Promo: John Brown's Women by Susan Higginbotham

I'm delighted to share an excerpt today from John Brown’s Women, a gripping historical novel by Susan Higginbotham, about three women who a role in the life of abolitionist, John Brown.

It's currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club, so please make sure to check all the other posts on the tour for more enticing excerpts.

John Brown’s  Women: A Novel

Susan Higginbotham

Historical Fiction


“I heard you’re going down South,” Dauphin Thompson said. He had somehow materialized in the Browns’ yard. Since it was laundry day and a second pair of hands was always useful for hanging clothes, Annie couldn’t really complain.

Somewhat to the annoyance of the rest of the family, Annie had not fallen in love with Dauphin, who at twenty-one was the youngest of the Thompson clan. There was nothing at all objectionable about him; indeed, in a larger place than North Elba, he probably would have had quite a following. He was tall and well-built, with light blue eyes and a head of curly blond hair, and he worked hard on his father’s farm. He didn’t smoke or drink, and the only time Annie had ever seen him lose his temper was when someone around him had been mistreating a horse. He hadn’t been a star of North Elba’s red schoolhouse, but he hadn’t been a dunce either, and he did like to read. If he had a flaw, it was perhaps that he had hardly ever been out of North Elba and didn’t seem to mind.

But he did support Father’s cause, so Annie bestowed a smile upon him. “Yes, we’re going as soon as everything is ready.”

“I’ll be going when Watson goes. I’m eager to do my part.” Dauphin blushed, which he often did. “I never really thought about slavery much until I heard your father speak over at the schoolhouse. He really opened my eyes.” Dauphin picked up a shirt and pinned it neatly to the line.

“Father can be very persuasive.”

“He did warn us that it could be dangerous. He didn’t really need to, of course; I knew that from Henry. If he’d caught the bullet just another way—well, I don’t even like to think about it, and I’m sure you don’t.” Dauphin stared hard at a pillowcase. “Anyway, there’s something I would like to ask you. You know I like you.”

“You haven’t done a great deal about it,” Annie observed.

“I thought perhaps I should wait until you were a bit older. But we’ve always been friends. Haven’t we?”

Annie had to concede this. She liked Dauphin, as did everyone in North Elba, and they had had some pleasant times hiking together. Although Annie preferred to walk alone, Dauphin was quiet, so he made for a reasonably good companion on these excursions. It was only now that he had developed this irksome tendency to talk. “Where are you going with this, Dauphin?”

“I’m asking if you would think about marrying me. Not if you will marry me. Just if you’ll think about it.”

Mother had told all the girls about her unusual proposal from Father: in writing. Brother John had declared his love for Wealthy in the freezing cold. Did strange proposals run in the family, then?

The strangest part, perhaps, was that she really couldn’t say no. She liked Dauphin, and there was something pleasing about having someone devoted to her, even on this oddly informal level. Maybe watching Oliver and Martha mooning around was making her just a bit jealous. “I suppose.” 

“Thank you.”

There was an awkward silence that even Annie thought could probably be remedied only one way. Fortunately, Dauphin had the same thought. He stooped—there was quite a difference in their height, which Annie had never had occasion to consider before—and after some deliberation, gently kissed her.

It wasn’t bad at all, Annie had to admit. Still, the things that she’d read about in the novels and ladies’ magazines that Wealthy or Ruth occasionally sent to her hadn’t happened—no fluttering of her heart, no dizziness. Were the writers making all this up?



As the United States wrestles with its besetting sin—slavery—abolitionist John Brown is growing tired of talk. He takes actions that will propel the nation toward civil war and thrust three courageous women into history. 

Wealthy Brown, married to John Brown's oldest son, eagerly falls in with her husband's plan to settle in Kansas. Amid clashes between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers, Wealthy's adventure turns into madness, mayhem, and murder.

Fifteen-year-old Annie Brown is thrilled when her father summons her to the farm he has rented in preparation for his raid. There, she guards her father's secrets while risking her heart. 

Mary Brown never expected to be the wife of John Brown, much less the wife of a martyr. When her husband's daring plan fails, Mary must travel into hostile territory, where she finds the eyes of the nation riveted upon John—and upon her.

Spanning three decades, John Brown's Women is a tale of love and sacrifice, and of the ongoing struggle for America to achieve its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Trigger Warnings:
Deaths of young children through illness or accidents (not graphically described); implied heavy petting involving a willing minor.

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About the Author:

Susan Higginbotham

Susan Higginbotham is the author of a number of historical novels set in medieval and Tudor England and, more recently, nineteenth-century America, including The Traitor's Wife, The Stolen Crown, Hanging Mary, and The First Lady and the Rebel. 

She and her family, human and four-footed, live in Maryland, just a short drive from where John Brown made his last stand. When not writing or procrastinating, Susan enjoys traveling and collecting old photographs.

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting the blog tour for John Brown's Women. We really appreciate all that you do.

    All the best,
    Mary Anne
    The Coffee Pot Book Club


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