Review: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Review: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa ColeAn Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Series: #1 The Loyal League
Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Kensington on March 28, 2017
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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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 . . .

The Delight

A freed slave giving up her freedom to spy on the Confederacy and a Pinkerton spy who can appreciate her gifts and ingenuity meet their match.  Danger around every turn and a refreshing choice for characters and plot against the Civil War South captured my imagination and kept me riveted.

Review

It’s true that most Civil War romance tends to take place in the drawing rooms and ballrooms and battlefields so I was eager to get a unique ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ take on it.  History came alive in this one while paired with suspense and romance.

The heroine is strong and fiery and determined to place herself in an untenable position for her convictions.  The same can be said for the hero.  She acts a part and so does he.  Elle has no reason to trust and every reason to doubt Malcolm.  He’s white and she’s black.  He plays the role of a Casanova and charmer to gain the trust of the Confederate elite and she acts the part of a mute slave in the household gleaning what intelligence she can.

I enjoyed the tension and the push and pull of such a situation.  Elle thinks she has Malcolm pegged because he’s a man and he’s white not understanding that Malcolm understands oppression rightly enough coming of age as a Scot who lived through the Highland Clearances done by the English, but he, too, must learn to grasp just how much he is asking of Elle when he sees the world around them through her eyes.  This pair might be attracted and even later want something more, but they face a dim reality that both must understand.

The action and suspense of the plot could be nailbiting at times as both spy on the same group from different angles and have to be cunning and keep from getting caught even while doing their jobs.  Oh man, I really came to loathe the family and group they were spying on.  I know there were genteel Southerners that are on the opposite end of the spectrum from these beastly types, but whew, this group needed to come to a nasty end particularly the vixen poor Malcolm is forced to pretend to cozy up with.

Incidentally, in her author’s note, the author admits to admiring and being strongly influenced by author, Beverly Jenkins.

Fantastic start to a new series and I can’t wait to see what happens next with more operators in the Loyal League.  Those who are looking for strong POC stories set in history with a well-drawn romance and characters against a tension-filled plot should have a go at this one.

Thanks to Kensington Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges

Romance Roundabout #77 HR
Literary Pickers #73 wagon
New Release #41

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I’m adding this one to my TBR list. Like you said, I’m used to ballrooms, battlefields, and such when it’s a Civil War read, so this book definitely appeals to me. Great review, Sophia!

    • I loved that the focus was on the slave quarters. The espionage part was just icing on the cake.

  • I have been so curious about this book. I adore the cover so much! It’s just so gorgeous. But Civil War has never been something I’ve been drawn too. I think I need to give it a try anyway.

    • It is eyecatching. The war part isn’t in this one. It’s mostly set in Richmond area and the house of a Confederate leader.

  • Oh, wow. This sounds so good. And I love historicals that have the backdrop of war within them.

    Have you read the MacKinnon’s Rangers series by Pamela Clare? I think you’d like the plots.

    • Not yet! I read her other historical series, but I found the MacKinnon’s Rangers at a library sale so I have them. 🙂 They really do look good.

  • This sounds good with its unique take.

    • It was! I loved they were deep in the heart of the Confederacy as spies. 🙂

  • That’s definitely different.

    • Yes! I enjoyed it so much for that reason.

  • JenM

    I read a book last year called The Secrets of Mary Bowser that sounds very similar to this book. It was based on a real woman, a former slave who was freed when she was 12, moved to Philadelphia, then moved back to Richmond during the war and pretended to be a slave so that she could work in Jefferson Davis’ household and spy on him. The book I read was more about the historical details, not a romance, but it was really good.

    • Well caught, Jen! She did base this story on Mary B. She put it in her notes. I should have mentioned it. I’ll have to look up this one now.

      • JenM

        The story seemed so similar that I figured it must have been based on Mary B. I’m glad that the author has written a romance about her because this is a story that deserves to be more widely known and I would never have heard of her if my bookclub hadn’t picked that book to read. She must have been a truly remarkable woman.

        • I agree. I can’t imagine doing what Mary did. The author stated in her note that the whole series would be loosely based on history like this one so that really makes me all the more happy to keep reading it.

  • This sounds really good. This is such an interesting time period along with the racial issues. I will have to keep this author in mind.

    • Yes! It was fascinating and exciting. I did enjoy that their romantic conflict was unique and suited the situation brought by racial tension.

  • I want to read this just for the setting Sophia!

  • oh man upstairs-downstairs romance can be so much fun. I love when they have people from two different worlds especially. Great review Sophia!

    • Oh, me, too, Lily! The spy part attracted me first, but then to know it was a romance between such a pair just fascinated me and I had to read it.

  • Oh this one sounds interesting and different too, I don’t think I’ve ever tried a book like that so I’m curious!!!

    • Well worth satisfying the curiosity. 🙂

  • What a gorgeous cover! I’d not seen this one yet. It sounds like a very well done story as well. The upstairs/downstairs dynamic is always interesting.

    • Yes, the cover caught my eye on NG while browsing the historicals and I had to click and check it out. Oh yes, her being a spy pretending to be a slave and him being a spy pretending to be one of the society folks was cool.

  • This is an interesting topic. Great review!

  • oh I do love those civil war themed romances, and I like that she was Beverly Jenkins inspired. This sounds like a wonderful tale and I know I need this in my life. Great review darling.

    • Yes, yes, Renee! You really do need this in your life. 🙂