I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green, Sophie Kent is a young Southern heiress living in Richmond, Virginia during the Civil War. She’s a Union sympathizer trying to do her part to end slavery. Though she owns slaves, they were willed to her upon her mother’s death and she is legally bound to keep them through a bit of manipulative legal wording written into the will by her father’s request. She draws speculation about her loyalties but manages to keep herself covered under the guise of her Southern identity with the help of Captain Lawrence Russel. Captain Russel courts Sophie to keep accusations at bay but ends up really falling for her later. As she continues her work with a handful of trusted cohorts, she fears for her own life and the lives of her staff were she to be found out. An old friend & flame returns at an inopportune time and winds up in a precarious situation, and you feel Sophie’s internal struggle as she yearns to save him but has to play up her facade in order to stay out of the hangman’s noose.
Patience is a virtue, and Sophie sure has it. You may not, though, as you wish for things to happen faster although you understand all too well why they can’t. Green is a master at putting the reader in Sophie’s shoes. You’ll find yourself holding your breath and listening to your heart beat in your ears when the Confederate Army comes searching Sophie’s house for evidence of treason.
The author gives wonderful scene descriptions (not too much, not too little) inside the Kent house and Libby Prison, two starkly different settings. When you read the scenes inside Libby, you may find yourself shivering and cringing as the dank, morbid atmosphere feels all too real. Inside Sophie’s home, you get the feeling that the house only appears warm and safe – but all is not what it seems.
Sophie’s character strengthens at a believable pace. She’s no overnight miracle-worker. Her trials and sufferings shape her and that is evident throughout the book. She holds her own with the General, risks her life and that of her housemaid, Daphne, to bring food to starving prison inmates at the hospital at Libby Prison, and eventually picks up where her mother left off. Early on, Capt. Russel seems to take Sophie under his wing and you want to align with him for that, but he’s a Confederate officer and, by default, her enemy. Not by her choice – she doesn’t want war with anyone. But Sophie believes in the extremely unpopular: Sophie believes that all humans should be free, and in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War, that’s a very unpopular opinion to have.
One of my favorite characters has to be Bella, Daphne’s long-lost twin sister who gives up her freedom in the North to rush to her dying sister’s aid. Your stomach will turn with the turmoil she faces and the freedom she sacrifices to help Sophie.
Spy of Richmond will give you a dark look into the way Union soldiers and slaves were treated by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It serves as a reminder of the horrors of that time that still haunt some of our fellow Americans, but also a reminder that not everyone felt the same way. Our history was extremely racist – but people like Sophie Kent and Harrison Caldwell and Bella helped put an end to that – but not without great cost.
Have a soft blanket and a cup of tea when you drink this. You’ll need the reassurance.
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