A review by thenextbookdilemma
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

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


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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