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 “Madame Presidentess” direct from the author Nicole Evelina in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I appreciate reading Nicole Evelina’s Historicals:
I appreciate the extra care and attention Evelina goes too in being openly transparent with her readers – not only about the inclusions of what she is writing into the backbone of her sequel for Camelot but for why she’s finding the choices she’s made are backed up by the research and the lore left behind for her to find to inspire her writing as a whole. It helps not only understand the time-line but how the time-line affects the events and how through digging deeper into the lore and legends of Camelot you can root out strongly wrought conflict and afflictions that can affect any woman of any age. Evelina isn’t an author who shies away from harder subjects and topics, but rather meets them head-on and tries to assert her feelings on the events in a manner that is welcoming to her readers. She puts her heart on the line and owns the truth of her words as her pen inks out her stories.
It’s this attention to both detail and sensitivities of readers, wherein I felt I might appreciate reading her next historical release Madame Presidentess (read about the book on her author’s site) after having first met her title character Victoria Woodhull through my readings of The Renegade Queen (see my review); where I first began my journey into a new vein of interest for #HistFic – the Feminist driven side of Historical Fiction! I was quite grateful for the introduction (as it was soon followed by Emmy Nation (see my review) and my first introduction into Evelina’s writing via Daughter of Destiny.
The reason I felt I might find myself a bit more smitten to read Evelina’s version of Woodhull’s story is because I was very much challenged by how Flynn portrayed those harder scenes and the way in which Woodhull’s earlier life was fused to the novel. I survived the text and I was genuinely curious about the sequel by Flynn, but part of me wondered if the story could have found a softer edging – thus, imagine my joy in finding Evelina has penned a different take on the same tale! I bring up Victoria Woodhull because she shares a thread of connection with the Guinevere your meeting inside Camelot’s Queen; both women are brutally attacked and suffer aftereffects of how men treated them. Sometimes tempering the hardest and most challenging of scenes or memories of a character fit better with my own sensitive heart than the ones that breach my own level of tolerance.
*Winner: U.S. Women’s History category – 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction
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.
Places to find the book:
Published by Lawson Gartner Publishing
on 25th July, 2016
Format: Trade Paperback
My Review of Madame Presidentess:
I think what truly surprised me most of all about Victoria Woodhull’s life is how dearly she and her sisters were mistreated by the hands of their parents. Evelina enters Woodhull’s life as a young girl but has graduated out her growing years to encompass quite a lot of the angst of those years into groupings of events that affected Victoria’s family the most. At the heart of the issue for her was having her opinion and understanding of her parents shattered by the hidden truth of the kind of family they were to townspeople and to the outside world. This was almost enough to break the girl’s spirit at that point in her life, as she had known they did not have a lot in their lives, but she felt she could trust that her family wasn’t the worst lot out of the whole.
Evelina recounts the early years where Victoria’s family is starting to get a reputation for being scoundrels who would rather take a person’s honest keep than to trade for honour or respect. Hers was a difficult childhood as she did not know loving kindness nor compassion from her parents, but rather Victoria was hardened a bit to how harsh a parent to treat their daughter. What was most shocking originally was how when she married the doctor (Woodhull) she felt her tides would turn for the better only to find that snakes and wolves are not as easy to detect as one would hope! I appreciated seeing the harder scenes softened a small bit in this regard, as although Victoria was abused both as a young girl and as a wife, it’s the telling of her story that I appreciated on the vein of how those more difficult scenes were sketched out inside Madame Presidentess. They were simply stated for what they were and how they influenced Victoria to paint a way towards individual freedoms not generally granted to women to not only take control of their personal lives but to be independent in business practices. Part of me felt she was inspired by the worst of what life could afford one person to survive in order to understand how hard-won the fight would be to stand equal to men. I had wished as I did again now, her life could have been different; as at each turn of her will to seek change, she was meet with men who did not treat women kindly nor with any level of respect.
The sad bit too, is that as it is also shown in this account, Victoria had certain gifts that could not be explained by modern science or clergy. She was an intuitive medium who could understand certain things about people she never knew personally that could not be explained away. Part of me questioned if she truly did have a gift which then became exploited against her own will. I felt she her intuition was heightened to the expanse of knowing certain things that could otherwise not have been known. Whether or not she truly understood more than what is presented is hard to know, but in either case, I did feel that part of what was sombering about Woodhull’s life is how she continuously tried to stay true to herself even if she did not always recognise herself. She was constantly having to defend herself or find ways to safeguard herself against those who quite literally wished her physical harm.
I am thankful I could read this account of Victoria’s life as it helped me have closure a bit on her story, as for many months after I read Renegade Queen it was hard to find peace with her story. She had such a difficult life – start to finish – that it is the one time where I felt I needed to take a small reprieve before seeking out another account of her life. I hadn’t realised an author I already knew would be the next to write a story about her I’d feel inclined to read, but this is how it happened. As soon as I heard Evelina was writing Victoria’s story I felt I could finally re-visit Victoria and then, close her story’s chapter with a nod of gratitude and respect.
She’s had a difficult path towards finding her own voice in History’s recollections, for which I am unsure why she has been excluded to the extent she has been, except that when you start to research Women’s History and the Women’s Rights movements – you start to see how many women have been blighted out of being mentioned along the journey. This was even broached in the extra features of the film Suffragette which is one reason their lead character was a composite of many as it was hard to focus on one woman when so many had a voice that needed to be heard.
It is through the dedication of authors like Nicole Evelina, Eva Flynn and those film-makers (and many like them!) to bring a balance towards where History has an equality of inclusion for everyone’s story; not just women, but all stories of people who have triumphed over tragedy, fought for individual rights or liberties, championed charities or causes for humanity or discovered something that would take Science, Medicine or Technology to a new frontier. There are many paths to affect change, I’ve only mentioned a few of them, but for each person whose lived a life that has altered the course of history – their story should always be respected and told.
On how Nicole Evelina treated the story of Victoria Woodhull:
Since my first readings of Victoria Woodhull through the pen of Eva Flynn, I have become more keenly interested in reading Feminist Historical Fiction as much as I have been seeking out Women’s Suffragette stories in other mediums of exploration. Such as the film Suffragette which was both intensely realistic to the time and era of the Women’s Rights moving to the forefront of the world’s notice but also, emotionally difficult to watch. I was blessed by having read certain books, such as these about Woodhull but also, Emmy Nation (see Review) by L. Davis Munro which truly opened my eyes to what women were going through to prove the right to have Equality.
I realise there are a lot of biographical sketches being released about Ms Woodhull’s journey, however, the key reason I wanted to read Ms Evelina’s version of her story was to see if some of the harder bits were softened just a fraction from Ms Flynn’s as at the time I read Renegade Queen despite my appreciation for it’s knowledge of a person and timeline I had been previously unaware of existing, I found some of the more brutally difficult periods of Woodhull’s life a bit too hard to digest and filter out of my mind as I read the story.
On this level, Ms Evelina did not disappoint me.
I felt Ms Evelina and Ms Flynn hold an equal portion of the real Victoria Woodhull in their stories; her voice is uniquely written in both accounts. You can clearly see Victoria coming through in both stories and it’s a credit to both writers to give us a realistic portrait of a woman who championed women and reset the standard of what could be accomplished if you believed in yourself. Hers is a cautionary tale in some ways and a firm foundation of where Women’s Rights merged with History to take on a new level of understanding towards the rights missing all of us who sought Equality.
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Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge