Thursday, January 26, 2012

Francis Hamit' s Alternative History Featuring The Queen of Washington Creatively "Possible"

Rose O'Neal GreenhowImage via Wikipedia
"My career died right there," Robert's bitter voice
brought her back to her present difficulty. And so
did your ambitions. Greed, Rose. Greed was your
undoing...and mine...
"She flinched. Never had he spoken to her so
harshly, but never had she given him such cause.
She had betrayed their marriage by allowing a
flirtation to go too far. It was her fault, but not
entirely. She could not let the accusation pass
unchallenged. That wasn't fair..."

The Queen of Washington

 By Francis Hamit

I had thoroughly enjoyed The Shenandoah Spy telling the story of  the first woman in American history to be formally commissioned an Army officer. While Hamit's series focuses on the Civil War era, his decision to move backward and create an alternative history for some of the key players during the war is a delightful fun read (while being historically informative).

Mainly because today's political environment includes spotlighting the sexual activities of those working in government that often becomes world-wide news...

While Hamit hypothesizes that sex was routinely used by women, in particular, during that time to gain vital information, especially for the South, or for gaining personal power or positions for their husbands, And the most famous Rose Greenhow became the one they crowned as Queen. She started by becoming an active participant of the social set that centered in Washington D.C. and was wife of the Translator and Librarian for the U.S. State Department where he ranked third to the Secretary. But while his position lowered as he got into activities of the Land Commission, traveling west into Mexico and California, Rose spent most of her time in Washington garnering more and more political influence.

But she went too far and had a child to one of her lovers and brought her into their home...she had broken trust with her husband, Robert!

She was definitely a spy for the South. But Hamit posed the question was she a spy earlier for the French, the English and many others--perhaps anybody who would willingly share "pillow-talk" which included gifts and financial support to keep her in the home she needed and hosting the many events that were necessary to keeping her image in front of the Washington set...

Robert became friends with Judah
Benjamin, later to become a
"He and Robert drank in silence for
several minutes, and then Judah said
sympathetically, "Your wife, eh?
That's grounds for a suit at law."
"That would mean scandal, and the
Greenhows are very political.
It's the family business, you see.
We don't do scandal..."
"Revenge is a dish best tasted cold"
There were also several truly treasonous or criminal actions that she had convinced her husband should be done. However, when her affair resulted in a child, it affected their relationship in both personal and political ways.

Going back to 1850 to begin this story, Francis Hamit has pulled in significant issues that could indeed have been part of or even important background reasons for the Civil War. The author has obviously researched the time period and has effectively merged true historical events together with a viable and entertaining alternative story surrounding both of the Greenhows but especially Rose. You might want to check out the picture on my earlier announcement which shows her and her daughter being held in prison prior to finally being sent back into the territory controlled by the South. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Hamit's second novel--a much more personal and intimate look into the life of the "female" spies active during the time of the Civil War. Somehow it seemed "permissible" at that time, while today's scandals just seem...sordid...What do you think?  History buffs, I think, will enjoy as much as I did...Maybe a must-read? You decide!

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