ARC Review: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

She was no simpering miss. She was Ellen Burns, and she was going to help destroy the confederacy.

We need this book in today’s world. An Extraordinary Union is majestic in its character, it’s blunt in the face of anger and injustice and pain, it’s brutal in its truths. It’s not just a must read, it’s a need to read.

30237404Ellen Burns works as a spy for the Union. She poses as enslaved in the Confederate senator’s household, hoping to uncover information to end the Confederacy and hopefully, in her lifetime, see the end of slavery. It’s her sole mission until she meets the “package” in the form of a white, Confederate soldier who works his way into Elle’s thoughts. Only, he’s on her side. Is there a future for them together?

Malcolm McCall uses his charm and cunning to uncover secrets. As a top operative with Pinkerton, he’s good at his job, and it’s one of the reasons Elle initially mistrusts him. Is he playing a role with her too? But when their missions coincide, their connection builds and suddenly, they’re wondering if it’s possible for an African-American woman and a white man to thrive–to be together– in a world that wants to keep them apart.

In politics and intrigue, however, love has no bounds.

I love how Alyssa Cole tackles the Civil War Era in this novel. It doesn’t shy away from the despair of the period, but it also delivers an overarching feeling of perseverance and hope, highlighting strength and overcoming adversity, not just surviving. It challenges readers to face this hard past.

“Don’t you see?” she asked. “This is our homeland too. We shouldn’t have to wreak havoc on the land to be seen as citizens! We shouldn’t have to.”

This heroine blew me away. Elle takes so many risks fighting for what should be, for her people and for a better, united America. She’s cunning and daring, stealthy yet bold. And she never backs down. She also has a eidetic memory, and I love how her counterpart, Malcolm McCall, admires and cherishes this about her. At one moment, he tells her how amazing she is, and she’s simply all, “Oh, I know.” Love her!

Oh, and Malcom McCall. At first, Elle thinks he’s a confederate soldier but he’s really an undercover agent. He has such a disarming presence and makes bold advances, but he meets Elle in the middle, shaking up her world as he slowly begins to understand what they are truly fighting for.

McCall won my heart as much as he did Elle’s–little by little. Even though he’s fighting for the Union, he admits he doesn’t fully understand what’s happening with Elle and others on a personal level. His acquaintance and friendship and relationship with Elle really strikes a chord with him, and he was so romantic and genuine. It hit me over the head: Malcolm is worthy of our Elle.

I know I’m not entitled to anything. Everything in the world conspires against anything being possible between us, but the world can go screw.

I adored this novel, and by the end, I was bawling. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Cole takes the readers next. I know it’ll be a journey that sticks in the soul.

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