Courting Mr. Lincoln
Amazon Best Book for April · May Indie Next Pick · Apple Best Book of the Month for April
“A miracle; an exquisite story exquisitely told . . . If you love Jane Austen, or Hamilton, or fiction—of any era—that transports and transforms in equal measure, look no further.”
—A.J. Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
From the prizewinning author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye comes Courting Mr. Lincoln, the page-turning and surprising story of a young Abraham Lincoln and the two people who loved him best: a young, marriageable Mary Todd and Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed.
When sparky and independent Mary Todd arrives in Springfield, Illinois, in the 1840s to live with her sister, who is determined to find Mary a husband, she is astonished to find herself drawn to an awkward, melancholic lawyer with a gift for oratory. The two share ambition, an obsession with politics—and a need to be suitably married off.
Always at Lincoln’s side, however, is the charming Joshua Speed, a shopkeeper who became his mentor in society, loyal friend, roommate—and possible lover. Told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Todd and Speed, this witty, psychologically astute, and brilliantly plotted novel follows the threesome during Todd and Lincoln’s tumultuous courtship, with all the suspense and delight of the best Jane Austen novels.
Historians have long speculated that Lincoln and Speed had a romantic relationship, and here Bayard explores that forbidden possibility with deep empathy. Rich with both period detail and contemporary insight, Courting Mr. Lincoln offers smart storytelling at the highest level.
“With wit and charm that only Louis Bayard can deliver, Courting Mr. Lincoln transports readers to 19th-century Springfield, Ill., to view both the romance of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd and the intimate friendship of the future president and a dry-goods merchant named Joshua Speed. As he did with Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye and Theodore Roosevelt in Roosevelt's Beast, Bayard animates his famous protagonist and offers a fictional peek behind the curtain of the hero into the life of the man. Those familiar with Bayard's work will appreciate his sterling dialogue and ingenious humor. Bayard's masterful command of language enchants and thrills; his meticulous, almost otherworldly, understanding of his historical subject awes and inspires. When that all comes together, Courting Mr. Lincoln is Bayard at his absolute best. He offers more reasons to love one of the most admired presidents in U.S. history and proves yet again why he himself is one of the nation's greatest literary gems.”
— Shelf Awareness
“…thoroughly researched and thrillingly plotted…Filled with rich historical detail and compulsively readable, Courting Mr. Lincoln is a story of a best friend, a future wife, and the political legend that they came together to create, each leaving an indelible mark on the man that would one day become president. Fans of historical fiction will be up late into the night to uncover the next chapter of this fascinating time in history.”
— NY Journal of Books
“In his ninth novel, Courting Mr. Lincoln, Louis Bayard dramatically re-creates the months after Abraham Lincoln’s 1840 winter arrival in Springfield with delicious detail and diligent diplomacy. Alternating between the disparate voices of Lincoln’s future wife and Lincoln’s best friend, Bayard offers an insider’s view of just how much the two may have influenced the awkward, often ill-mannered country lawyer as he began to inch his way up the political ladder. Bayard does an exceptional job of keeping readers engrossed as he weaves fact and fiction in this intriguing tale of intimacy between Lincoln and his two closest confidantes.”
“[an] acute and passionate portrait … in Bayard's skilled hands, three complicated people groping toward a new phase in their lives is all the plot you need.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Bayard fictionalizes the early days of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln’s relationship in this delightful embellishment of American history. This charming love story delicately reveals the emotional roller coaster of two inexperienced adults traversing the unknown realm of love while trying to meet the demands and expectations of society.”
— Publishers Weekly
“…with a richly imagined setting and complex characters…a worthy addition to the fiction about-Lincoln bookshelf.”
“A miracle; an exquisite story exquisitely told. This glorious novel, big-hearted and clear-eyed, features the most uncanny incarnation of our sixteenth president since Daniel Day-Lewis strode onscreen in Lincoln. If you love Jane Austen, or Hamilton, or fiction—of any era—that transports and transforms in equal measure, look no further.”
— A.J. Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
“In this sparkling tale of strategy and desire, Louis Bayard renders the origin story of the Lincoln-Todd marriage with a wit worthy of Jane Austen and the keen political insight of the best presidential biographers. When it comes to bringing our most revered historical figures to vivid life—and returning to them their full humanity—Louis Bayard has no peer. He is, quite simply, a master of the storytelling art.”
— Liza Mundy, bestselling author of Code Girls
“In exquisite detail and luminous prose, Louis Bayard has taken what might have been a footnote in the history of Abraham Lincoln and made it the story. It is as if there was a secret door in Lincoln's life and Bayard has opened it and walked inside. Suddenly all the pieces fit. Utterly fascinating and brilliantly convincing, this is a terrific book that people will be talking about for a long time.”
— Mary Morris, author of Gateway to the Moon
“Superb, witty, gorgeously written. For the length of this dazzling, subversive novel, I was plunged so deeply into the sitting rooms and muddy streets of mid-19th-century Springfield, Illinois, that I too had fallen in love with and had my heart broken by the awkward, young lawyer from Kentucky. Courting Mr. Lincoln is an essential read: it makes the past a human place.”
— Christopher Bollen, author of The Destroyers
“Courting Mr. Lincoln gives us a young Abe Lincoln as we've never imagined him. It’s a moving portrait, told with cutting wit and intimately drawn detail, of three friends struggling to find their own identities against the weight of social expectations.”
— Thomas Mullen, author of Darktown and Lightning Men