Black History Month - A book recommendation

This blog entry is mainly a book review. It is of a book I’ve read by Alyssa Cole – a historical romance about the American Civil War. I chose to write about it because, as Cole herself writes in her author’s note- “…is it even history, really, when the effects of it still vibrate beneath the surface of American life?”

 

I relocated to Uruguay in South America with my family when I was sixteen. Israelis, all over the world, traditionally attend American schools (Europeans in Uruguay attended the British School), and I joined The Uruguayan American High School as a Junior.


During History lessons all my classmates assured me how lucky I was to have missed last year’s curriculum - the entire tenth grade was devoted to the American Civil War. My friends all shuddered in unison when telling me about it – and I get it. Not only is the subject painful but it is also, more than a hundred years later, painfully relevant.


However, having missed all of my school’s classes about the Civil War, my knowledge about it stems mainly from popular culture - books and movies. I love Alyssa Cole - she is an amazing writer. When I discovered she has a series of historical romance novels about the civil war I immediately decided to read them – to enhance my knowledge of the subject. I recommend reading them not only for the sizzling romance and steamy sex scenes, but for the educational experience as well.


 

An Extraordinary Union – A Book Review


This is the first of three historical romances written by Cole about the American Civil War.

When approaching historical fiction, I, and every other reader, have a set of expectations. I expect the great scheme of events to be accurate: From the fact that the Battle of Ford Sumter was lost by the North to the clothes, food, music, and even the brand of soap used by the heroine. The norms that ruled the times, the language, the habits – all must be reflected in the thoughts and emotions of the novel’s characters. Cole’s book delivers on all fronts.

It is January 1862 in Richmond, Virginia. The North has blockaded the Southern town, and supplies are running dangerously low.

Malcolm McCall works for the great Pinkerton Detective Agency as a spy. Elle Burns is a black free woman who volunteered to spy for the Union as well- as a house slave in the townhouse of the governor of Virginia. Cole has based many of the characters, including those of Malcolm and Elle, on real people. The Rebels are trying to break the blockade that suffocates supply lines and both Malcolm and Elle try to learn about it and convey that information to the North.

Elle is a prodigy, a genius. Not only does she have a photographic memory, but she also thinks fast on her feet. Malcolm is a charming Scotsman, and we all know that Highlanders are irresistible. Enough said. Their chemistry is combustible. Their romance brings home, more than once, the huge status difference between a white man (still the most powerful ethnic group on the planet) and a black woman.

The plot is flawless. You know there is an HEA but you still doubt it, the action is unstoppable until the very last page. A fascinating, sexy and compelling read.

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