An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (Loyal League #1)
Released: March 28, 2017
Reviewed by Mandi
Favorite Quote: “That we are, my sweet Elle.” He ran his knuckles over her jawline.
“Sweet?” I should have killed you when I had the chance,” she said. She snuggled closer to him.
I really enjoyed everything about this book. It takes a difficult subject and doesn’t hold back in showing us the horrific injustices slaves and freed slaves faced during the civil war, all while giving us a beautiful, swoony romance.
Elle is a freed slave who has a photographic memory. She can remember every sentence she has ever read, and when the Loyal League discovers her and her gift, they put her to work as a Union spy. While Elle doesn’t necessarily liked to be singled out only for this gift (as she has many good features) she is proud to work against the south in any way she can. A very good friend of hers was captured by slave catchers and taken to the south for sale and probably torture and other horrible things. She wants to fight this with everything she can. This is how she finds herself undercover as a slave working in a Senator’s home in Richmond, Virginia. Her ears are open to any gossip and pieces of information she can glean and she secretly reports back to her boss up north.
Malcolm is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service. He is undercover as a rebel soldier with the same goal as Elle – stop the confederates any way he can manage. From Scotland, he witnessed horrors of his own, his family moved to Kentucky where his father eventually killed himself. Malcolm is dedicated to the union, and goes undercover to help find information. He finds himself befriending the Senator to learn secrets (where Elle is working) and also gets tipped off that Elle is undercover as well. These two decide to work together, but can they trust each other?
Malcolm falls hard for Elle – and he falls fast. He is a man with a good, good heart but he is also a charmer, and Elle is definitely not too sure of him at first. Being a woman, being a black woman, and posing as a slave, Elle has to have her guard up 24/7. By most, she is seen as an object – actually they treat her even worse. They treat her as if she is a dumb creature and it really hurts your heart as you read.
When he spoke again, his voice was a raw whisper in the silence. “You deserved to be outraged. All of your people do. Why you didn’t set this country ablaze a hundred years ago is beyond me.”
Elle jumped to her feet, not very much taller than him even though he knelt and she stood. When she spoke, her fury was contained in a voice that fairly dripped with annoyance at having to explain something very obvious to him. “Because, unlike you, we don’t have the luxury of being outraged. If we rebelled and set half the country on fire, where would that leave us? You think that would make folks see us as more human?
But being dissed and ignored by most everyone gives Elle a bigger advantage to learn secrets. They belittle her and treat her horribly, and it’s a reminder time and time again why she is fighting so hard for slaves to be free. And fighting hard to be treated as an equal to a white person even when freed.
This author balances the hateful moments with a lovely and adorable romance. Elle has her guard up and she does not let it down easily. But Malcolm is smitten with her, and he is just as stubborn. As Elle learns she can trust Malcolm, she lets him in little by little, until she isn’t afraid of giving him her heart. I loved them together. They have so many obstacles to overcome:
“What is it Elle? You can tell me. I will do anything I can to make things right.”
“You can’t help with this. I can’t stop thinking, you see,” she said, turning her tear-stained eyes up to his. “All my life, I’ve been taught that this is wrong. I’ve been told that men like you only want women like me for one thing, and I should never give them that thing. And now here I am, wanting you so bad that I can barely stand it, but I can’t stop thinking what if–”
What it they’re right? He finished her unspoken words. What if he is just using her?
Frustration flooded him; not at Elle, but at a world that had forced her into this mind-set.
And while the romance is unfolding, we get some action as Elle and Malcolm learn confederate secrets and plan ways to get the information up north. Malcolm is also playing a part as a rebel soldier and it sickens him to have to treat Elle and the other slaves with such disdain to keep up appearances. He starts a flirtation with the Senator’s daughter to give him a reason to keep visiting the house – and even though Elle knows it’s all an act, it’s hard to watch the man you have a fondness for, flirt and charm some other girl right under you nose. But it just makes their romance that much sweeter when they finally act on their feelings.
A solid HEA…..
“You mean for us to be married now?” she asked. “You’re not even wearing pants for God’s sake.”
…and this book gives us a little glimpse into what could be a second book in this series with a new hero and heroine. Can’t wait to get more