|Hello billjburch !
Welcome to Writing.com! I hope my honest review will be helpful to you during future edits. Please accept or discard at Mrs. Keckley's leisure.
It took me a while to get into the verbiage of the era, but then, I realized how difficult it must be to get inside the mind of a 19th century black woman when you're a 20th century white man. Huge kudos for such an undertaking!
She pivoted and entered through the mahogany doors
How did she enter the doors? I'm thinking with a feeling of reverence, but I'm blanking out on a decent synonym.
A few spots where compound sentences could be separated just to mix up the rhythm a little bit.
“That woman could march cats through a fish market without a one breaking ranks. And if she sets her mind on introducing you to Mrs. Lincoln, don’t you doubt it for a moment.”
Awesome way to end that section. Love the colorful phrases inserted into the speech.
Then, like Eve and the serpent, they both smiled warmly.
Love the concept, the speech (although I'm not an expert, sounds okay to me), love that it's a literary novel instead of *fight, explosion, kiss, repeat* that sells so well, as you claim.
Not so sure about the ending to the chapter. I think you're trying to show the difference in societal rules depending on who's present, which is awesome. It feels unsettling because you didn't give the driver's reaction. We can assume they got home safely, but still, the tension. A-ha! It's foreshadowing the racial tension in the book. Sneaky...
I hesitated between 4 and 4.5, because I think the idea is so incredibly original, and of course I have insider knowledge of the ending.
Thanks for letting me have first crack at your novel, Bill.