of them, surely, as I know I will still encounter novels that push me past my limits; but in this particular case, when I reminded myself who was featured inside this particular Biographical Historical Fiction, I chose to carry-on! Now that’s a secondary component to #OurSharedShelf – finding inspiration outside of the conjoined community reads!
A note about the vulgarity, my personal preference is less is more and although the book did surprise me by the usage of vulgarity, the situations in which the lead character found herself in are shockingly difficult to transcend out of without being affected by the situations; therefore, I gave the harsher words a bit of a pass as there was a greater good of a message to be found inside. I will say, despite this choice to continue reading the book for the aforementioned reasons, I still had hoped for less vulgarity as for me, it tends to distract from the story and the pacing already set in place.
A note about the medical descriptions, as there are numerous medical scenes sprinkled inside the narrative and at times take you by surprise and others are predicted to be shown. I appreciated the fact Flynn only said was was warranted and left the rest unknown. Despite this grace, I still found more than a few of their inclusions to be a bit at the upper level of what I can stomach to read but they were as realistic as the depictions of Victoria’s abusive past and I could not discredit this but do advise if your a sensitive reader like I am, this novel might be a bit harder to read.
This blog tour is courtesy of:
Follow the Virtual Road Map by visiting the blog tour route:
Earlier I shared the author’s Guest Post: “The Men Behind the First Feminists” wherein Ms Flynn speaks about the men who aided Victoria Woodhull’s pursuit of Equality for Women.
I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same story to read.
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.
Comments on Twitter:
— Jorie, the Joyful Tweeter 💜🦝 (@joriestory) February 12, 2016
— Jorie, the Joyful Tweeter 💜🦝 (@joriestory) February 12, 2016
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge