First edition.
Publisher, Date:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2019.
379 pages ; 24 cm
9781616208479 (hardcover : alk. paper)
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F Bay
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Author Notes
<p> Louis Bayard is a New York Times Notable Book author and has been shortlisted for both the Edgar and Dagger awards for his historical thrillers, which include The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy . His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed young-adult title Lucky Strikes . He lives in Washington, DC, and teaches at George Washington University. Visit him online at</p>
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  Publishers Weekly Review

Bayard (Lucky Strikes) fictionalizes the early days of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln's relationship in this delightful embellishment of American history. When Mary, seeking a husband, moves into the home of her brother-in-law in Springfield, Ill., she meets the awkward yet principled Lincoln, a lawyer and local politician. Chapters are alternatively narrated by Mary and Lincoln's witty roommate and friend, Joshua Speed, who grooms and guides Lincoln on his road to romance. The story shows two sides of Lincoln: a budding, self-educated politician attempting to make sense of high society and a romantic attempting to pursue a serious relationship. As Mary becomes the belle of Springfield, Lincoln makes fumbling attempts to woo her and awkward appearances at fancy dinner parties. Readers will delight in Joshua and Mary, who provide unique reflections on a man who is deeply troubled about the path his country is on. After Mary and Lincoln get over initial hurdles, they begin to steal away for "unchaperoned tAªte-A -tAªtes," but when their liaisons are discovered, the upper society of Springfield is temporarily scandalized by their secret courtship. This charming love story delicately reveals the emotional roller coaster of two inexperienced adults traversing the unknown realm of love while trying to meet the demands and expectations of society. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  Booklist Review

Mary Todd, a vivacious Kentucky girl with a rebellious streak, arrives in in "ugly, raw" Springfield, Illinois, so that her sister can marry her off to one of the town's many bachelors. Mary is first drawn to handsome storekeeper Joshua Speed but soon finds she has more rapport with Speed's roommate, Abraham Lincoln. A shared passion for politics helps her overlook his frayed cuffs and lack of polish. It is Joshua who introduces them, having been enlisted by the town's social arbiter to aid Lincoln's rise by finding him a suitable wife. The more Lincoln pulls away from him and into Mary's orbit, however, the more discomfited Joshua becomes, even to the point of trying to sabotage the relationship. Bayard (Lucky Strikes, 2016) runs his narrative on parallel lines, one seen through Mary's eyes and one through Joshua's. Inserting Joshua, a real-life friend from Lincoln's Springfield days, adds dimension to a familiar story and, along with a richly imagined setting and complex characters, makes this a worthy addition to the fiction-about-Lincoln bookshelf.--Mary Ellen Quinn Copyright 2019 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Historical thriller veteran Bayard (Lucky Strikes, 2016, etc.) finds suspense in the three-cornered relationship of Mary Todd, her awkward but compelling suitor, Abraham Lincoln, and his closest companion, debonair Joshua Speed.About to turn 21 when she arrives in Springfield in 1839, Mary teeters on the brink of old-maidenhood. She's too sharp-tongued and politically astute for the town's eligible menincluding, she thinks regretfully, handsome merchant Joshua Speed, whom she initially finds more charming than his friend Lincoln, who is as tongue-tied with ladies as he is plainspokenly eloquent at the Illinois statehouse. But Mary becomes intrigued by Lincoln, a rising Whig politician who finds a woman with brains and savvy enticing rather than off-putting. She doesn't yet realize how destabilizing their budding romance is for Lincoln and Speed. For two years the men have shared a room and a bed, not in itself unusual for 19th-century bachelors, but as Lincoln hungrily learned the ways of polite society from his new friend, a deeper intimacy developed. By the time Mary appears, Lincoln and Speed, each profoundly lonely for his own reasons, share an unusually intense bond apparent to all. Alternating between Mary's and Joshua's points of view, Bayard chronicles the bumpy progression of the Lincoln-Todd courtship, its painful blow-up, and Lincoln's subsequent collapse into crippling depression. There are no villains in this acute and compassionate portrait: When Speed warns Lincoln that Mary "will drain [you] dry," we can see there's some truth in this statement but even more truth in Lincoln's retort, "Is it this girl you object to? Or is it any girl?" The author commendably refrains from imposing 21st-century sexual mores on the Lincoln-Speed relationship, profoundly loving but not physical in Bayard's depiction. Mary Todd, by contrast, gets a welcome contemporary reappraisal as a woman of spirit and will, not the needy hysteric painted by traditional historians.Not a lot of action, but in Bayard's skilled hands, three complicated people groping toward a new phase in their lives is all the plot you need. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
<p> A page-turning novel about the brilliant, melancholic future president and the two people who knew him best: his handsome and charming confidant (and roommate), Joshua Speed, and the spirited young debutante Mary Todd.<br> <br> A Washington Post Bestseller<br> A May Indie Next Pick<br> An Apple Books Best of the Month for April<br> A People Magazine Best Book of the Week<br> <br> "Exquisite." -- People <br> "A triumph of a novel."<br> "Rich, fascinating, and romantic." -- Newsday <br> <br> When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one's short list to be president. A country lawyer living above a dry goods shop, he is lacking both money and manners, and his gift for oratory surprises those who meet him. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with an interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. "I can only hope," she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, "that his waters being so very still, they also run deep."</p> <p><br> It's not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: an amiable, profound man who, despite his awkwardness, has a gentle wit to match his genius, and who respects her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.<br> <br> Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and inspired by historical events, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation's most beloved presidents. Louis Bayard, a master storyteller, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.</p>
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