Review: The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

the spymistress
The Spymistress
Dutton Adult
Published by The Penguin Group
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Historical Fiction
Hardcover: 368 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525953623
E-Book File Size: 2576 KB



Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time…

Set in Virginia during the Civil War. When the state had seceded in April 1861, Elizabeth Van Lew dedicates herself to do anything she can to defy the new Confederate regime.

A fiction story based on a real woman that few people know about. Chiaverini takes us into the life of a woman inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
We know Jennifer Chiaverini for her wonderful Elm Creek Quilt series. This is her second book away from the series the delves into a special woman in history. I absolutely loved Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.

Again she has intensely researched and brought us a story of another strong woman with courage and intelligence that put her life on the line to fight for this great country. She was a spinster, losing the man she loved way too soon. A woman who had no vote. A woman abolitionist, Unionist, loyal to President Lincoln living on the wrong side of the civil war. An independent woman who fought to give even a small amount of care and comfort to the Northern soldiers being held prisoner, many times with her mother by her side. 

There is a lot of content in this book. Each battle, each setback, each triumph. Elizabeth Van Lew was a smart, cunning woman who could think on her feet and was able to make Confederates believe what she was doing was good for the South while passing information and more to the North. The woman seemed to have no fear. 

The author’s story may not match to what others have written about Elizabeth Van Lew.  I have seen her referred to as “Crazy Bet” in other books covering this time but Chiaverini explains that her “crazy”  manner may have just been a way to avoid suspicion.  

I love the way this author writes but I have to say I enjoyed Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker more than the Spymistress. While both very worthwhile reads this one just had so much information I felt until overwhelmed at times. It is a very interesting and though fictionalized it is very educational. Jennifer Chiaverini has a way that makes her characters jump right out of the pages and you forget that these happenings they are enduring really took place.  I am so proud this writer calls Wisconsin home.

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About This Author
Jennifer Chiaverini lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to the sixteen volumes in the Elm Creek Quilts series and four books of quilt patterns inspired by the novels, she designs the Elm Creek Quilts fabric line from Red Rooster Fabrics. For more information about Jennifer, please visit her website at

Jennifer may be coming to a bookstore near you. Check out her event schedule here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

5 thoughts on “Review: The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

  1. I am planning on reading this too. I have my eye on it for awhile and have read some great reviews. I am just waiting for the historical mood to make a return.

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