Grant Me Timely Grace

Written by Timothy Woods
Review by Nan Hawthorne

A spy thriller set in Washington DC during the American Civil War, Grant Me Timely Grace is relentless, grabbing you from page one and not letting you loose until the end of the epilogue. Gerard Chantier is wealthy, stealthy and contradictory, devoted to the Confederacy but a passionate abolitionist. He has wormed his way into the confidence of members of Lincoln’s cabinet and the leading generals of the Army of the Potomac and is poised to deliver the capital of the Union over to the colorful General “Jeb” Stuart.

As the main action of the novel begins, his carefully crafted plans are starting to come apart. His daughter, Thérese, refuses to marry as he bids her, shaking his alliance with British diplomats ready to favor the Confederacy. His oldest friend, James Bayeaux, a black man he freed from slavery, has a secret that will threaten more than Chantier could have suspected. New on the scene is Russell Johns, a disgraced Union officer wanting to get to the bottom of the conspiracy that forced his father to resign from the Senate. Each of these characters is fully drawn and keeps the tension going. There’s also Rachel Matson, a Confederate spy who hates black people and men almost equally, and Johns’s old West Point roommate who has made himself indispensable to all sides. Among the peripheral characters is Turner, a preacher who runs refugee camps for fleeing slaves and who is one of the strongest figures in the struggle, and the befuddled cabinet members and generals who have played into Chantier’s hands.

Each character has his or her role to play in how all this shakes out, and every one of them is fully involved and necessary to the story. All this is brought together with painstaking historical detail that gives the reader a look at the politics underpinning the War Between the States. This novel is truly a page-turner, a tale of sacrifice and passion.