Mrs. Lincoln's Rival is based upon real historical characters (for the most part). The main protagonist is Kate Chase, one of the leading society hostesses in Washington in the years preceding the Civil War. Her father, Salmon P. Chase, was an accomplished politician who tried on several occasions to become president, but he was never able to clinch the nomination. Kate is the consummate politician herself, though she does so in the ways afforded to women of the time period. She was a beautiful, witty, accomplished intellectual who with single minded tenacity,
|Kate Chase in 1861|
The novel itself is fast paced and slow in turns. The first fifty pages dragged along in attempt to bring the reader up to speed on Kate's past. Often the narrative was bogged down with tedious political maneuverings and play-by-plays of daily events. Still, I found myself staying up well past by bedtime on many occasions.
As the ending played out, I found myself wondering why the book was even called Mrs. Lincoln's Rival as the lady in question rarely appears throughout the novel. She is much talked about, and Kate was clearly her rival in the social world of Washington, but to name the entire novel after a trumped up rivalry was a bit of a stretch. The novel could have stood along on Kate's merits. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel (even if the Civil War was forced into the background and was rather sanitized in its depiction) and recommend it to lovers of American and women's history.