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In a Time Never Known

Virginia, Confederate States of America
            “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of-” Martha stopped speaking so she could stifle a rising sob. She knew she had to stay strong for her children, but she could not get past that word. Another scream pierced the air and even the young Confederate soldier, with his gun at the ready, flinched at the sound. Biting her lip, she swallowed past the lump of fear lodged in her throat, let her eyes fall shut, and started again.
            “Lord, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”
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In a Time Never Known, #IATNK, is the story of a mother and daughter who courageously defy the expectations of their time to do extraordinary things, altering the course of American history and their own lives.

Set against the vivid backdrop of the American Civil War, we enter the fray in 1863, mere months before the disastrous Battle of Gettysburg. Despite being married to a Confederate officer, Anna works as a spy for the Union. However, it is not the espionage that she finds the most daunting, but dealing with her spoiled Southern belle daughter, Kady, who finds out her secret.

Much to Anna’s consternation, instead of running straight to her daddy to tell, Kady decides to keep her mother’s secret, because a little spying sounds like an excellent diversion from this boring war. Anna must learn how to work side by side with her daughter, while Kady is forced to choose between the pampered life of a society belle or a life in the shadows fighting for the North with her mother.
Belle Boyd Quote
The idea for this novel came to me while I was visiting a friend in Richmond, Virginia. While visiting all of the obligatory tourist attractions, we took a tour of the White House of the Confederacy. Throughout those displays we saw uniforms, weaponry, read placards about the daring adventures of men and marveled at a tiny little cannon that once belonged to the son of President Davis. Yes, the cannon did actually shoot tiny little cannon balls and according to our tour guide, yes the young boy did cause at least one fire while playing. What was missing from all of these displays was women. There may have been a small placard about nurses at one point, I honestly don’t remember, but the narrative that this museum would have you believe, is that women took little to no part in the activities of the Civil War. As this matched the narrative that I had been taught in school, I didn’t think anything of this until I got to the gift shop.


Museum gift shops are my guilty pleasure. I LOVE them and never skip them. After a quick perusal of the kitschy knickknacks, I go straight to the books. Museum gift shops have the best historical books, and this one did not disappoint. However, what I wound up finding could better be described as a fancy pamphlet then a ponderous tome on history. This slim volume of 72 pages told the exploits of the Blue and the Gray Roses – a catchy moniker for the women who worked as spies during the Civil War. To say that I was intrigued is an understatement. I sat down on the floor, began to read and stayed there until my friend found me and drug me off to lunch. After I bought the book of course.


That day started what has become years of research into the Civil War, with a special emphasis on the involvement of women. Apparently, there were hundreds of women who fought alongside their husbands and brothers during the war. In addition, some of the best placed and most prolific spies were women. Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a black woman who worked as a servant in the White House of the Confederacy in order to funnel information to the ring leader of her spy network Elizabeth Van Lew who then passed it on to the Union forces. Belle Boyd began her career as a spy the night that Federal troops ransacked her hometown in Virginia and to repay one soldier’s insolence she shot him. From there she collected secrets from guards and admirers alike, passed them on to Confederate contacts and even worked as a courier for Generals Jackson and Beauregard. I met the likes of Rose Greenhow, Pauline Cushman, the Moon sisters, Antonio Ford and so many others. However, there are only snippets of information about many of these women. After all, you wouldn’t be a very good spy if everyone knew your story.


It was out of the stories of these courageous women that the novel In a Time Never Known was born. I wanted to tell a Civil War story where the women take center stage in the bloody war to keep our nation from being torn in two. This novel is the product of hundreds of hours of research, years of writing and more critiques and rewrites than I care to count.