Wife, mother, spy. Anna is hiding a dangerous secret from her family, especially her Confederate General husband. However, it is not her covert work for the Union that she finds the most daunting, it is dealing with her spoiled Southern belle daughter. When Kady discovers that her mother has been leading a carefully constructed double life, she must choose whether to work by her mother’s side in the shadows or return to the pampered life of a Southern planter’s daughter.
Cast into the bloody fray of one of the deadliest wars in our history, In a Time Never Known is the story of women who courageously defy the expectations of the era to do unprecedented things, altering the course of American history and their own lives.
You can check out my Civil War reading list here.
The idea for this novel came to me during a visit to 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 its displays we saw uniforms and 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 with the cannon. 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 collections of obscure 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. She funneled 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. She was outraged by their behavior, 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. In my research 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 could possibly count. I hope you enjoy the read!