“Eternity Between Us” by Stephania McGee isn’t just a romantic tale set in the first year of the Civil War, it’s an outstanding story of adventure and intrigue, steeped in historical influences.
Evelyn Mapleton, a strong supporter of the southern cause, finds herself torn between two worlds. Her father, a newspaperman, has been absent from her life for some time, and left Evelyn in the care of her prim-and-proper aunt. Amongst Martinsburg society, Evelyn feels like an outcast and sorely out of place. Now that the war has broken out between the states, she is desperate to have a purpose outside of the typical sphere and wants to help her distant father in any way she can by collecting information about the Confederate operations in her area. When it becomes clear that her actions are restricted in her aunt’s household, she steals away with a new friend, Alice, to find “employment” as spies and informants under the infamous Margaret Greenman in Washington. Her efforts bring her dangerously close to discovery in a Federal hospital where she serves as a nurse tending the sick and wounded alongside a handsome Yankee doctor.
Samuel Flynn has only ever wanted one thing in life: to be a doctor and help heal those in need. When the war comes to Washington City, many of his classmates receive their licenses and are whisked off to the battlefront to serve in field hospitals. Samuel, however, is held back by his mentor for a big, glaring reason. Samuel’s nose is highly sensitive and could threaten his potential career as a doctor who is constantly exposed to foul and fetid odors. In his struggle to prove himself an adequate and useful physician, his path crosses with who he calls “Queen of the Wild Wood”, Evelyn Mapleton. Captivated by her beauty and strength, Samuel is oblivious to the fact that he’s courting with an aspiring southern spy in his own hospital.
McGee has never failed to weave a tale of sweet romance, while staying true to historical fact. The methods in which Evelyn and Alice conduct their espionage is accurate to methods of the time, such as hiding supplies under their skirts. Characters such as Margaret Greenman are based almost directly off of historical figures such as Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow, Confederate spies who operated in the Washington area. Places like Camp Griffin, The Fishback Inn, The Benvenue House, and the Washington Infirmary did exist within the appropriate time of the story. Attitudes and experiences were directly taken from primary source accounts from southern sympathizers or nurses like Louisa May Alcott.
The romance between Samuel and Evelyn had me smiling and biting my nails through the whole affair. Would Samuel finally discover her deeds? Would Evelyn shift her views on southern independence after all she had seen in the Union hospitals? Would the gulf between them be too wide for their budding love to thrive? The tough question over which side was in the right during the war gets brought up a lot and as the story itself states, friends and families were torn apart by the conflict. Even Samuel’s sister sided with her husband and the Confederacy while the rest of his family continued as Unionists. One can forget that these are completely fictional characters, as McGee has crafted them so perfectly to the setting and era. The story also teaches us a valuable lesson in the dangers of sectionalism and blind hatred against someone of a different viewpoint or belief.
I highly recommend this heartwarming, well-written tale about love that endeavors to bind us together.
“Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison” by Belle Boyd
“My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington” by Rose Greenhow
“Hospital Sketches” by Louisa May Alcott
“Liar, Temptress, Spy” by Karen Abbott
“Wild Rose” by Ann Blackman
“A Southern Spy in Northern Virginia” by Charles Mauro