An Historic Romance

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Frederic Hunter
Abe and Molly:
The Lincoln Courtship

(In order of receipt - newest at the top)

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Amazon Kindle Reader - Joni A sympathetic review of the courtship of Lincoln and Mary. He 'always' called her Molly so the author has used this nickname to humanize the often demonized relationship. Using hundreds of sources and his own inate sensibilities and sense of history, we are immersed in the times and romances of pre Civil War America. I recommend this book for all history students especially Lincoln scholars.
Amazon Kindle Reader - R.L. Frederic Hunter is a great find. His Abe and Molly is one of the finest histories I've encountered on Lincoln, combining recollections, anecdotes, and detailed research on Lincoln and his courtship of Mary ("Molly") Todd in Springfield in 1840. It is no surprise that historian James McPherson offered kudos for the novel. Hunter portrays Abe and Mary in their crucial young adult years, as they really were, showing what they were like and how their characters were formed. We see Lincoln's nervousness and indecisiveness around women, his humility, solidity, natural wit, and ambition, and Mary's flirtatious nature, her more "modern woman" interest in politics, and her attraction to Lincoln from the start. She is a positive character. Beyond the romance, which is the story tying the novel together, there is a wonderful historical chronicle of the times. We get a ground-eye view of Whig politics of the era, of the Presidential campaign of 1840, and the political beginnings for Lincoln coming off the Black Hawk war. We get the best picture ever of life on the frontier, the circuit riding, the dances and competition for women, the drinking, the dueling, the migrations from Kentucky. And, we get a good view of Stephen Douglas and Lincoln's legal colleagues. We see the pathos of Lincoln circuit riding, defending a young farm boy who killed a co-worker that had threatened him, and the background of Lincoln's tough childhood, losing his mother, the family living in a lean-to in Indiana, having to become a man at age eight, later cutting logs and selling them down river. A wonderful story and history, a real inside look. Can't wait to read more Hunter.
Meeting of The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Coivil War, Tent 22, Santa Barbara, CA at the Santa Barbara Club. March 9, 2012 About 50 ladies descended from a Civil War veteran gathered at lunch to hear Frederic Hunter discuss Lincoln's early years and read extracts from his book, Abe and Molly. Q&A followed. Everyone was entralled and very interested and had very good detailed questions.
Thursday Club at the LaCanada Women's (Book) Club
LaCanada Flintridge, CA Feb. 16, 2012
About 65 ladies listed to author Fred Hunter give readings from the book and answer many questions. The Thursday Club is one of the largest and oldest boos clubs in the LA area.

State-Journal Register, Springfield, IL newspaper Blog - Dec. 3, 2011

In an e-mail interview, Hunter said one of his TV films, "Lincoln and the War Within," which was done for PBS, led him to the story of the Abraham Lincoln-Mary Todd courtship. And that led him to write "Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship," published last year by Nebbadoon Press. Hunter describes "Abe and Molly" as a "mainly true story." It's a novel, with invented situations and dialogue -- but also with a bibliography and nearly 50 pages of historical notes. [Full entry here.]
Small Press Bookwatch
Lead review in
October 2010 issue
Some relationships are of special construction. "Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship" tells the story of how our inept, timid sixteenth president won the heart of an aristocrat, a match no one thought would work. Frederic Hunter uses this pairing to spin a novel out of it, providing a dramatized look at the relationship between Abraham and Mary Todd. An exciting tale of romance and high society in the first half of the nineteenth century, "Abe and Molly" is a fascinating and fun read.
The Christian Science Monitor
Richard Dearborn Sr.
The strained courtship of Abraham Lincoln is brought to life by Frederic Hunter's novel Abe and Molly. Reading it is as though one is eavesdropping on the Lincolns' conversations with no guilt.
Montecito Journal
Kelly Mahan
In an interview with reporter Kelly Mahan, Mr. Hunter responded to a question about the untold true story of Mary Todd and Abe Lincoln, "That's what the book is about. It's a great story about fascinating people--and it's true! Lincoln could not have become president without the encouragement, wisdom, and practical political savvy she brought to the marriage." Full Review >> Click Here
Santa Barbara News-Press
Ted Mills
Santa Barbara resident Frederic Hunter spent 10 years researching the sometimes controversial courtship between Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd (or "Molly," as Abe called her), and now has turned that into a fictional narrative of their relationship.
Reader's Comment
Kathy B.
Moments ago I put down your "Abe and Molly" having read every word of it aloud to John and we both want you to know how very much we enjoyed it. There is so much to say about the book, all of it good and much of it funny. Of all the books I've read about Lincoln, yours has made him come alive so that I really feel I know him as a friend. And Molly - well, she has needed and deserved a champion for a century and a half. You have done a magnificent job.
Reader's Comment
Annie T.

I just finished the book last night. Your story of Lincoln's courtship is irresistible. What sparkle! What a pair of intelligent, unique and colorful odd ducks--taking risks, defying the odds, to find their way to one another. I didn't want it to end.

And it was such a feat of the imagination. How did you do it? Those riveting conversations between them, the building tension of their relationship. They seemed so alive, so believable and so human in the best sense--drawn to each other against the roiling political scene of their time.

Your Lincoln was a work of art: brilliant, rough-edged, funny, sometimes clownish, powerful, flawed, honest, bold, shy and totally engaging. I could go on and on: the townspeople, the local life, the manners of the day--all a rich and carefully-drawn tableau. Bravo!

Pie-of-the-Month Club Book Blog
Pie-of-the Month Club interview with Heather Vogel Frederick includes an in-depth interview about the book Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship (plus a pie recipe).
Advanced Placement U.S. History Teacher
Scott Wilson

Abraham Lincoln was not an attractive man. His seemingly wild and untaimed hair, towering height, and gawky features do not make him a likely protagonist for a romance novel. Yet, in Frederic Hunter's newest book, Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship, a softer, more romantic side of Lincoln comes alive as never before. Based on extensive research thoroughly documented at the end of the novel, Hunter expertly brings to life one of the most iconic figures in American history. Full Review Continued >> Click Here

Amazon Kindle
Top 1000 Reviewer

I loved this book! It is so steeped in history that one can easily imagine being part of the dinner party in the Edwards' Springfield home. Or shivering while making the two-week stagecoach / paddleboat trip from Lexington to Springfield in wintertime. Brrrr. Full Review Continued >> Click here

CASA Magazine
Santa Barbara, CA
Feature Book Review
"Mary Todd was very badly treated by American History and deserved another look." Full interview article >> Click Here
James M. McPherson
Princeton, NJ. --
Historian and
Pulitzer Prize-
winning author of
Battle Cry of Freedom
Thanks so much for sharing the ms of your novel with me. I have read it with great pleasure, and indeed have learned a great deal from the ways in which you have dealt fictionally with an important but often misunderstood facet of Lincoln's life-and the life of Mary Todd. I am impressed by the way in which you were able to incorporate the extensive research you did into the story, which is more plausible than anything else I have read. I was impressed with Doug Wilson's interpretation in Honor's Voice, which centered around Lincoln's supposed infatuation with Matilda Edwards, but you have convinced me otherwise. I think your insight about Ninian Edwards (supported by Elizabeth) doing everything they could to warn Lincoln off is quite convincing. The only source of some doubt about that interpretation is their ready acceptance of Abraham and Mary's determination to marry two years later. In any event, you have a wonderful book here, and I am sure it will win a place in the current sweepstakes of Lincoln books.
radio interview on "Curtain Call"
Half hour interview on NPR in Santa Rosa, CA
Scott Wilson
AP US History Teacher, continued

Continued - - from Scott Wilson

For the average person, Lincoln is the president who ended slavery, led the Union to victory in the Civil War, and died tragically at the hands of an assassin. Over two hundred years after his birth, he is still revered as an important American hero, yet relatively little is known about his pre-presidential years and even less about his love life. Hunter has addressed this oversight by creating a fun, easily readable piece of historical fiction that is approachable for even the most ardent haters of history. At its core Abe and Molly reads like a Jane Austen novel, providing an excellent snapshot of courting rituals in mid-19th century America while illustrating class divisions that existed by highlighting the contrast between Lincoln's extremely humble upbringing and Mary "Molly" Todd's aristocratic family background.

The novel begins with Molly Todd's journey via stagecoach to Springfield, Illinois and ends with her marriage to Lincoln. While the ultimately satisfying conclusion comes as no surprise, the journey that Federic Hunter takes the reader on is a thoroughly enjoyable one that interweaves actual historical events with fictional dialogue. Thus, we learn of Lincoln's penchant for telling earthy stories, his frequent descent into depression, and his awkardness with the fairer sex. At the same time, Lincoln is portrayed as an astute politician, not above certain shenanigans to aid his cause and to help him achieve his goals. Moreover, Hunter provides a depiction of Molly Todd that proves highly enlightening, and challenges traditional assumptions of many historians. Nowhere in the novel do we see the emotionally disturbed and unstable woman that Molly became later in life. Instead, we are introduced to a charming, well-educated, and flirtatious young woman whose primary weakness was her sharp tongue and unwillingness to conform to sharply prescribed gender roles. By incorporating his extensive research into the couple, Hunter paints a realistic portrait of a true love affair (complete with a broken engagement and a meddling guardian) between two people well suited for each other, despite, what seemed at the time, insurmountable differences.

Of course, while the romance takes main stage, there is also plenty for historians to sink their teeth into. Hunter introduces the politically adept "Little Giant" Stephen Douglas as a supporting character. Douglas, who famously took part in the Lincoln-Douglas debates and authored the infamous Kansas-Nebraska Act, is shown to be a realistic challenger for the affections of Molly Todd. The novel also illustrates the political context of the era by showcasing the constant battle between Whigs and Democrats for national supremacy. With the use of actual correspondence, excerpts of campaign songs, and detailed research, Frederic Hunter proves that it is possible to write an engaging work of fiction that is still faithful to actual events.

With all of that said, the novel is not perfect. At times the dialogue is stilted or unrealistic, attempting to incorporate too much historical information in a way which makes characters sound less like real people and more like encyclopedia entries. There are also a number of background characters who are never fully fleshed out and seem to exist solely because of Hunter's faithfulness to the historical record. Yet, these imperfections do not deter from the overall quality of the novel or the enjoyment to be obtained from reading a love story that features our sixteenth president. For at its heart, Abe and Molly is the story of a socially awkward self-made man trying to win the heart of a woman of privilege despite society's expectations. The fact that you cannot walk away from this timeless story without expanding your knowledge of American history is just an added bonus.

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A. Lincoln Blog.
A blog about Abraham Lincoln, from a professor of history and Lincoln scholar.
Sept. 18, 2011

The Skinny: Frederic Hunter, an experienced writer, Lincoln expert, and creator of one of the best Lincoln resources on the Internet, Lincolnlink.com, has written an account of the Lincolns' early days together, from their first meeting to their wedding. Very familiar ground, of course, being a subject and a time period that has attracted a multitude of Lincoln scholars. The unique contribution of Hunter's book is its singular literary style, a narrative account written in the general style of a novel, with dialogue, characterizations, settings, etc. of a sort more typically found in a work of fiction, yet grounded in Hunter's quite thorough knowledge of the available primary sources. A sample:

"In the lilac-scented evening air two men climbed the gentle rise above the hill. A breeze stirred softly. The sun had slipped below the horizon and the last light was fading from the sky.

'Lincoln,' said Speed, 'you have not spoken a word since we left the store.'

'You've been whistling the entire time,' Lincoln observed. 'You're acting--well, not quite like a dog in heat, though it puts me in mind of that.'

'A dancing party,' replied Speed, 'The best young ladies of the town dressed up to please us. I thank them for that.'" (p. 27).

You get the idea. As Hunter himself puts it, this approach is "not so much based on fact as it involves a variety of interpretations of recollections of Lincoln and Mary Todd, most of them collected after--often well after--Lincoln's assassination in 1865 (p. 353). Which is to say that Hunter has taken the body of postwar reminiscences about the Lincoln courtship and woven them together in a solidly grounded but still creatively interpreted historical narrative.

The Good. Readability--or actually more than this, a dramatic, richly textured narrative account, written with a nice feel for the personalities involved, the tone and dialog of the times, and the emotional structure of Lincoln and Mary's rather odd, rollicking but ultimately affectionate courtship. Hunter possesses both a critical eye for and a warm sympathy with his characters--pretty much the ideal biographer's perspective. He also knows his stuff. While Lincoln specialists of one sort or another might quibble with this or that interpretation Hunter brings to bear on his subjects, his interpretations are not rooted in an ignorance of the subject matter, but rather his firm judgment after carefully sifting through what is often a maddeningly contradictory and vague pile of primary source evidence. I for one found his arguments convincing (the book includes a thorough afterword in which he explains the evidence and the decisions he rendered), and did not often think his narrative had struck a false note. Highlights (at least for me): the barbed exchanges between Lincoln and Douglas, Mary's thoughts as she entered Springfield's social world as a Kentucky expatriate, and Hunter's entertaining account of the Lincoln/Shields duel--or rather almost duel.

The Not-as-Good: I won't put this on Hunter, but rather his publishers, who in all likelihood made such decisions--but the book would be stronger if it included a more detailed rendering of the primary sources. It does include the aforementioned Afterword, as well as a brief bibliography, but I for one would like to have seen a bit more detailed indication of exactly which documents led to which narrative passages. This is not a matter of trust, of course--go check out Hunter's website; he knows the reminiscences quite well--but rather the interest of a fellow Lincoln scholar who likes to see exactly how all the little cogs fit together that make the machine function.

The Bottom Line: an enjoyable, entertaining rendering of an old set of Lincoln stories in a fresh way. I'd especially recommend Abe and Molly to anyone who wishes to communicate to a person unfamiliar with Lincoln's early years the fascination and drama contained in this period of his life. I may very well use this as an assigned class reading for my course on antebellum America; it would be ideal for undergraduates.

Amazon Kindle
Top 1000 Reviewer,

Continued, from Top 1000 Reviewer

Supposedly, one of the tenets of the new country -- the United States -- was to be a classless society. No aristocracy. Don't kid yourself. There absolutely was an aristocratic strata in society, although not, of course, titled as in the UK and other European countries.

At the turn of the 19th Century, the early states along the Eastern seaboard -- Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Delaware, eastern Kentucky and a few other locations -- had a very definite and rigid blue-blood society. Those families were usually landed, with slaves, and a fairly long history in this new land.

One such family was the Todds of Lexington, Kentucky. Daughter Mary was continually reminded of her heritage- 'You're a Todd, and you must never forget that.' Perhaps unstated, but certainly implied was the further admonition - 'don't do anything to bring shame on our name.'

Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, had little family to speak of other than his mother, who died when he was rather young, and his step-mother. He was not close to his father, who was a moderately successful farmer. Abe set out on his own as a teen-ager to better himself. His natural thirst for knowledge led to his finally being able to read for the law. All his hard work and determination proved that he had been right to pursue his almost unreachable dreams.

He settled in Springfield Illinois, where, among the other young men he encountered was one Ninian Edwards, whose wife Elizabeth was Mary Todd's older sister. The meeting between the lanky raw-boned backwoodsman with little polish, and the intellectual and supremely intelligent Mary Todd was inevitable, and the outcome unpalatable to both families. But the two young people ignored everyone around them, drawn as they were to each other. It took several years to accomplish, but they did eventually marry, and the self-taught young man became one of the country's greatest presidents. One can but wonder what might have become of this tumultuous young nation had they been permanently separated by the barriers thrown up to keep them apart.

Fortunately, they were too devoted to each other to allow such interference in their lives, although there was a separation of about 18 months after Abe's first proposal and Molly's subsequent return and acceptance of the second one.

Most especially, I enjoyed the afterwords -- the author's explanation for the way he interpreted various bits and pieces to create his story. The bibliography is extensive. But don't be mis-led. First and foremost this is a caring look at a young couple who are the epitome of the saying 'opposites attract'. Their story will stay in your mind for a long while after you've closed the book. It is entirely enjoyable reading for any age reader.

I'd happily give it ten stars if I could!

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