Sunday, March 27, 2022


     What is "alternative history?"  Simply put, it's imagining a time and place where history diverged from our timeline to create a different chain of events than the one that makes up our past.  Back in 2017, I wrote a short story called "An Interview at Weehawken," in which Alexander Hamilton survived his famous duel with Aaron Burr.   I couldn't put that story out of my mind, as my brain kept asking "What happened next?"  That question prompted me to start writing my first alternative history novel in 2019, entitled PRESIDENT HAMILTON.  Published in 2021, it has enjoyed the strongest start of any of my novels, and is still selling well nine months after its publication.

     Writing it gave me a taste for other "What if?" moments in history, and of all those, perhaps the one that has been pondered over the most is, "What if Abraham Lincoln had not been murdered right at the end of the Civil War?"  So not long after writing "An Interview at Weehawken," I penned a re-telling of that fateful night in Washington DC, entitled "A Close Call at the Theater."  Once more, it was never intended to be anything more than a short story.  But that pesky muse of mine kept bugging me with the same question she'd asked about Alexander Hamilton: "What happened next?"

     So in January, I pulled up "A Close Call at the Theater" and edited it a bit, and added one word to the title: "Prologue."   As of right now, I am seven chapters in to this speculative account of what might have been if America's greatest President had not been cut down at the moment of his victory in the Civil War.  And I don't know, yet, how the story ends.  But I will say, it has been a marvelous ride thus far!  So, by way of an introduction and a teaser, here is "A Close Call at the Theater" - the prologue to WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE.


                   A Close Call at the Theater


John Parker looked at his pocket watch and yawned.  It was nearly nine o’clock, and the President was late – again.  Mrs. Lincoln glanced at the door of the White House and sighed.  After so many years, Parker figured she ought to be used to never seeing the first act of a play, but he could tell she was upset.  Not angry – her legendary fits of temper were unmistakable – but disappointed no less.  Finally, at nine on the dot, the front door of the Executive Mansion opened, and the lanky form of Abraham Lincoln, wearing his trademark stovepipe hat, stepped out and strode across the White House lawn towards the carriage. 

“The play started thirty minutes ago,” Mary Todd Lincoln said. 

“Good thing we’ve seen this one before then, eh?” the President replied with a slight chuckle.  He was accustomed to his wife’s moods and knew when to take a light tone and when to be sympathetic. 

“As I recall, we missed the first act then, too,” she replied.  “But that’s all right, Father, I just want to relax tonight.  It’s been such a long time since we had a good laugh!” 

“Indeed, little Mother,” he said, patting her hand.  “Makes you wish we were going to a better comedy, doesn’t it?”  Lincoln had been disappointed with ‘Our American Cousin’ the first time he saw it – it was a vulgar bit of slapstick, not the dry, witty brand of comedy he preferred to watch. 

“They say that the script has been re-written since the last production, and that Laura Keene and Harry Hawke are both hilarious,” she replied. 

“Well, we shall soon see then, won’t we?” Lincoln said as the driver whipped the carriage towards Ford’s Theater.   

Parker stood on the running board of the carriage, his Colt in his pocket, scanning the crowds.  As a Washington policeman detailed to protect the President, big crowds always made him nervous.  Lincoln was unpopular in many circles, and not a few people wanted him dead.  No American President had ever been assassinated, but a madman had tried to kill Andrew Jackson thirty years before, and anything could happen.  He would be glad when the President was tucked away safe in his box at the theater.  The mood of the capitol was generally jubilant since Lee’s surrender a few days before, but many Confederate sympathizers lurked in the city still.  Besides, he thought, he’d been late for duty and had no time for supper; perhaps he could grab a bite – or better yet, a drink – once the President was tucked in. 

It was a short ride from the White House to the theater, and once they arrived, Parker escorted the Lincolns and their guests, Major Rathbone and his fiancĂ©e, Clara Harris, to the Presidential box.  As they filed into their seats, Harry Hawke, playing the role of Asa Trenchard, a penniless American adventurer, looked up and saw them.  He quickly ad-libbed the line he was uttering – a protestation of his worth to his potential mother-in-law – to fit the occasion. 

“Well, I’ll have you know,” he declaimed, “I am just as fine a gentleman as the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!”   He gestured at Lincoln with a flourish as he spoke, and the tall man from Illinois tipped his hat to the crowd, who gave him a vigorous round of applause.  Lincoln bowed gracefully, and then gestured to the actors to continue.  As they did, he turned to his bodyguard. 

“We are fine for the time being, Mr. Parker,” he said.  “Feel free to sit among the audience and enjoy the play.” 

“Thank you, Mister President,” said Parker.  There was a chair in the narrow corridor right outside the Presidential box, but it had no view of the stage at all.  He went down the stairs and took a seat near the back of the crowd, and soon was chuckling along with the rest of the audience at the onstage antics of Harry Hawke and Laura Keene. 

It was late in the first act, and Parker had not been seated for very long when the intermission was called.  As the gas lights were turned up, he recognized Lincoln’s coachman, Robert Stark, sitting a couple of seats over. 

“Come on to the Lone Star with me and get a drink,” the garrulous Scotsman said. 

“I really shouldn’t,” said Parker.  “I’m supposed to be watching out for the President.” 

“Aw, come on, man!” Stark said.  “Lincoln never leaves once he’s in his box. It’s safe as can be.” 

Parker shrugged.  He was not a particularly conscientious man - hence his spotty record with the Washington police - and he was powerfully thirsty.  Lincoln would be fine for a half hour, he reckoned. 

The Lone Star Tavern was crowded, and as they entered, Parker saw the popular actor, Wilkes Booth, get up and leave a corner table.  He nodded at the young thespian as he brushed by, but Booth ignored him.  Theater people - stuck up brats, the lot of them, Parker thought. 

He grabbed a tankard of beer and was about to join Stark when he saw a beautiful woman seated at the bar.  Parker was married, but he was no more particular about his marital vows than he was about his police duties.  He plopped down on the stool next to her and greeted the young lady with a grin and a wink. 

“John Parker, Washington Police,” he said.  “How are you this fine evening, my lady?” 

“I am quite well,” she said with a friendly smile.  “Louise Fletcher, at your service, officer.” 

His spirits lifted at that smile – it was obvious she liked policemen! 

“Are you from Washington, Miss Fletcher?” he asked. 

“Mrs. Fletcher,” she said.  “My husband was a Captain in the Union Army, but he died at Gettysburg.  I volunteered for the Sanitary Commission after that, hoping to help other men like him.  I tend to the wounded in the Soldier’s Home.” 

“Very noble,” said Parker.  A lonely widow!  His prospects were looking up. “I am a personal security guard for President Lincoln,” he continued. 

“How exciting!” she said.  “Are you off duty?” 

“Not exactly,” he said.  “The President is next door watching a play.” 

“Then why are you not with him?” she asked sharply, disapproval written on her futures.   

“Well, I just came over to have a nip -” he started, but she would have none of it. 

“You are tasked with protecting the most important man in America, and you leave your post to take a drink?” she snapped.  “That is terribly unprofessional.  If something were to happen to Mister Lincoln, the whole nation would curse you!” 

“Well,” he lied, “I have been on duty since noon, and I just needed to wet my whistle before I return to the job.  In fact, I ought to get back, I suppose.  It was a pleasure to meet you.” 

She snorted and turned her back, and Parker muttered a few choice words under his breath as he carried the tankard full of beer back across the street.  It wasn’t as if a potential assassin would try anything in the middle of a crowded theater, he thought. 

The second act was already underway, and Parker’s seat had been taken by someone else when he got to it.  Grumbling, he headed up the stairs towards the Presidential box.  At least there would be no one to bump his arm and make him spill his drink up there!  He glanced up to where his chair sat in the hallway, and then gasped at what he saw. 

The unmistakable form of John Wilkes Booth was opening the door of the Presidential box very slowly with his left hand, and in his right, he grasped a small Derringer pistol.  He was so intent on slipping in unnoticed that he did not see the policeman on the stairs below.  Parker set his drink down quietly, drew his own weapon, and took the stairs two at a time. 

The play was nearing a climax – the American, Trenchard, had been unmasked as a penniless fortune seeker, and Laura Keene’s mother was laying into him with a vengeance. 

“Mister Trenchard!” she sniffed in an upper-class British accent, “You are a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered barbarian, utterly unfit for the manners of polite society!” 

“Well, I may not be fit for polite society,” Hawke drawled, “But I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal – you sock-dologizing old man-trap!” 

The audience roared with laughter, and Booth raised his pistol even as Parker came up behind him. 

“Hey there!” he shouted, desperate to distract the assassin.  “Stop this villainy!” 

Booth pulled the trigger, and the pistol roared loudly in the confined space. There were shrieks in the audience below, but Parker’s shout had accomplished one thing: Lincoln had turned his head at the sound of his shout, and the bullet aimed at the back of the President’s head tore through his right ear instead.  The President stood quickly, and his long, wiry arm shot out, grabbing Booth by the wrist.  The actor snarled in rage, and with his right hand drew a lethal-looking Bowie knife from his belt.  Lincoln grabbed that wrist with his other hand, and the two men were caught in a deadly grapple.  Parker had his pistol out, but he could not get a clear shot as the two men swayed and struggled back and forth.  Mrs. Lincoln was screaming, and Clara Harris had fainted dead away in Major Rathbone’s arms, temporarily preventing him from aiding the President. 

Abraham Lincoln was enormously strong, and always had been.  Years of splitting rails had left his arms as tough as steel cables, and even in his fifties he could hold an axe by the very end of the handle, parallel with the ground, for a full minute at a time.  Once, in a brawl as a young man, he had picked up his opponent and flung him headfirst into the ground so hard that the man was unconscious for two hours.  Booth was two decades younger, a superb acrobat and swordsman, but his strength was no match for that of the enraged prairie giant he was now wrestling. 

Parker decided to help the President subdue Booth instead of shooting into the midst of them, so he grabbed one of the actor’s legs.  As he did, a powerful kick from Booth’s opposite foot caught him in the forehead, knocking him out cold.  He crumpled to the floor unconscious. 

But Booth had thrown himself off balance by kicking so hard, and a veteran “rassler” like Lincoln knew how to take advantage of that.  The actor’s pistol had already fallen out of his hand as they fought, and now Lincoln shifted his grip with his right hand to the actor’s collar.  Lifting and twisting, he raised the much shorter Booth clear of the ground and flung him out and away from the Presidential box – into the air above the screaming crowd!  Lincoln just had time to see the hate in Booth’s eyes turning to shock, and then to fear, as his body tumbled into the empty air.  The actor threw out one hand, trying to catch the edge of the Presidential box.  Instead, his fingers wrapped around the tricolor bunting adorning the rail, and he pulled it after him like a streamer as he plunged downward to the stage.  He struck the boards headfirst, and his neck snapped with a sickening crunch.  His arms and legs were still twitching as the red, white, and blue bunting slowly settled over his dying form. 

The audience’s screams were slowly displaced by a buzz of wonder and excitement.  Someone had tried to shoot the President, and Lincoln had killed the man with his bare hands!  One by one, eyes glanced back and forth from the crumpled form on the stage to the tall man standing in the Presidential box.  Lincoln raised his hand to his ear, and it came away bloody, so he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, holding it to the side of his head.  Intense pain shot through his head as he put pressure on his mangled ear. He waved one hand at the audience to show that he was all right, and all of Ford’s theater erupted in applause.  Mary Todd Lincoln, who had been standing virtually paralyzed with fear and shock, suddenly came to herself and embraced her husband, heedless of the hundreds who were watching.  The applause redoubled until the rafters of the theater vibrated. On the stage, Harry Hawke and Laura Keene stared upward, their lines momentarily forgotten.

The crowd slowly fell silent, and Lincoln stepped to the railing of the box, looking down at Booth’s body.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I think that tonight’s performance is done.”

As I said, I have no idea when this story will be finished, only that it's flowing smoothly right now and I am enjoying the writing process.  But, if you'd like to check out my other alternative history project, PRESIDENT HAMILTON is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, and anywhere else books are sold online!  Check it out!









Monday, February 7, 2022


    Writing a 650+ page novel is no joke.  Especially when it is a work of historical fiction that involves both real people and created characters interacting with each other!  After my second book, I discovered it was a lot easier to keep a cast of characters at the end of the manuscript, so that instead of scrolling all the way back to Chapter Two so find out "what was the name of that guy Hamilton went to see after the duel?" I could scroll down two pages instead of two hundred and see his name and a brief bio there.  It's a system that has worked for me through four books now. 

     I have a beta reader named "Ellie" who has been my friend and literary supporter since I started this journey in 2012, and when I'm writing a book I send her each chapter, as I finish it, and she sends it back to me with comments, corrections, criticisms, and questions that help me write a better story and often send me into peals of laughter. About three or four chapters into HAMILTON I sent her the cast of characters, and when she replied she added snarky notes, comments, and jokes to each character.  Not to be outdone, I began making up my own silly comments about each new character as I introduced them. The result was what you will read below.  When I submitted the book for publication, I decided that the Cast of Characters was simply to silly and off-color to be included in a serious and (I hope) thoughtful work of alternative history.

     But now that the book has been out for a while, and has been purchased and read by hundreds (hopefully soon to be thousands) of people, I found myself reading over it and thinking that it's simply too much fun not to share with a wider audience.   So scroll on down to read this bit of whimsy that my beta reader and I concocted as we went back and forth with my book during its creative process. However,. before reading this, read the following warnings!

1. CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!  If you have not read PRESIDENT HAMILTON yet, the character descriptions below, by necessity, give away some aspects of the story, especially as you go further down the list. So read at your own risk!

2.  IT'S A JOKE!  Some of these descriptions make light of serious stuff.  Humor is a time honored way of dealing with tragedy and distasteful things; my flippant comments are not meant to minimize real suffering or some of the less savory aspects of American history.  These sarcastic, snarky comments made it easier for me to tackle some real historical unpleasantness in my book.  So if you're easily offended, read no further.

3.  This list is comic relief, but my book is actually quite serious. So don't come away thinking PRESIDENT HAMILTON is a piece of slapstick.  My 'Cast of Characters' was a way to blow off steam after doing hundreds of pages of serious writing.

So, after all that, if you still want to read on . . . HERE IT IS!!


          (Simplified for non-history majors) 


Aaron Burr:  Vice President of the USA, general bad guy, killed by Hamilton in a duel in 1804, does not re-appear after the prologue except in the past tense. 

Alexander Hamilton: the Founding Father dude this story is about; crazy smart, helped create our country but never got to be President (until now) 

Philip Hamilton:  Hamilton’s firstborn, killed in a duel in 1801. Shoulda shot first! 
Maria Reynolds:  Hamilton’s onetime squeeze, whose husband blackmailed him to keep quiet about the affair and then spilled the beans to the opposition anyway! 
Eliza Hamilton:  Hamilton’s wife; a hottie with common sense and a whole pack of kids.  Made one VERY classy First Lady. 

Rachel Benson: The Hamilton family’s cook and nursemaid; could cook up a superb stew using only three ingredients 

Thomas Jefferson:  President of the U.S.; Hamilton’s nemesis, super genius IQ but no secret lair or dimwitted sidekick, an idealist who has to be kicked in the crotch to do the right thing.  Later becomes a friend and supporter. 

Charles Cooper:  One of Hamilton’s blabbermouth friends, whose loose lips caused Burr to issue the infamous challenge 
Nathaniel Pendleton:  Hamilton’s second at the infamous duel, and general partner in political mischief 
Dr. David Hosack:  Hamilton’s physician and personal trainer, invented the tongue depressor but used it for stirring coffee 
William P. Van Ness:  Sidekick of Aaron Burr; now unemployed 

Matthew Davis:  Some other guy that hung out with Burr till the duel left him looking for new friends 

James Madison:  Jefferson’s BFF, sidekick, and Secretary of State, but not at all dimwitted.  Hamilton’s favorite frienemy.  Shorter than the average dwarf. Convert to Hamilton’s First Church of Liberty, AKA “Slavery Sucks!” 
Alexander Hamilton, Jr.:  Hamilton’s oldest surviving son and namesake (but seriously, Gomer, if you need to be told that, you shouldn’t be reading this book) 

Bishop Benjamin Moore:  Pastor of Trinity Church and one of Hamilton’s spiritual advisors.  Stuffed shirt, but nice enough.  You can rearrange his name to spell: “Bambi Join Pheromones.” 
James Hamilton: Hamilton’s younger son and Junior’s little brother.  Again, duh! 

John Laurens: Hamilton’s BFF and man-crush, but in a totally non-gay way.  He’s dead but not gone, if you know what I mean. 

George Washington: Commanding general of the American forces during the Revolution, first President, and Hamilton’s sugar daddy. Also dead but not gone. 

Angelica, John Church, William, Eliza, and “Little Phil” Hamilton: Hamilton’s other children.  He was a busy guy. 

John Armstrong: Senator from New York, sent by Jefferson to France to eat crepes and pay for Louisiana. 

Samuel Mitchill: Hamilton’s opponent for the 1804 special Senate election.  Smart guy, but OH! So boring! 

John Woodworth: Republican member of the New York Senate, also state Attorney General; friend of Hamilton’s even if he played for the other team 

Rufus King:  One of Hamilton’s Federalist posse members; had the largest collection of used wine corks in New York 

Hercules Mullligan: Former spy for the continental army, expert tailor, member of Hamilton’s personal posse.  When you knock him down he . . . well, you know the rest. 

Isaac Foote: Federalist State Senator; friend of Hamilton’s, known to use way too much bubble bath 

Justinian Wallace: landlord, innkeeper, speaks with a cockney accent even though he lives in Washington DC.  Hates Congresscritters. 

George Clinton: former governor of New York, Jefferson’s Vice President, certifiable curmudgeon and occasional underwear sniffer, hates Hamilton for being younger, better looking, and smarter than he is. 

Charles Maurice yadayada Talleyrand – French foreign minister; slippery as an eel and so crooked they had to screw him into the ground when he died.  Friend of Hamilton, though. 

Samuel Maclay: Senator from Pennsylvania, came to be a reluctant supporter of Hamilton, lived in fear of four-knuckled noogies from his older brother 

Thomas Worthington: punk Senator from Ohio, thoroughly owned by Hamilton on more than one occasion but keeps coming back for more like a yappy little Chihuahua picking a fight with a bulldog 

William B. Giles: cranky old fart Senator from Virginia who hates Hamilton, John Adams, and puppies 

Ezra Darby: the “Captain Conspiracy” of the 9th Congress, convinced Hamilton was in league with the devil and possibly Cthulhu as well 

Benjamin Tallmadge: an old friend of Hamilton’s and Hercules Mulligan’s, Continental Army spymaster, Congressman, and master (de)bater; later Secretary of War for President Hamilton 

Elijah Cartwright: Hamilton’s fast-riding, fast-living Senate page; a real hit with the ladies, not so much with their husbands, later the President’s personal secretary 

Ajax Smith: Former slave, blacksmith (literally), and friend of the Adams family 

Abigail Adams: John Adams’ wife; a tough job but somebody had to do it 

Elijah Hopkins: Captain of the Plymouth, he cut a wide swath through British pride and New England’s maiden population.  His name can be rearranged to spell: “She like panji-ho” 

Baron David Erskine: British minister plenipotentiary to the USA (but you can just call him “ambassador”).  Likes American dishes, in fact, he married one! 

Josiah Quincy: Federalist congressman, ally of Hamilton’s, and a collector of seashells that resembled Ben Franklin’s posterior 

Oliver Wolcott: succeeded Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury under Washington, now gets to come back and work for Hamilton – proof that if you do a job right, you get to keep doing it, like it or no! 

Rufus Jenkins: Overseer of Madison’s plantation, way too fond of slave women, later opened the original “Boom Boom Room” in New Orleans 

Nero Madison: former slave who became overseer of Madison’s plantation, Montpelier.  His son Caligula Madison was a bit loopy . . . 

Obadiah Brown: Chaplain of the United States Senate, Baptist pastor, and Washington social butterfly 

Robert O’Malley: Hamilton’s White House butler, and occasional confidante, known for his skill in playing the trumpet (and occasional strumpets)_ 

Sally Hemings: Thomas Jefferson’s slave, lover, occasional conscience, and eventual second wife. She eventually helped him "see the light," so to speak.

John Tyler – Governor of Virginia, a reluctant convert to Hamilton’s abolition plan.  His oldest son and namesake never amounted to much . . . 

Richard Brent: Virginia’s junior U.S. Senator, politically ally of Hamilton, and founder of the Virginia chapter of the “Napoleon Bonaparte Lookalike Club” 

James Breckenridge: Virginia Congressman and friend of Hamilton’s; his name can be rearranged to spell “Break Me Green J-Dic!”, which was his rapper name. 

George Fitzhugh: Virginia state legislator who thought that slavery was the best thing since sliced bread – or unsliced bread, for that matter! 

John Jay: Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and an old ally of Hamilton’s, now returned to serve as Attorney General; “J.J. the Supreme” to his friends 

David Lenox – Director of the Bank of the United States, which was Hamilton’s favorite brain-baby 

Henry Clay – Congressman from Kentucky who grooved on the whole compromise thing, later Speaker of the House 

John Gaillard – South Carolina Congressman, staunch defender of slavery and Southern institutions, famous for his shrimp gumbo 

Nicholas Gilman – New Hampshire Congressman and ally of Hamilton’s, a distant relative of the Creature from the Black Lagoon 

John C. Calhoun – crackerjack attorney and Congressman from South Carolina; loves slavery like a Democrat loves taxing the rich, but more eloquently, he didn’t handle losing well. 

James Anderson – Senator from Tennessee, an old war buddy of Hamilton’s whose sister got jiggy with Lafayette back in the day 

John Marshall – Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; also known as “J-Daddy of the Supremes” 

Lily-Beth Carroll – also known as the “ER of the 19th century,” she captured the heart of the “Casanova of Capitol Hill” and got him to settle down – or did she? 

Nicholas Carroll – Lily-Beth’s papa, who is righteously skeptical of her new amour – and handy with a horsewhip to boot! 

Raoul Vega – Spanish officer who led a raid into U.S. territory and was killed by Jackson’s men 

Andrew Jackson – Militia General from Tennessee; treacherously killed by the dastardly Spanish.  Not a single Cherokee wept at his funeral. 

Jose de la Garda – Unofficial envoy from King Joseph Bonaparte to the USA, an anagram of his name is Drag A Jade & Lose! 

Luis de OnizOfficial envoy from the Junta, a bunch of guys who want to replace one French King of Spain with another French King of Spain, and will kill you if you try to stop them! 

Winnfield Scott – Every morning at muster you could see him arrive, he stood six foot six and weighed two forty fiveBadass American soldier with a killer right hook. 

Jacob Brown – Commanding General of the Southern Department of the U.S. Army during the Spanish War of 1811 

Andrew ShasteenBrown’s second in command; held New Orleans during the war. 

Enrique White – Irish-born Spanish governor of East Florida.  Took the whole “death before dishonor” thing way too literally 

Augustus Magee – U.S. Army officer in New Orleans; hobnobs with Mexican revolutionaries and Scandinavian moonshiners 

Bernardo Gutierrez – Mexican Revolutionary who decided America was his best bet to get rid of Spain. 

Juan Jose de Estrada – Spanish Governor of East Florida for two days.  His administration was remembered for its efficiency, lack of corruption, and stench of gunpowder. 

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna – Sassy young Spanish officer, captured by the Americans, remembers the Alamo but doesn’t know why 

Thomas Madison – Cousin of James, loves to tell funny stories 

Roger Effingham – eager beaver young North Carolina planter, hosts Hamilton and Madison on their trip south 

Cletus – Elderly slave on Effingham’s plantation, anxious to be free 

David Stone – former governor of North Carolina, solid rock of a dude 

Benjamin Smith – Governor of North Carolina; apparently named after my Dad. 

Thomas Chadsworth – Mayor of Wilmington, NC, hosted Hamilton on his grand Southern tour, elected by a punch card ballot, so he really got his chad’s worth! 

Robert Fulton – famous American inventor, the guy could really build up a full head of steam sometimes! 
Roger Whitaker – young soldier from New York, courier for Colonel Scott, befriends Hamilton 

Henry Middleton – governor of South Carolina; Hamilton’s foe in the 1812 Presidential election. 

Dante Gomez – Spanish agent provocateur who came to the U.S.A. with Vega to stir up a war 

Angelica Schuyler Church – Eliza’s sister, Hamilton’s closest friend, and a socialite on both sides of the Atlantic 

John Church – Angelica’s husband, a genial soul with a fair singing voice, always outshone by his wife but bore it with tolerable good grace because he got to take her home every night! 

Francisco VinegasViceroy of Spain’s New World Empire, spent most of his career playing whack-a-mole with Latin American rebels and swivvying the chambermaids 

Ferdinand VII – King of Spain, a greedy, grasping man-child who was only interested in things that would enrich and empower himself.  Called the “Donald Trump of the 19th century” 

Now if you have read all that and still haven't read the book - here is a link!