Unlike most other books written on the Beecher-Tilton scandal, Trials of Intimacy doesn't assume that Rev. Beecher is guilty of adultery. Fox attempts to get at the truth of the scandal, rather than the myth. He demonstrates the possibility of Beecher's innocence as well as guilt. He skillfully presents not just both sides of the story, but every side of the story. He concludes, rightfully, that we may never know what actually happened.
Trials of Intimacy would make an ideal college text for a study of Victorian social life and mores. This book is a must read for anyone researching the scandal. The bibliography contains an excellent synopsis of the material available.
The only complaint I have to make is that Fox practically brands Victoria Woodhull a liar. He also wrote that Victoria Woodhull was the only person jailed in connection to the scandal. He forgot Victoria Woodhull's soon-to-be ex-husband, Col. James Harvey Blood, and Victoria's sister, Tennie C. Claflin. Both were arrested, along with Victoria Woodhull, approximately eight times in connection with the scandal. I doubt that Victoria, Tennie C., and Colonel Blood (who was married to my great-great-grandmother Isabell Blood) would've gone to jail eight times for something they knew was a lie. If Beecher was innocent, Theodore Tilton put one over on Victoria, Tennie C., Col. Blood, and the American people.
There are more "secrets" to be uncovered about the scandal, which Fox didn't mention--like the rape and the insanity case. His book, though, will put you hot on the trail that Beecher and Tilton tried to cover up 125 years ago. You can decide for yourself who is the arch-fiend in this debacle: Henry Ward Beecher, Theodore Tilton, or the media who covered the story with a vengeance.
This book could be the basis for several studies all arising out of the facts of the then scandalous "affair" which is the subject matter of the book...it could be a sociological study, an historical study, a legal study, a psychological study, or even a study in communications...the author tries valiantly to do all of these things and for the most part succeeds...obviously, the lines of reasonable brevity have to be drawn somewhere....All in all this is a thoroughly fascinating account well described in its many facets. The only criticism I would have of this book is the authors use of a reverse chronology in organizing the material...being used to stories being told "from the beginning", the chosen sequence is a little disconcerting...given the many ramifications of the subject matter, however, I can certainly understand why the author chose to set out the events in the manner in which he did. An excellent study in the strange idiosyncracies of human and social nature!