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Book of the Week: An Extraordinary Union

So. Here’s the thing. I try not to repeat myself too much with these BotW reviews. In another week, The Confessions of Frannie Langton would have been my pick. But I already wrote about that. And yes, I finished An Extraordinary Union on the commute on Monday. And yes it’s only a couple of weeks since I recommended Alyssa Cole, but I loved this and I’m still annoyed about the racism in RWA and so there, I’m chosing it, it’s my blog, try and stop me.

Cover of An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Elle Burns is fighting the Confederacy by returning to the south to spy for the Union as a slave in the household of a Confederate senator. As everyone in the house thinks she is mute, she’s perfectly placed to hear conversations filled with valuable information that she can then pass on to pass to the Loyal League. Malcolm McCall is a Pinkerton’s detective, undercover and trying to infiltrate a Rebel enclave. The two of them find themselves working together and fighting an undeniable attraction. But as the net of intrigue tightens around them, it seems impossible for anything good to come out of a relationship – of any kind – between a black woman and a white man in Virginia. Or can it?

I would say this is more historical romantic suspense than a a straight-up historical romance – there is very real peril here at every turn for both Elle and Malcolm. But don’t panic, this is a romance, so don’t worry too much, there is Happily Ever After for these two, but it takes a lot of twists and turns and danger to get there. Elle is a fantastic character – smart and resourceful and determined to do her bit to try to defeat slavery. She knows exactly what is at stake and the risks that she faces on all fronts .  There’s the reality of being an enslaved woman, then there’s being a spy and finally as a woman contemplating any kind of relationship with a white man – not just inside the Confederacy but in the north if they both manage make it out alive. I was a little uncertain about how the relationship in this would work out given that Malcolm has so much more power than Elle, any way you look at their relative situations. But Alyssa Cole has written this so cleverly. Malcolm saw the Highland Clearances as a child and knows about power imbalances and persecution and this informs how he interacts with Elle and his determination to do his bit to overthrow slavery and oppression.

I’ve already said a lot about how many different types of romances there should be, and how everyone should see themselves reflected in romance. And yet a lot of people seem sceptical that black characters can have Happily Ever Afters in Historical Romance. Well take a seat and let Alyssa Cole show you how wrong that idea is. She’s not sugar coating it, and yes it’s harder for Elle than it is for a wilting wallflower in Almacks. But that hard won happy ending is deeply, deeply satisfying.

I’ve already borrowed the second Loyal League book to read the story of Malcolm’s brother Ewan and I’m on the waiting list for the third book. That’s how much I liked it. My copy came from the library, but you can get hold of it on ebook on Kindle (a bargainous £2.37 at time of writing!) and Kobo. It’s slightly harder to get the paperback in this country – Amazon is showing me the French version in paperback and a large print hardback on the same page as the kindle edition – so I think it’s a special order job again. Or you can look and see if your library has it.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, Book of the Week, historical, reviews, romance

Book of the Week: The Rogue Not Taken

I retreated into the world of happy endings this week – and treated myself by letting myself read the new (well relatively new) Sarah MacLean which I have been saving for a Time Of Real Need.

This is the first in her new series – Scandal and Scoundrel – and after the massive high of the surprise reveal and general excitement of the final book of the Rules of Scoundrels, I wasn’t sure this could live up to my massive expectations.  And then I found out that the new series was inspired by celebrity scandals of today and got a bit worried.  But I really didn’t need to.  Sarah MacLean knows exactly what she’s doing.

Paperback copy of The Rogue Not Taken
The cover model is just a bit to… meh. All downcast eyes and no personality – completely un-Sophie like!

Sophie Talbot is the youngest of a line of scandalous daughters of a noveau riche peer.  Her sisters revel in their notorious reputations, but she’s not keen.  She’s the most retiring member of the family right up until she pushes her elder sister’s cheating husband into a pond at a party.  He’s a duke – old family, old money – she’s not.  Suddenly she’s the biggest scandal in society and facing being an outcast.  So she makes a run for it.  But she makes her escape it using the carriage belonging to the Marquess of Eversley, who’s fairly scandalous himself.  He thinks she’s trying to trap him into marriage.  She knows she definitely isn’t. But then Things Happen.

I enjoyed this so much. The characters are engaging, the dialogue is witty and fun.  There’s lots of proper plot – no wishy-washy misunderstandings that could be solved by one person asking the other a question.  And just when you think it’s nearly fixed, MacLean throws in another twist to the tail.  I was a little hesitant about one of these which happened towards the end of the book, but it was dealt with so neatly and resolved so satisfactorily that by the time the book was over I’d almost forgotten it had annoyed me.  I was also desperate to read the next in the series which isn’t out until August, but I’ll try and contain my impatience.

I still prefer the US cover to the UK one – cheesy thought the American romance covers are, they have no shame about what they are – there’s heaving bosoms, unlaced corsets that improbably reveal no under garments, ridiculous muscles and flowing locks, but they’re unapologetic about it, where as the ones here are misty and coy and undersell the contents.  But hey, at least with a British edition we don’t have to pay silly money to get them shipped in anymore.  Although – full disclosure – I got my copy from the publisher who gave them to everyone who went to Sarah MacLean’s London teaparty (she’s lovely) so I may yet buy a US version to match the rest of my books of hers…

Get your copy from Amazon, Foyles or Waterstones, or for Kindle or on Audible.  If you’re in the States, it should be everywhere fine, fine romances are sold (to quote Sarah Wendell.). Happy Romancing!