Courting Mr. Lincoln

Courting Mr. Lincoln

by Louis Bayard


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A page-turning novel about the brilliant, melancholic future president and the two people who knew him best: his handsome and charming confidant (and roommate), Joshua Speed, and the spirited young debutante Mary Todd.
A Washington Post Bestseller
A May Indie Next Pick
An Apple Books Best of the Month for April
A People Magazine Best Book of the Week
“Exquisite.” —People
“A triumph of a novel.” —
“Rich, fascinating, and romantic.” —Newsday

When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one’s short list to be president. A country lawyer living above a dry goods shop, he is lacking both money and manners, and his gift for oratory surprises those who meet him. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with an interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: an amiable, profound man who, despite his awkwardness, has a gentle wit to match his genius, and who respects her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and inspired by historical events, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents. Louis Bayard, a master storyteller, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616208479
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 55,450
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Louis Bayard is a New York Times Notable Book author and has been shortlisted for both the Edgar and Dagger awards for his historical thrillers, which include The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy. His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed young-adult title Lucky Strikes. He lives in Washington, DC, and teaches at George Washington University. Visit him online at

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Courting Mr. Lincoln: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
CynB 7 months ago
Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard, was disappointing in many respects. It tells the story of the courtship of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln against the suggestion that he was romantically involved with his best friend, Joshua Speed. Bayard presents not a shred of fact to support this proposition although a case, albeit weak, can be made. I don’t envy a creative novelist having to deal with historical characters of such renown. Unfortunately, these complex historical characters come across as flat and one-dimensional. Having read many biographies of the Lincolns from Sandburg to Goodwin, I admit to being a tough critic of fictionalized versions. Nonetheless, I appreciate NetGalley and Algonquin Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
bookfan-mary 7 months ago
I guess I've been living under a rock because until this novel I've never heard any mention that Abraham Lincoln was rumored to be gay. Courting Mr. Lincoln is about his early years in Illinois - where he met Mary Todd and where he lived with his good friend Joshua Speed and two other boarders above Speed's shop. The novel is told from the perspectives of Mary and Joshua which served to give depth to the characters and added to my empathy for both. I've always thought Lincoln seemed like a sad man, consumed with melancholy, and that feeling continues with Bayard's Lincoln. In contrast I was intrigued by Speed's magnetic personality. No one could escape his pull. I'd want to sit next to him at a dinner party. For me this was an enjoyable read with sparkling dialogue that kept me turning the pages. Courting Mr. Lincoln is a different look at our 16th President and I'm glad I read it. I feel compelled to read more about Joshua Speed. I love when that happens.
357800 9 months ago
"Men don't always know what they need. That's why God made women." COURTING MR. LINCOLN is a work of historical fiction, and an entertaining read, but not quite what I was expecting. In a nutshell, I was hoping for more connection....personal (wooing) time between Abe and Mary Todd; whereas, it seemed a greater portion of this novel is spent on Abe's friendship with Joshua Speed....the two making for instant strange bedfellows with Mary and Speed often in competition for Abe's sole attention. I favor books about civil war times, Abe Lincoln in particular, and this one begins in 1839 with a young Mary Todd traveling from Alton to Springfield, Illinois in search of change, a man and hope for a better life and future. When she arrives at her domineering sister Elizabeth's home, she is disappointed in the appearance of the ugly mud-daubed cabins, muddy streets and primitive environment; and it sure is not love at first sight when she eventually meets the awkward giant of a man Abraham with his unkept appearance and uncouth ways....but things do subtly change thanks to Eliza Francis who's mission in life is playing Cupid to any unattached Whigs and eligible young ladies who might further their political aspirations. Told from alternating viewpoints of Mary and Joshua, it was fun watching a young, penniless tender-hearted farmer Abe turned lawyer/politician learn to dress properly, waltz and get the hang of the proper etiquette under the tutelage of his handsome, new friend, roommate and store proprietor Speed. Springfield society was not easy nor was the applied practice of medicine of the thanks. COURTING MR. LINCOLN has an interesting take on the Lincoln-Todd-Speed relationships and I very much enjoyed and recommend it. There is talk of politics, and a bit about slavery, but it does not explore the civil war or Lincoln assassination. The epilogue does, however, summarize Mary's sorrowful end. ***Arc provided by Algonquin Books via NetGalley in exchange for honest review***
marongm8 10 months ago
I was intrigued from the start of the book due to my love for untold/behind the scenes stories of iconic historical events and figures such and Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. While reading this I could not help but picture the both of them telling their story to me as if we were having dinner in their living room and we were sharing some outlandish stories just to make the night interesting. Louis Bayard does a remarkable job in telling the story of how Mary Todd and Abe met and how she was a huge influence on the man he was as our 16th president. If you are a lover of historical fiction and want a drama packed love story, I highly recommend this book. We will definitely consider adding this title to our Historical Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Reader99999 10 months ago
Found this at a B&N in Brooklyn this weekend, couldn't put it down. It's like one of those fabulous 19th century novels, funny and smart and poignant and not a little heartbreaking too. This is a portrait of Mary Todd unlike anything I've seen--a woman possessed of strong & original opinions, a ravishing intelligence and wit, and thus it's plain why Lincoln would find her so captivating, and vice versa.... but we also see how the mores of time made life so difficult (in terms of their "suitability" in polite society) for women who had opinions etc... Just as compelling is the relationship between Lincoln and Joshua Speed; whatever the conventions of that age might have been, the love/kinship they share is beautifully rendered, and portrayed with tenderness and nuance as befits a writer of Bayard's caliber. I absolutely loved this book, can't recommend it more highly.