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The Spy Lover by [Davenport, Kiana]
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The Spy Lover Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Length: 303 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Starred Review-In her blog post from April 11, 2012, Davenport asserts, “You have to write from the heart. You have to have one big, true thing you are dying to tell the world.” In her newest novel, that one big, true thing concerns the lives of men and women during the Civil War, real people who followed their own moral beliefs. The depth of the author’s affection for her characters shines through as they pick their way amid the horrors of war and the conflicting loyalties of social, political, and personal responsibility. Remiscent of Dara Horn’s All Other Night (2009) and Dave Eggers’ What Is the What(2006), Johnny Tom, a Chinese immigrant in Mississippi, is kidnapped and forced to fight for the Confederacy, then escapes to fight for the Union. His daughter, Era, a nurse, is a Northern spy saving Southern soldiers. Her unwitting lover, Warren Petticomb, wounded at Shiloh, holds Era’s heart. Giving resonance and impact to this story are the compelling characters who tap readers’ emotions; the stark realities of battle; and the heroic men and women on both sides who persevered despite horrific conditions. Davenport, author of House of Many Gods (2006), writes from the heart, and yours will be moved. —Jen Baker


"...A great story told with such beautiful prose I am hoping The Spy Lover will be picked up by Ang Lee or Steven Spielberg. Kiana Davenport is a brilliant writer. [Based] on her ancestors from the American South and global East, The Spy Lover takes the incredibly difficult...topics of race, gender, slavery and war and artfully weaves them into a specific story. Davenport is genius at capturing complex times, and complications of the heart. It's been a long time since I cried while reading a novel, and that happened several times while reading The Spy Lover...I couldn't wait to finish the story, but grieved when it ended. That's exactly how I felt when I finished reading Gone With The Wind so many years go. If you need a holiday escape...or want to spend time in a different world read... The Spy Lover!" —Ellen Snortland for The Huffington Post

"A beautifully written tale...filled with the horrors of war...and the anguish of we follow the characters on their journeys to find peace and redemption. The prose is magnificent. You will come away fulfilled. If you read one Civil War novel this year, make this the one." —Joseph A. Truglio, from Civil War News

"Beautiful writing...a page turner one could not lay down. The novel emanates from Davenport's own family history, ancestors who fought in the she tells the story of a woman and her lover, the conflict between love, conscience and determination...I have no hesitation in recommending 'The Spy Lover' to anyone who enjoys stories of the Civil War as well as of genuine conflicts, love and dedication...It will go into a special niche of historical fiction and ...likely become a classic like 'Cold Mountain.' " —Martha Boltz of The Washington Times

"A powerful love story and serious historical tribute to the many under-recognized minority soldiers... Kiana Davenport is simply ingenious in the way she writes and tells her story based on two ancestors who fought on opposite sides of the War. A piercing, glorious and unsettling novel you are unlikely to ever forget. I recommend The Spy Lover as one of the best war stories I have ever encountered." —Melanie Smith, Book Reporter

"...Memorable [in] her depiction of the lives of women during the [Civil] War, as well as those of mixed race...Like the best historical fiction the book's deep research is felt in every line and authenticates every character. The Spy Lover easily joins, and even surpasses Cold Mountain." —Don Wallace, HONOLULU WEEKLY

"A page turner, like Davenport's other fiction, The Spy Lover is full of suspense, yet it also plunges deep. With compassion toward all her characters, whether they fight for the North or the South, Davenport dramatizes the agony of divided loyalties and the brutalities of war...High drama, high tension, high romance." —Alix Kates Shulman, Bestselling author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, and Menage

"This author does a fantastic job presenting the scenery, pain, and depth of the Civil War and how it truly split loved ones apart. Sometimes in horrific detail, especially the battle of Gettysburg, this author makes it feel as if the reader is actually on that field experiencing every death. Having these characters based on the very real souls of the author's own ancestors who came to America during the 1800s, made the story even more compelling, and is highly recommended." —Amy Lignor, author of Tallent & Lowery - 13 for Suspense Magazine

"(In) The Spy Lover, (Davenport) pulls from her Alabama-born father’s family history to tell a gripping Civil War story about three complicated, suffering people—a nurse who’s spying for the Union behind enemy lines, a Chinese immigrant who escapes his conscription into the Confederacy to fight for the Union instead, and a wounded Confederate cavalryman. Davenport doesn’t buffer the brutality of war, presenting a stark portrayal of its horrors and the damage it can inflict on body and soul in her well-researched tale." —Bookpage

“Davenport delivers a surprisingly heartwarming ending, which will please readers. Civil War buffs will also appreciate and be impressed by the author’s intricate depiction of the conflict.” —

Product Details

  • File Size: 1373 KB
  • Print Length: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (August 28, 2012)
  • Publication Date: August 28, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006ZNA0UQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,518 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
American Civil War fiction is not a genre I seek out, but when I saw Kiana Davenport's name on this one, I couldn't resist. She always provides fresh angles on old stories. I can count on her to teach me something new, with facts as well as points of view.

I didn't know that Chinese immigrant men had been kidnapped and forced into service as Confederate soldiers. I also didn't know that women in the South grew opium poppies hidden among their other crops, providing opium "bull's-eyes" to their fighting men to fuel their victories in battle. This of course left a nation full of dope-addicted veterans when the war was over.

THE SPY LOVER is smaller in scope and time frame than Davenport's sweeping novels of Hawaii. This one is meant as an homage to two of her ancestors who fought in the Civil War, so the focus is more narrow and there is less opportunity to add complex layers to the characters. The story is told almost entirely in the present tense, which is not my favorite, but I was able to adjust to it as the novel progressed.

There are three main characters whose lives are woven together as the novel alternates among their separate experiences of the Civil War.
Johnny Tom is a Chinese immigrant who was taken from his family to fight for the South, but he escaped to fight for the North. As he moves from battle to battle and in and out of prisoner-of-war camps, we learn of his life in China and his peregrinations after arriving in America.

Era Tom is Johnny's teenage daughter. She agreed to spy for the North in exchange for information about her father's whereabouts. Working as a nurse in a Confederate hospital, she meets and falls in love with Warren Petticomb, a Confederate cavalryman who lost an arm at Shiloh.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Spy Lover is one of the most amazing books that I have read this year. Make no mistake, this is a story about war and loss and therefore difficult to read. There is a graphic depiction of the horrors of war, the mistreatment of non-whites and the widespread abuse of women. The author aptly describes how boys on both sides of the battle become bloodthirsty butchers as they are caught up in the war. It is a story of how far removed from their humanity people can become during times of war. But, it is also a story of love and friendship and self discovery. And you certainly don't have to be a fan of military history to enjoy the book.

Johnny Tom is a Chinese immigrant to the United States who was forced into slavery upon his arrival on the mainland. He escapes and settles with his wife in a small, isolated Chinese village in the South. Their quiet life is shattered by the outbreak of war and Johnny Tom is forced into the Rebel Army only to escape and to begin to fight for the Union army. His daughter, Era is a nurse who serves on the Confederate side of the battle, exchanging information about the army in hopes of getting word about her father. She has no friends due to her purposefully distant personality until one day, a cavalry man named Warren is brought into the surgeons tent to have his arm amputated. The war causes horrible injuries and the sound of the surgeons saws run late into the night as the wounded pour into camps and the pile of severed limbs grows. Era nurses Warren to health and so beings their relationship. The relationship becomes their anchor, their steadying force amongst so much butchery and misery.

The story is well written and told from the alternating first perspective of Johnny Tom, Era and Warren.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel was a little too graphic in it's depictions of war brutality for my particular taste. I appreciate that the author didn't want to portray the Civil War as purely heroic and honorable, and perhaps wished to draw attention to the harsher truths hidden behind the shining facade. I am completely onboard with this, as a lot of horrible things happen during war, any war, even one for the 'right' reasons. However, I just found a lot of the descriptions contained in this novel a bit too difficult to read: very brutal, and rather disturbing. The multitude of such descriptions took away from the storyline in my opinion.
Nevertheless, this is not to say that this is a bad novel. The storyline itself was very absorbing, and I found the plethora of different characters interesting to read about. They were all uniquely different, with very different backgrounds and experiences. Also it was intriguing to read of people from many different ethnicities, for it brought to light the concept of America as a 'melting pot' of many different cultures. That's a thing to be proud of in my opinion.
The inclusion of the Chinese immigrants was particularly interesting to me. I was unaware that many Chinese were kidnapped and taken to work on sugar farms in Haiwaii, forced to work or sent back to China where they faced execution for leaving. Although not the first American Civil War novel i've read this novel has still taught me about a part of history that I previously had no knowledge of.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
You may never again read an account of the Civil War as potent as THE SPY LOVER. Where could we find an a story both heartbreakingly realistic while poetic and beautiful in spots? Where would we read about Chinese immigrants who fought in that epic slaughter we name the war between the states? Have we ever realized what terrible prejudice people acted from toward orientals who worked like slaves on so many important endeavors ? Many of the Chinese who worked on the trancontinental railroad are buried beneath its tracks. Ms. Davenport is a gifted writer who has given us a narrative we will not soon forget. In reading we may pause over the horrifying details of our terrible war while noting the beauty with which things are often written. The author gives us a story whose ultimate morality is love and forgiveness.
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