An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Publication date: 28 March 2017
Genre: Historical romance
Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review
It has been a long time since I’ve read historical romance, despite it being a favourite genre of mine, and I’ve been craving it lately. Pretty much everything that I have read in historical romance has been set in Regency or Victorian England, and I needed to read something different while in a reading slump last month. I thought I’d branch out to Alyssa Cole’s Civil War-era Loyal League series. An Extraordinary Union has high stakes, gripping tension, and fantastic characters and I just loved it.
As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past . . .
Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army.
Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.
Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy’s favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other . . .
Romance novels often have stakes, that’s just part of the genre. However, I’ve never read anything with such high stakes and tension as An Extraordinary Union. A huge part of this is the fact that it is set in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Cole does not shy away from the realities that slaves faced at this time — particularly enslaved women. Although Elle is a free woman, she is posing as a slave in a Confederate senator’s household. The fear for Elle’s safety grips you from the very start of the book, however it is woven in well and doesn’t make it an unpleasant or anxiety-inducing. The differences between herself and Malcolm are made very apparent — despite the fact that they’re both fighting on the same side, their lives and lifestyles will never be the same and their relationship wouldn’t be accepted by others on the side of the Union.
Elle and Malcolm are both fantastic characters. Elle is one of my favourite heroines — she is so intelligent and fierce and has so much agency. She’s fighting for a higher purpose, to release the US from the grip of slavery, and damn you believe in her every step of the way. She’s so fierce and fantastic and was one of the reasons the book is so compelling. Malcolm is a lovely hero and the perfect fit for Elle, but she was really the star of the show and the most memorable character for me.
If you’re looking for historical fiction or historical romance, I’d highly recommend you pick up An Extraordinary Union. It’s not an easy read at times, but it is a fantastic story packed with passion and heart.
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