Reviews tagging 'Racism'

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

27 reviews

thenextbookdilemma's review

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adventurous dark emotional informative inspiring tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Y’all. The stakes in this book felt so unbelievably high. Unlike many historical RoNos, where the setting is sort of in the background giving some context to the characters and plot, the setting in An Extraordinary Union *was* the plot. The history here is so so important and completely shapes the characters and the trajectory of their story. It was excellent. 

I love when historical romances teach me some history and Cole managed to write a beautiful and dangerous novel that perhaps was more parts historical fiction than romance, more parts about freedom and liberation than happily ever afters. I loved this book for the incredibly complex romance but even more so for the suspenseful close-up of this nation’s fraught history of violence, racism and slavery. 

Elle. She is smart and independent and often underestimated. She is acerbic and determined and not afraid to take risks for the good of the Union. She is a truly remarkable person to willingly enter into slavery as an undercover spy after being a free black woman in the north. She puts the union and the freedom of black people before all, including her heart. 

I also adored Malcolm as the MMC and his ability to charm is way under many a lady’s skirts (for the Union!). A white man who was forced to flee Scotland after the conquest of the English, he is ready to fight the good fight so that another people not be crushed beneath the boots of their oppressor. But as the reader, you see Malcolm has a lot to learn about his white male privilege and power in the context of this war, and his love for a black woman. 

Cole captures the complexity of Elle and Malcolm’s relationship so well as the reader consideres the innate power imbalances that will always exist between a white man and a black woman, particularly during Civil War America.

This novel was so expertly done, the romance was beautiful and you held those beautiful moments to your chest when everything else was combusting. The history was so thouroughly researched—these characters are based on real people (heroes) during the civil war— and absolutely devastating at times due to the horrible and dehumanizing portrayal of the enslavement and treatment of black people. Cole has beautifully combined history and romance and I cannot wait to learn more in the next two novels of the Loyal League series.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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theteaisaddictive's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful informative inspiring mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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yourbookishbff's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional informative sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

It's hard to capture how remarkable this is, both as a stand-alone and as a series start, and for historical romance readers who have read *any* Civil-War-era romance by white authors, this is a must-read series that reflects authentic people and stories (Alyssa Cole truly lights a match to the lost cause narrative that underlies the majority of books in this corner of historical romance). This installment centers the story of Union operative Elle Burns (inspired by the real-life spy story of Mary Bowser). Elle is a free Black woman working undercover as an enslaved woman in a Confederate officer's home. She meets Malcom McCall, a white Union operative, while he is working undercover as a Confederate officer visiting the region. The progression of their relationship centers honest communication around the stark power imbalance between them, and Cole deftly used open-door scenes to further deepen their communication. I would consider this a blend of historical romance and romantic suspense, with clear and historically accurate world building that is driven by Cole's obvious commitment to thorough research. Moreover, the writing is beautiful. I highly recommend this book and this series!

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traceyanderson's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.75


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nabecker13's review

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  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

3.25


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beccaand's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional hopeful tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

the yearning? ugh i die for it

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bergamot_breeze's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark inspiring tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.75

Really enjoyed this! I LOVED Elle and I was so invested in her day to day life. If this had just been about her I think this would have been a new fave. Despite going into it knowing it was a romance, the romance became my least favorite part. It felt as if it detracted from the rest of the story. Overall, though this was very good and I’ll keep reading the series!

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heapofhay's review against another edition

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3.5

A sweet and well written story. Really liked both the Mcs. The romance was a bit of instalove tho. 

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mandi4886's review

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adventurous emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5


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unsuccessfulbookclub's review

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.25

My Hissy RoNo era continues, this time with one set in America during the Civil War. This is not usually a historical setting I seek out, for many reasons, not the least of which being the potential for the “Lost Cause” narrative and attempts by white authors to romanticize human trafficking and chattel slavery (looking at you, Margaret Mitchell). In short: the potential for extremely problematic storylines is HIGH. 

IF I was going to read a Civil War romance, it was absolutely going to be one written by a Black woman and one written within the past decade. Enter Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union.

Allllll that said: I loved this! Both MCs are Union spies based on actual people. Elle’s character is based on Mary Bowser, a Union spy and free Black woman who posed as an enslaved person in Jefferson Davis’s house for years - shuttling untold secrets to the Union while evading detection. Malcolm is based on Timothy Webster, a top Pinkerton detective. If you read this, read the author’s note! Alyssa provided great details on the inspiration for her characters and how she came to write this story.

Malcolm is a white man and Elle is a Black woman and so much of the conflict in their relationship is driven by Elle reconciling her feelings for Malcolm the person with her fear and distrust of white men. Additionally, Malcolm wrestles with the power imbalance and works hard to help Elle feel safe with him. The nuances of the relationship and the depth of feelings between the two of them move quickly but sparkle on page.

Beyond their relationship…well, there’s a war and they are spies. So there is A LOT of plot in this along with some excellent portrayals of the Southern Belle archetype and the Southern “gent.” This book is an example of why books can outstrip movies specifically when you need to be in a character’s head. Thoughts and internal monologue bring depth to each interaction that would be impossible on screen.

👍🏻Recommended! If you are looking for an exciting Hissy RoNo set in America with a diverse cast, this is for you.

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