A vivid and moving novel based on the incredible life of real estate magnate Josephine N. Leary—a previously untold story of passion, perseverance, and building a legacy after emancipation in North Carolina.
Josephine N. Leary is determined to build a life of her own and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams.
As the demands of life pull Josephine’s attention—deepening her marriage, mothering her daughters, supporting her grandmother—she struggles to balance her real estate aspirations with the realities of keeping life going every day. She teaches herself to be a business woman, to manage her finances, and to make smart investments in the local real estate market. But with each passing year, it grows more and more difficult to focus on building her legacy from the ground up.
Moving and inspiring, Josephine Leary’s untold story speaks to the part of us that dares to dream bigger, tear down whatever stands in our way, and build something better for the loved ones we leave behind.
Romance writer Alexander (Back to Your Love) offers an informative if clunky story inspired by the true story of Josephine N. Leary, who was born into slavery and went on to build a real estate empire in North Carolina. At nine, spunky Josephine devours Shakespeare, does her chores, and remembers being enslaved as a little girl. As a teen, she meets her husband, Archer "Sweety" Leary, while training to be a barber. They marry and set up their own barbershop, which, with clever negotiation, Josephine buys outright using wedding money from the white man who fathered her. Thus begins her dream to invest in property and make her own money. While running various businesses, Josephine raises two daughters, instilling in them her love of reading, education, and independence. Josephine's ambition and headstrong nature serves her well, but it causes constant friction with Sweety, such as when she insists on buying a house ("I vowed, from the day I was freed, never to live at the whim of another white man"). Some of the dialogue is clich d ("I'm no spring chicken") or anachronistic ("It is what it is"), but Alexander's exhaustive research and the ample historical detail do justice to the material. As a novel it's fairly unremarkable, but the author does a nice job illuminating the life of an extraordinary historical figure. Agent: Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost Literary. Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name.