Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Loyal League #1

An Extraordinary Union

Rate this book
As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past . . .

Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South--to spy for the Union Army.

Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton's Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he's facing his deadliest mission yet--risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.

Two undercover agents who share a common cause--and an undeniable attraction--Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy's favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost--even if it means losing each other...

258 pages, Paperback

First published March 28, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alyssa Cole

45 books5,234 followers
Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018. She’s contributed to publications including Bustle, Shondaland, The Toast, Vulture, RT Book Reviews, and Heroes and Heartbreakers, and her books have received critical acclaim from The New York Times, Library Journal, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, Booklist, Jezebel, Vulture, Book Riot, Entertainment Weekly, and various other outlets. When she’s not working, she can usually be found watching anime or wrangling her pets.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,207 (26%)
4 stars
3,289 (39%)
3 stars
2,192 (26%)
2 stars
516 (6%)
1 star
139 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,674 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,150 followers
March 25, 2017
Exceptional. A standout example of historical romance as it should be: deeply and solidly grounded in reality, no soft-soaping or viewing the past through Vaseline-smeared lenses, but with a passionate insistence on people's ability to strive for the best in ourselves.

This book is a blast of rage against America's grotesque and obscene history of racism and abuse. Elle, our heroine, is *bloody furious*, and should be. Black and female, she's sidelined and disregarded by damn near everyone, including the unionists for whom she spies. But her apparent unimportance is her second greatest weapon: the Confederate dunces' refusal to see her as human also means they don't notice her listening to them. (Her greatest weapon is an eidetic memory. This is based on a real black woman spy named Mary Bowser, Cole says. I need that biography.)

The romance conflict is very much around Elle's difficulty in trusting Malcolm, not only because he's white but because his superpower is charm and she's not stupid. He's a very likeable character, as he grows in understanding and empathy, and his respect for and partnership with Elle is marvellous, but this is Elle's book. One of the most interesting things is, where Malcolm can give himself wholeheartedly and put Elle above their shared cause, Elle can't do the same for him. She will always be wary of a brutal, unjust world. And, in one of the most powerful scenes, when Malcolm is apparently lost to her after they've declared their love, Elle doesn't insist on rescuing him. It would risk a lot of her fellows' lives and her mission to stop the Confederacy, and she puts those before her own love and agony, and Malcolm's life. It's an exceptional decision in a romance which in no way undermines the love story; rather, it gives us a sense of the characters on a grand stage and the stakes, personal and political, for which they fight.

Tense spy adventure, sweeping romance, powerful history, blast of outrage. A fab read, and a gorgeous cover on top. I can't wait for the next book.
April 5, 2017
"I want to change things here, in my own country, and there's a way that I especially can be helpful." Elle Burns

Many, many, many years ago I started reading one of my grandmother's bodice ripper romances set in the antebellum South. I never finished it. I don't remember what it was called or who the author was, but I do remember throwing the damn book in the trash, after I'd ripped it to shreds. Now, the idea of destroying books wasn't something I was into, and still don't do no matter how craptastic a book is. However, the sheer fuckwittery of this author in depicting some mythical, genteel South, full of beautiful southern belles, sipping mint juleps on shady verandas, while dancing attendance on handsome southern suitors, all the while completely ignoring (or in this case glamorizing) the horrors of human chattel slavery which made such lives possible was way more than I could deal with. That book featured every bad, racist trope: happy slaves singing as they worked the fields and paternalistically childlike house servants who saw no reason for freedom. Needless to say, that travesty pretty much soured me on any "romance" that was set in that era, especially books that read as thinly-veiled propaganda trying to make the spurious claim that "slavery really wasn't that bad". I ended friendships with fellow readers who didn't see the harm in such stories, and I have zero regrets about doing so. Moreover, it boggles the imagination that some authors of BW/WM romances set their historicals in this dark time period, and somehow expect me to believe a Black female slave had agency, even if the owner or son of the owner, was willing to forsake everything to be with her. Did that happen in real life? There is evidence that such unions existed, but that doesn't mean I want to suspend my disbelief. Not to mention, why slavery? Why perpetuate the notion that Black History began on these shores?

So why did I read, and end up loving this? Two reasons:

1) The author Alyssa Cole, first grabbed my attention with her Scottish historical IR Agnes Moor's Wild Knight. THIS, was the kind of historical romance I'd been craving from IR authors. It was short, but pushed all my happy historical romance nerd chick buttons. It also featured a dark-skinned, natural haired Black heroine with agency and intelligence. She was no swooning damsel in distress, nor was she someone's property. Black people can be found throughout the history of the world, and not as subservient. Another reason why I love Beverly Jenkins, who has been getting this for a long time.

2) The cover. Given the publishing world's penchant for whitewashing and erasure of PoC, and the continuing colorist fail I see in some IR romances, it is vitally important to me, as a Black woman of hue, that my darker sisters are represented as objects of love and affection. Not only is this cover spectacular, but you can clearly see the heroine's resolve as well as her beauty.

The moment I read the blurb, I realized Elle (aka Ellen) was based on Mary Bowser, a Black woman with an eidetic memory who worked for the traitorous confederate president Jefferson Davis, all the while funneling information to the North. Elle is a free Black woman who works for the Loyal League, a group infiltrating the South in order to gain intelligence. As a mute slave in the Caffrey household, she gleans information while suffering the indignities of being considered "inferior". Despite this being a romance, the author does not gloss over the day to day cruelties inflicted upon slaves. There are no scenes of the lash, but the terror of the smallest mistake, the separation of parents and children, or husbands and wives, at the owners whim. What worked for me is that despite her circumstances, Elle had agency. She had a rich life beyond her disguise as a slave. She made choices when it came to her survival, to insuring Union victory. And when she chose to give herself to Malcolm, a man she shouldn't want, she takes control of what she can. And though she works on behalf of the Union, Elle is quite cognizant of those who view her skill as something "unusual" in her race. Benign racism is just as bad as overt racism.

The Susie Caffreys of the book are still with us, unfortunately. We know them. We've always known them. The ones who use their privilege against women who don't look like them, who side with the oppressor rather than the oppressed. The ones who fail at intersectionality.

Then there is Malcolm McCall. This passage sums him up perfectly: "The politicians could deny it all they wanted, but this had become a battle not just to preserve the Union, but to decide whether slaves would be freed or not. He'd thought that's what he'd been fighting for all along, but if he were truthful, he hadn't seen slaves as more than the lot they'd been given in life. He'd thought of their general freedom, but not their individual wants and needs. Not about what sustained them from day to day, or made them smile, on a basic human level. He'd considered himself so evolved, and then Elle had arrived."

An agent for Pinkerton, he uses his vast skills to infiltrate and undermine the southern war effort. A chance encounter with the disguised Elle becomes a lot more than just another assignment. Elle's resourcefulness, resilience, her singular talent and her beauty are too much for him to resist. He falls and falls hard. And there's an interesting dynamic about that - just the freedom as a White male to fall in love as he chooses, though the woman he wants is societally and culturally out of bounds. A fact that Elle has to remind him again and again, despite her own feelings.

This is one of my favorite passages from the book: "Because, unlike you, we don't have the luxury of being outraged. If we rebelled and set half the country on fire, where would that leave us? You think that would make folks see us as more human?" Sad to say, no matter how we protest, our humanity is still in question for some.

This is one story that will stay with me for a very long time. It was at times, a difficult read. Yes it was at the end of the day, a romance, and the wonderful thing is that love knows no boundaries.
March 31, 2017

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

The first book I ever read by Alyssa Cole was BE NOT AFRAID. Like AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION, BE NOT AFRAID is a Civil War-era historical romance told from an African American perspective. Unlike EXTRAORDINARY, BE NOT is short & wasn't able to utilize its length well. As much as I appreciated reading a fictional account of history from a perspective we need more of, I ended up being disappointed, although I did say that if the author wrote a full length novel, I would be back.

Well, she did, so here I am!

And I am glad to be back, because AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION was everything I had been hoping to get out of BE NOT AFRAID. EXTRAORDINARY features a strong, female protagonist in the form of Elle Burns, a young African American woman with an eidetic memory who is a spy for the North. The hero, Malcolm McCall, is also a spy. He's Scottish, but is in a better position than most white people at this time to understand what it's like to be used and dehumanized because of the horrible things he experienced during the Jacobite Rebellion.

Their paths cross at the house of an odious Southern family, the Caffreys. Elle is posing as a mute slave. Malcolm is posing as a Confederate soldier, come home to bask in the glory while secretly gathering information and exchanging it with other spies. He falls for Elle pretty much on sight, and his admiration of her only grows as he learns more about the role she's playing in the house and the secret brilliance of her mind. Getting her to trust him is another thing entirely, though.

EXTRAORDINARY UNION is a roller coaster of a read. There is so much action, so much danger, and the main characters are both so likable that you desperately want them to survive and find happiness. Elle is such an amazing heroine, she's so brave and smart. And Malcolm is a dashing hero who is so ahead of his time. I shipped them immediately, and spent the rest of the book gnawing at my fingernails the way hardcore Game of Thrones fans do whenever they start the new season. Cole manages to capture the sheer awfulness of the time period and the inherently racist societal structures that helped perpetuate slavery and racism with the ease that Octavia Butler did in KINDRED (although far less graphically!), while also showing the complex nuances that relationships at this time period could have, whether it's the kindness a slaveholder might bestow upon a slave (and how disturbing it is, that treating someone as a human being might be regarded as a mere courtesy), or the hypocrisy some Union soldiers had, seeing the people whose rights they were allegedly seeking as nothing more than a means to an end. The result? A romance that lays out the facts and makes you think.

I saw that this book was the first in a series, and I am so excited because it's been a while since I found a historical romance series that captured my fancy like this one. Her style is reminiscent of Beverly Jenkins's (and you can imagine the shrill fangirl squeal I emitted when I saw her thank Jenkins in her acknowledgements section), with a dash of Elizabeth Hoyt. Somehow, she manages to combine Jenkins's broad scope with Hoyt's steamy romance.

P.S. Eff you, Susie. You're officially the Joffrey of this book universe.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy! 

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,078 reviews13.3k followers
August 30, 2020
I had high hopes going into this one because I love Alyssa Cole, but I wasn't expecting to absolutely love it as much as I did!

When this book started, I absolutely loved Elle's character. She is undercover as a slave to a wealthy family in the south in order to learn secrets for the Union. Elle is so smart, witty, and strong, yet she has to pretend to be mute and take the insults her masters throw her way daily. And can we talk about Malcom!? Because I loved him. I loved how he understood what Blacks were going through and got as enraged as Elle was whenever he witnessed the atrocities that were happening in the South. And I loved how unapologetic he was with his feelings towards Elle. SWOOOOOON.

What I also loved about this book was how it was also a romantic suspense. Elle and Malcom are spies and go through a few near death experiences in order to learn secrets and pass them on to their allies. I was flying through the end to see if and how they would survive!

Overall, I couldn't put this book down. I finished it in a day and was so in love with the romance. I can't wait to pick up the next book!
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,830 reviews2,188 followers
May 24, 2023
I really don't have much to say about this book except I wish it had been historical fiction/spy thriller without the romance. I loved reading about spies during the Civil War and knowing most of these characters were based on real people was really cool. But the romance was very lackluster, it brought down the book honestly.
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,290 reviews529 followers
August 1, 2022
4.5 stars

She was Ellen Burns, and she was going to help destroy the Confederacy.

I'm way late to the party on this one but, oh yes, do I agree with the majority of you all, this is my highest rated book of the year. Our heroine Elle definitely is the stand-out character, the hero Malcolm was very overshadowed in the beginning but began to shine brighter in the middle and end. Working on behalf of the Union in a ring of spies called the Loyal League, Elle is placed in a southern senator's household as a mute slave to gain and pass on as much information as she can. Malcolm spies for the Pinkerton Agency and is currently posing as a Union soldier. Malcolm is immediately drawn to Elle, a bit insta-lust, but what saves their romance from my personal dislike of insta, is Elle's thoughts and feelings. When they first meet, Elle is a slave and Malcolm a Union soldier but even after their undercover roles are revealed, Elle is a Black woman and Malcolm a white man in 1862 America.

[...]one wrong word from him and she would lose her life, whereas his sex and skin color inoculated him from harm at her hand.

I've complained many times about forced angst or conflict in stories contrived to keep heroes and heroines apart, yeah, nothing forced here. The author deeply provides us with Elle's thoughts and emotions about the danger of having feelings for Malcolm. This is shown not only personally, the immediate bodily danger to Elle and the personal stake she has in the Civil War but also outwardly, the encompassing work they are doing for the Union and the importance of the information they have to pass on. In beginning notes I took, I mentioned that the heroine was crotchety, which I appreciated because the heroes always get to be the surly ones fighting the romance and struggled with because of personal thoughts of just accept this sexy awesome dude already. As the story went on though, the author does such an amazing job putting you in the historical context, place, and time, and it becomes felt how the stakes are very real for Elle. This isn't a light falling in love but a hard hand gripping leap of faith.

“Help me to understand,” he said. He was still asking of her when he should be giving, but he didn’t know how else to proceed.
“We don’t want revenge, Malcolm.” She looked at him like he was the densest bastard to ever walk the earth. “We want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just like any damned fool in these United States is entitled to so long as he isn’t Black or Red. So you can keep your outrage. All I can do is try to make a difference.”

This didn't have a lot of overall reaching Civil War tidbits dropped in, it is more of an immediate spotlight on how networks of spies could gain knowledge and help their side and one take on how a women in Elle's position could have fallen in love. I don't often mention how a character's emotions and thoughts help set the time period for me but Elle was a huge component for placing me in the story. The clothing, atmosphere, incidentals, and society were all there, too. Tied into the spying for information battle and danger, was some awesome ironclad ships and blockade talk. This may seem like a weird thing to get excited about but this is why I read historicals, to get little nuggets of information to gain knowledge and understanding with a feel of the time.

This was who she was when she was allowed to be free from fear.

Malcolm didn't quite leap off the pages for me, due to spying being a waiting game for info at times there was some slowness, and I would have liked some outer happenings (more big Civil War happenings going on, more of the Loyal League people, structure, and happenings). I know this is first in series, so maybe some information was held back about the Loyal League but in a contrarily way (I complain a lot about first in a series syndrome and how authors focus too much on setting up characters for future books) I could have stood for more character presence from ones that will star or appear in future installments in the series. Secondary characters gave without stealing the show, this "little" line from Mary: “I was just worried, is all,” she said, adjusting the ragged lace trim on Elle’s sleeve. “You remind me of my daughter sometimes. She had eyes just like yours . . . Caffrey sold her down South to pay off a debt. Every time I look at you, I wonder if she gonna grow up to be as pretty as you. And I hope she won’t.”
"I hope she won't", devastating. There was also Timothy, who Elle feared his judgement about her relationship with Malcolm but he informs her that he is part Seminole and a host of other characters that show that "kind" people can participate and be blind to atrocities.

This book made the list of several best of 2017 lists and I completely see why. The historical richness is great, there are some awesome emotional and thought provoking on fire comments/commentary, and the consequences, angst, and attraction between Elle and Malcolm are felt, but read this book for Elle. Her anger and underlining pain give way to such a well of strength; she's the heroine you want to read about, hope you're a little bit like, and inspire to be.

(The author notes that some of her characters were based on real life people: Elle was based on Mary Bowser, Malcolm by Timothy Webster, and Robert Grand by Robert Smalls. There was also a reference guide of books the author used for research in the back. Historicals with history! Give me more historicals like this)
Profile Image for Korrie’s Korner.
1,069 reviews13.6k followers
February 6, 2023
“There were only two truths for Malcolm McCall: that the Union must be preserved and that he would love Ellen Burns forever.”

This book will stay with me for a long time. I would love to see this on the big screen. Malcolm & Ellen forever.

This was so thoroughly researched, and written superbly. It was hard in the beginning to picture Malcolm, a Scottish man, falling head over feet in love with a black slave woman, but then I thought—why not? He posed as a Rebel to help the cause. So much action, suspense, sadness, and steam. I fell in love with Malcolm the more I read, and felt the way he loved Ellen. More than his own soul that man...and he proved this in so many ways. What a team they were. The dynamic duo.

I can’t express the deep emotion that this book made me feel. This book is burned into the layers of my soul.
Profile Image for Tina.
1,762 reviews281 followers
April 1, 2017
4.5 stars

This is a really good book.

First let me get out of the way that this is a traditional historical romance, complete with loving and sexing and sexing an loving.

But it has more in common with some old skool romances than in hist-roms written more recently in that the author uses the events of the time as actual historical detail -- not just wallpaper history -- to give the story a lot of texture and grounds it in its plot.

In the early days of the Civil War, Elle Burns is a black free woman who is from the North and has been accepted (somewhat reluctantly because she is a woman) as an agent in a league of spies called the Loyal League. The reason? She has an eidetic memory. She can remember anything she reads, hears or sees perfectly down to last detail. While this 'gift' has allowed her to serve her country which she does gladly and fiercely, she also somewhat despises it because it has made her feel more like a curiosity rather than a person. She is intelligent even without her gift but all her life she had been trotted out and asked to perform and never really seen. But she will use any weapon in her arsenal to help rbing victory to the north and end slavery.

Malcolm McCall is also a northern spy. He is a member of the Pinkerton detective agency and has had to assume all sorts of identities in the course of his work. He is a white man, handsome, affable, charming. Able to talk his way out of any trouble. He has an easy way about him and lures people in so that when he knows he has them on his hook he makes a mental note "gotcha."

Unbeknownst to each other at first, Elle and Malcolm find themselves on the same case, chasing a rumor that the South has a way to break the Northern blockade. They are stationed in Richmond Virginia. Elle is posing as a mute slave who is on loan to a rich Southern senator's family. She acts as the general maid for their spoiled daughter Susie. Malcolm is undercover in as a Rebel soldier who, through an elaborate subterfuge set up by his superiors and Lincoln himself, attempted an unsuccessful assassination of Lincoln. Even though it did not work, he is welcomed and feted by the senator and is an object of infatuation of Susie.

The two meet in a small dining room in the Caffrey's home where Elle is setting a table and Malcolm ducks in to read a smuggled message. It is at this meeting the the book beautifully sets up what becomes the major point of tension in this relationship. Malcolm is a man who truly, really believes in the equality of people. He doesn't feel that blacks are inferior and he strongly wants slavery to end. So when he comes upon Elle he doesn't see her as a slave, but just as a pretty servant doing her job. But Elle doesn't know that. She's been chafing at her role. She was a free woman who had the freedom of her own movements. Now she is at the beck and call of a petulant woman and is aware 24/7 of the precariousness of her situation. She is now chattel. Even if it is undercover, she is not free and her body is not her own.

"That's when the realization set in for Elle. She was alone in a room with a man in a Rebel uniform, and he was smiling at her. Maybe if it had been an innocent grin she would have been less alarmed, but it was the smile of a man who was used to getting his way. She backed away from him, watching his smile recede as quickly as her feet did. After only a few steps, she found herself pressed against the dining table.

He wouldn't...he couldn't in the dining room, could he? Surely he wouldn't be so brazen?"

This is only the first of many times where we see how place and position cause Elle and Malcolm to view events differently based on their perspective. It isn't a heavy handed thing, but it is a very present thing. One that Elle is much more attuned to than Malcolm.

As romantic conflict goes this can't be beat. I mean, a slave -- even one undercover -- and a white man in the south is very taboo. And it isn't just society but the inner conditioning of Elle herself that must be overcome. That it is Elle who must deal with this conditioning is also telling. Malcolm has the surety and conviction of his white male privilege that they can be together. But Elle has never had the luxury of thinking that way.

The two of them discover they are both undercover and must work as a team. This delights Malcolm who finds Elle not only beautiful but the more time he spends with her he becomes entranced with her mind. He sees her, not just her 'gift'.

The storytelling is great because Malcolm and Elle are spies and there is always that level of danger of discovery. They must lurk in rooms, look for documents, find places to meet to exchange information. But even so, there is that second level of danger that Elle must face that Malcolm doesn't. No matter what situation they are in, she is always in a more precarious position than he is. As a reader I was aware of that tension, it made the book exciting but a suspenseful as well. Because not only is their spying something that is in danger of being discovered, but also their romance. And not only from the white folks, but also by the black folks. Elle is very conscious of what the other slaves feel and think. And the book makes a point to show the thoughts, perspectives and inner lives of the other slaves in the household. Many of whom are playing their own roles in a much more subtle way.

I like that Malcolm begins to really understand this on a real, practical level not just on a academic level. He starts to feel the frustration of their situation and for once it is not something he can just charm his way out of:

"Malcolm thought of everything he'd just read, of the way her intelligence and obvious skill at strategizing shone through in her words, and frustration welled up in him on her behalf. He'd worked with many fine agents, but none had impressed him in the way Elle had. He thought of Elle on her knees in front of Susie.

"How can you stand it, Elle? How can you not be bursting with anger?"

"Where would that get me? This righteous anger you speak of?"

But still, this is a romance and Malcolm and Elle fall in love. He is very quick to fall, which is where I take a half star off. He is all in almost immediately. Elle takes longer not just because of the taboo of their romance but she doesn't actually know if she can trust a white man who so easily puts on a different face and performs a role. She is wary about how real this all is to him.

But they are young, healthy and sexy so they get their sex on. Cuz, like I said, this is primarily a romance. There is a lot of danger and close calls and a very exciting climax with some rescues and high seas derring-do.

There is an epilogue that makes you feel that these two really do get their HEA and also sets it up for a sequel. I am so very much here for that. I hope they show up prominently in the next book. I would love to see Elle and Malcolm again.

Very much recommended.
Profile Image for Ira.
1,066 reviews91 followers
July 9, 2017
Wow, I'm not sure how to describe how I feel about this book but I want to say this first, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!

I read interracial romance story from this era before but not between the Scott born and an ex slave. They couldn't even seen talking, let's alone fall in love, how they can end up loving each other like this and continue to do their detective work?

This book is honest, raw, exciting, harsh, plenty suspense and it will break your heart but a beautiful forbidden love story too.
Ms. Cole didn't shy away with her words, they real and made me had to stop often in the middle reading this because it hurts.

My feeling all over the place right now, this is not an easy read, but then you feel rewarded once you reach the end:)

I might add something else later on but you probably will enjoy reading this more if you don't peek too many reviews:). And if you love Historical Romance, you MUST read this beautiful love story and if you don't read HR, perhaps you can start with this one, it is not only about romance but it give you a little bit of American history too which is not always a pretty read.

Btw, I found about this couple whose the case smashed the last slavery law in the USA.


And here their story, if you interested:) The Loving

This is my honest review, thank you for Netgalley who made me able read this book early:)

Guess what ladies?
Alyssa tweet, next is Ewan's book:)
Profile Image for Deanne Patterson.
1,829 reviews87 followers
March 12, 2017
I wasn't sure what to expect when I requested this book. I mean this is an interracial couple during the civil war. They can't even be seen talking together let alone any hint of anything more. She is a former slave who trades her freedom for a life of slavery to spy for the Union Army. He is a detective for Pinkerton's Secret Service.She is a spitfire,smart,sassy and goes after what she wants. A steamy forbidden romance filled with espionage romance it will pull you in and not let you go until you read the last word!
Definitely an author to read more of!
Pub Date 28 Mar 2017
Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Mei.
1,881 reviews414 followers
March 3, 2017
I received this book from Netgalley for my honest review.

When I requested this book from Netgalley, I thought it would be a usual historical romance with just a black woman as heroine. Boy, was I wrong!!!

This is so much more!!!

I loved the heroine, Elle! She's just plain extraordinary! I loved her strength and courage, her smartness, her incredible mind, her sharp and sometimes snarky remarks! There wasn't anything I would have changed!

In an era when being woman, black and, on top, slave was the worst place to be, she was truly an exception! She was also versatile: posing as a slave she was a submissive mute girl, being a spy for the Union she was smart and cunning, being a woman attracted to a white man she was intelligent and clearheaded! What more do you want?!!!

Malcolm was a great character too! He's also a Union's spy posing as a Rebel. At first he's confused by Elle and doubted her ability as a spy, but what I appreciated was the fact that he was able to appreciate her abilities without being overbearing and without acting as I'm a man, and because of that, more capable than you!

Obviously, their relationship was impossible during the Civil War, but that didn't stop them from falling in love! And it was falling in love not lust!

Their situation: her a slave and he a white rebel in the same house, both spying - was incredibly complicated! He has to pretend to court the southern belle, daughter of the Secessionist senator and his host, while she was reviled by the same woman in every way! OMG!!!

I was twisting my hands while reading of how she suffered and how he felt guilty because of that! But still they persevered because of their conviction that the Union cause was just and that slavery was deeply wrong and should have been obliterated! They were truly ready to sacrifice themselves in every way! Admirable!

Being this a romance, there're many smexy times, lusting thoughts, admiring looks etc, but there's also a great story about spying, about what slavery means to a person, about how miserable were those who wanted to maintain it!

I loved this book to pieces! For al who wants to read an unusual love story, this is a must!
Profile Image for Joanna Loves Reading.
563 reviews215 followers
February 18, 2018
This story takes place early on in the American Civil War, involving two spies that have found a place in the South to hopefully help the North. Elle is a former slave, who had been freed along with her parents as a child. She has exceptional memory skills that allow her to recall information word for word, having only heard or read once. Her assignment is to spy in a prominent Southern household, playing the slave again. Malcolm is a Scottish immigrant, playing the part of the Confederate soldier, but his true purpose is to gather information to send to the North. They end up teaming up and find that they are very attracted to each other. It is an insta-lust attraction, but the story did not allow for anything more. It is set in a time of great tension, and the ability to take time to get to know each other is not very plausible. They just knew. That doesn't mean that they, especially Elle, did not throw up walls decrying the impossibility of them being together, unwilling to trust, because she did. It was just futile.

Both main characters are very likable, and I thought they were complex and interesting. Very early on in the novel, Cole gave us insight and foreshadowing on the motivations and character complexity that convince me she is an author to watch. This was not amateur hour here! The tough sell was the romance, and early on, we are told how much they are aware of the other and confused at how their thoughts frequently returned to the other, and while I liked this pairing, I do feel like the selling of the romance was over done somewhat. I would have liked to see those feelings develop more organically rather than being told how they are feeling. When together in a safe place that allowed them to speak freely, their banter was witty and the sparks flew. The problem is that there were moments where they were together when they had to "act the part" and it didn't allow a growing intimacy. It is in these necessary, yet unfortunate, moments, that the romance is a difficult sell, and I can't help but wish it had played out a little differently.

There were many interesting side characters -- some who were awesome, some who were intriguing, and some who were nasty (yet at times pitiful). I hope we see the awesome and intriguing ones in future novels in the series. The thoughts and opinions of Elle and Malcolm felt at times a bit 21st Century, but I thought Cole illustrated how they came to have these opinions and thoughts. Anything in the story that required a bit of a leap, a stretch to the imagination, Cole provided those connections to make that leap, but it could still feel like a stretch at times. In the end, this story worked for me, but I can see that some may have trouble making those leaps at times. She didn't pull punches or sugar coat the setting, but she did write of compelling characters with understanding and dignity. I would much rather read a story like this with historical substance with timeless thoughts and ideas, in general, than a fluff piece with little historical details (OK, I can like these too). It was well done and interesting, and I will be reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Brooke — brooklynnnnereads.
1,005 reviews247 followers
April 30, 2018
I really had no expectations with this novel (either good or bad) so I was happily surprised and caught off guard when I loved it from the beginning.

First, I really enjoyed the historical element of the novel being based during the Civil War. I do not know why but for some reason, I have an interest in that specific time in history. For others who are interested in that period of time, Lynn Austin also has a trilogy that is based during that period. Anyway, back to this novel, although history certainly played a part in the story, I liked that it wasn't too much where I found myself getting lost or confused which can sometimes happen if I'm introduced to too much factual information. It was a good mix of entertainment and history.

As for entertainment, oh boy, let me tell you about that....This book was good. It had me hooked on the characters (both the likeable and unlikeable), the plot, and the piece de resistance: the romance. I'm going to be blunt: it was hot. The romance was hot, the romance was steamy, and I absolutely loved it! Honestly, this book definitely leaned more towards being a romance on the historical romance spectrum, but I'm okay with that.

After reading this book, there is no question about it: I will be reading more in this series and I will be reading/keeping my eye open on books that Alyssa Cole publishes in the future. Yes, she does write romance incredibly well but she also wrote a very well written and well rounded novel as a whole. I'm interested to read more in the historical romance genre by her as well as any contemporary/modern romances if she chooses to write those in the future.
Profile Image for SmartBitches.
491 reviews629 followers
April 4, 2017
Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

This review could easily end up being 6500 words long. I don’t think it will, but holy smokes is there SO MUCH TO SAY.

First, yes, you should absolutely read this book immediately, if you haven’t already. There is so much happening in the conflict within each of the protagonists, between the protagonists, and around them and their allies and enemies, I can’t possibly discuss all of it, but please know: if you are a reader (and why else would you be here, right?) this book is a marvelous, intelligent, respectful, breathtaking treat for your brain.

There’s a lot to examine in terms of cover and subterfuge, and so much subtlety in how characters can or cannot add and remove disguises. Elle is assigned a role and treatment she can’t escape because of the color of her skin. And she adds on to the other position she’s chosen, an active, dangerous one which uses that same prejudice to hide in plain sight. The Confederates around her talk openly in front of her because she’s a slave, so they don’t see her as a person (if they see her at all). Plus, because part of her character disguise is that she’s mute, they assume she’s stupid, or deaf, or both.

I was left wanting a little more, and am fully aware I’m being greedy. In the beginning, I struggled to catch up to the attraction Elle and Malcolm were demonstrating toward one another. At times they acted on that attraction and temptation with more alacrity than I thought they might have done. It was almost like they were ahead of me in my understanding of their relationship at the early parts, but once they began to rely on each other romantically and professionally, I was caught wanting them to find more time alone together, and worrying for them when they did. And at the end of the book, I wanted still more, more of them together, more of them talking, more of how they were learning to live together and work together.

As with all of Cole’s writing, the prose is so lyrical: it is elegant, spare and deadly in accuracy, whether describing violence and poverty of ethics, or the decision of whether to trust a perennially drunken grocer. It’s also very clever, such as when Malcolm muses that he needs to focus on “pulling the wool over Susie’s eyes when she expected him to pull it down her thighs.” The end of the book includes a very large hint of what might come next, and I’m entirely here for book two in however long this series will be.

Sometimes, very rarely, I find myself thinking while I read with my heart racing, hoping my phone doesn’t run out of battery, “I didn’t know romance could do this.”

This is one of those books.

- SB Sarah
Profile Image for DeeTimes' Nook.
2,238 reviews
April 8, 2017
Alyssa Cole's "An Extraordinary Union" was an exceptional historical romance fiction with all the feels overflowing even with the compact and content of the era...The Civil War. This was Malcom and Elle's extraordinary love story and it was an inspiring one too!!!

If you enjoy historical romance with suspense, well "An Extraordinary Union "is one book I strongly recommend to you because as extraordinary as it was it broke down the ideal that even in that era love didn't have a color. Elle was black and Malcolm, a white man who both were spies fighting for the same cause of freeing slaves during the Civil War up North.

Trust was a theme in this story because of their skin color and even some nurture versus nature philosophy. Smart, Elle being Black or Colored and charismatic Malcolm, White well who can you believe. But good Malcolm trusted Elle with love in his heart and this love enveloped itself around them both. But remember in that era any type of union or marriage would not be considered legal.. so can they continue their romance or just work together to free the slaves.

Beautiful Historical Romance

5 extraordinary stars *****
Profile Image for Natalie.
2,457 reviews54 followers
April 2, 2017
Probably a 2.5 - I rounded up.

I enjoyed the idea of this, but I wanted more excitement and espionage. Malcolm, despite being a hotshot detective for Pinkerton's, seemed to make far too many mistakes. Elle was better but seemed to need to be rescued all the time. It seemed like the book was all about the romance which came out of nowhere and seemed to happen overnight.
Profile Image for Lisa (Remarkablylisa).
2,255 reviews1,811 followers
January 6, 2021
Well researched. Well thought out. Two characters who struggle with society pressures and the ongoing mission they both work on. I can understand our heroine's stubbornness because she's black and she knows the judgemental eyes of society. She knows that not everyone treats her equal even if she's a free woman so she really struggles with giving all of herself to a white man. It was a great story about two people who work together to defeat the confederate people.
Profile Image for Cecily.
26 reviews4 followers
January 15, 2018
I can suspend disbelief about a lot of things, but not about a consensual, romantic, interracial relationship that takes place in the Confederacy during the Civil War. I imagine the author wanted to show a different side of an African American female character, and that's commendable, but for the most part, I read this book with a constant "Nah, man..." running through my head.
April 3, 2018
I'm not a romance reader. While I can appreciate some romance in books, the overall genre's not my cup of tea.

However, when you mix historical fiction with romance and can keep the latter down a bit, I'm excited. Alyssa Cole's story bridges The Civil War with interracial romance, spying, and thrilling heartstrings. Granted, the story inspired eye rolls here and there. Overall, I liked it and recommend this story to those enjoying romance alone and those, like me, that can give or take the genre.

4/5 Espionage Rings.
Profile Image for Antonella.
3,417 reviews446 followers
June 13, 2020
I enjoy it very much. I didn't even know about this series. I think this is a great intro to reading Alyssa Cole. Speaking of her, she really is very skillful in many subs-genres. I know people often rec her royalty series, but THIS book deserves more love!!
Profile Image for Mel  Thomas.
58 reviews662 followers
March 3, 2023
This novel uses what's probably my favorite romance structure, which is:
1) Couple meets and feels requited but horribly inconvenient attraction
2) At least one party resists said attraction because there's important evil-fighting to do and nobody has time for this shit
3) The resisting party realizes that devoting your life to fighting evil means it can be snatched away from you at any moment and surrenders to their feelings
4) They continue fighting evil together but now in a very "we're in love and don't care what u think about it 😤" sort of way

Anyway, I really enjoyed this. Everybody complaining about "historical accuracy" in their reviews can go kick rocks.
Profile Image for Layeshia.
371 reviews
April 2, 2017
This is the first time That I have red a story by AlyssiaCole. And it definitely will not be my last. This is the very extraordinary love story Of Elle and Malcolm. What makes the story this love story if he will extraordinary is the color of their skins. She was a black woman he was a white man both fighting for the same cause to free slaves. And win the Civil War for the north. Both were spies working for the north when they met. Although Iwas very suspicious Malcolm and FIRST. Because she couldn't trust anyone much less someone dressed as a rebel and because he was watching her with Romance in his heart But the obvious question was could she trust him with her secrets as a spy as well as her heart I thoroughly enjoy this story I've often wondered if two people during that time black-and-white could actually meet and fall in love I know that their union as a marriage would not be legal but could they actually fall in love during that time and I think that they could and that they did I will definitely be reading more of Ms Cole's stories in the near future I definitely recommend this book to you.
Profile Image for Suleikha Snyder.
Author 29 books307 followers
December 6, 2016
Without a doubt one of the best books of 2017, An Extraordinary Union is a game-changer. This is not a fluffy, vaseline-lens look at the Civl War South, not a plantation fantasy. Alyssa Cole gives us a beautifully angry book with a heroine who blazes with a righteous fury as she spies for the Union and fights her feelings for a Pinkerton detective committed to the same cause.

Elle has thorns, and, oh, how I loved her thorns. A former slave falling for a white man is a predicament layered in pain and mistrust — and Alyssa Cole makes us feel every bit of it. That's as much part of the suspense as whether Elle and Malcolm will survive their dangerous mission (spoiler alert: they will; this is a romance!).

Basically, you should be jealous that I already read this and you have to wait. Trust me, it will knock your socks off...and it sets the bar very high for Civil War-set romances yet to come.
Profile Image for Addie H.
493 reviews237 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
April 18, 2021
DNF 15%

I can't get past the absolute horrors of the South / the American Civil War and the treatment of people of colour, while at the same time enjoying this as a historical romance. My brain completely crashes and my stomach twists. There is simply now way I can continue, regardless if there is a happy ending.

I'm out.
Profile Image for Melanie A..
1,065 reviews395 followers
September 30, 2018
This review contains spoilers.

To say that I was looking forward to reading this one would be an understatement . . . but as a reader of romance, I was ultimately disappointed.

That Alyssa Cole is a good writer is not in question.
Man's inhumanity to man wasn't solely regulated by skin color, although it did allow its practitioners to choose their targets more easily.
And if the story had focused on Elle - a very well-crafted, interesting character - and the way she must navigate the evils of slavery in order to fulfill her role as a Union spy, I would have been thrilled.

Instead, the 'romance' between Elle and Malcolm, the son of Scottish immigrants and fellow spy, is the focus.

Quite simply, Malcolm was a creeper. The author uses him as a plot device again and again to show just how vulnerable Elle is as a black woman in an age of horrific, deeply ingrained and institutionalized racism and hatred.
"Please let me go, sah."

His eyebrows rose, but his expression was one of amusement, not anger. "Not until you answer me. Either you're an uncommon hussy, hoping to circumvent your competition, or you sought that regiment out with some specific purpose. You can tell me now, or I can ask those fellows knocking skulls over yonder for their opinion."
Um, what? The hero of a romance novel is calling the heroine a whore - for no other reason than the color of her skin - and then threatens her with gang rape if she doesn't answer him? I understand the author wants to show the precariousness of Elle's situation, but why use the hero to do it?

Months later, Elle is working undercover as a slave in the house of an important Southern family.
She was alone in a room with a man in a Rebel uniform, and he was smiling at her. Maybe if it had been an innocent grin she would have been less alarmed, but it was the smile of a man who was used to getting his way. She backed away from him, watching his smile recede as quickly as her feet did. After only a few steps, she found herself pressed against the dining table.
Yes, the 'hero' - not recognizing her, without knowing anything about her at all - manhandles her because he finds her beautiful. The author uses the scene to explain very convincingly how common rape was for slave women and has Elle bracing herself for just that fate . . . at the hands of the hero.

The final straw came for me after their relationship had progressed somewhat. Elle is shaken when she finds out men have died seemingly due to information that she passed on. She says she wants comfort and Malcolm takes that to mean she wants his hand up her skirt.
"Is this comfort enough, Elle?" he asked. His palm massaged her through the rough fabric.
I'm sorry, but this just wasn't romance for me.

But don't let me stop you from reading this. This was an incredible book for a lot of people. And like I said, Alyssa Cole knows how to write.
Even a simple embrace was fraught with danger and placed the burden of an entire country's horrific origins on their shoulders.
DNF just after 50%.
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,579 reviews104 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
February 24, 2020
DNF @ 37%

Trite nonsense.

A freed black woman goes south of the Mason-Dixon line to pose as a slave to spy on the Confederates for the Union. A white man of Scottish origin is posing as a Confederate soldier to also get crucial intel for the Union. It's the Civil fricking War. I should be on the edge of my seat while these two risk life and limb to ensure a Union victory and eventually fall in love with each other.

Instead, I was rolling my eyes by about 5% and it only got worse from there. This read just like any other Romance(™) out there and only the time and place was somewhat different. But even the time and place barely seemed to make a difference to the "development" of the romance. Other than quickly proving that these two are Bad at Their Jobs despite telling us continually that they're actually supposed to be Super Spies, these two bumbling idiots completely fail to actually talk about anything except how hot they are for each and how wrong it is.

Bad enough that Elle didn't know Malcolm was a spy when they first meet and she actually fears he might intend to rape her. But have no fear! He's not one of Those Guys. He's a Nice Guy! A True Gentleman. He swears up and down to never do anything untoward toward her ever - and then proceeds to hit on her, flirt with her, manhandle her into the bushes, feel her up and kiss her. And she's not really too upset about it because he's soooooo hot and charming. She pretends she doesn't want anything to do with him, because of course she does, but let's be real here. We all know where this is going. I just hope her hot and cold flashes are the signs of early onset menopause because these two do not need to be breeding stupid.

And sadly, the Civil War stuff was all just so much window dressing. It's like Disney and Lifetime paired up and vomited pink hearts all over a Michael Bay movie.
Profile Image for Brian.
107 reviews61 followers
February 20, 2021
The first in a trilogy of historical romances set during the Civil War, this novel grew out of a conflict Alyssa Cole experienced when she first became serious about writing: on the one hand she wanted to be among those writers who “write about the experiences of POC and marginal people in historical settings” but on the other hand swore she would “never write about…[t]he Civil War” because “[i]t’s still an open wound in this country” and as a subject it is “Too fraught. Too hard. Too draining.” Well, clearly she is not a fan of “thou shalt nots,” not even her own--and we can thank our stars for that. An Extraordinary Union is a tour-de-force that shows unequivocally just how politically astute and relevant popular romance can be without sacrificing any of the genre pleasures we all long for. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

In a recent review of Beverly Jenkins’ Reconstruction-era romance Rebel, I passingly compared that novel to Octavia Butler’s already classic sf time-travel novel Kindred, but the comparison between Cole’s novel and Jenkins’s is even more apt. All three novels feature black female protagonists who move from regions of relative freedom (Butler’s heroine Dana initially resides in Los Angeles, 1976; Jenkins’s heroine Val hails from New York; and Cole’s heroine Elle initially lives free in Massachusetts) to the American South where slavery is either still practiced (as it is in Butler’s and Cole’s novels) or where it is officially abolished but continues under other guises (as it does in Jenkins’s novel). This movement of the protagonist of each novel from conditions of freedom to postures of bondage or situations of danger and real oppression help to focalize these narratives for modern readers who are invited to identify with the heroines and who are thus led into an encounter with the fictions’ dystopian presentation of systemic racism and slaveholding.

Of the two romance versions of this story-structure, Cole’s is, to me at least, the more successful as a romantic adventure. Whereas Jenkins uses romance as an idiom for exploring black histories of resistance and endurance in a way that often privileges social history over romance, Cole writes romantic intrigue in a charged historical setting that determines but is never allowed to overshadow Cole’s brilliant honing of romance tropes into multilayered national allegories of an ongoing "long" Civil War. In other words, Cole makes her historical setting, situations, MCs, and antagonists into figures that act out a moral drama of anti-racist struggle through their navigation of romance tropes that, at every turn, capture and reflect upon contemporary anti-racist struggle in the U.S.

At its most general level of allegory, the novel is built around the Civil War opposition between noble abolitionist North and recalcitrant slaveholding South. Through the thin veil of this broad division, Cole reflects on contemporary political divisions. As Elle, a Union spy with the “Loyalty League,” enacts the role of rented slave for a Virginian governor and his family, she finds herself embroiled in symbolic combat with the governor’s spoiled, petty, dangerous daughter Susie (a local “Vigilance Committee” volunteer and pampered viper); the politically-opposed women are also romantic rivals for the hero, Malcolm McCall, a Pinkerton spy and Union ally who is only pretending to woo Susie (just as Elle pretends servility before her) in order to uncover a Confederate plot in the governor’s mansion. As this carefully structured triangle suggests, Malcolm functions in the novel as a kind of desirable embodiment of white allyship, and it is the details of this position that really preoccupy the romantic couple themselves and which functions as the primary hurdle they must overcome to be together.

Initially, the two MCs do not realize the other is also a Union spy and secret ally. Malcolm is posing as a Confederate soldier, and Elle sees him as an enemy. But this misunderstanding is short lived. Malcolm’s Scottish heritage plays a key role here, as does his witnessing of an act of imperialist violence against his mother during the Highland Clearances that precipitated his family’s emigration to America. The novel does not posit anything as schematic as an equivalency of victimhoods between the Scots and African Americans, but it certainly does make the calculation that its hero’s political morality and attraction to Elle as an equal are shaped by a first-hand witnessing of the evil of unchecked power and prejudice--be it racialized or gendered. Indeed, as seems to be a hallmark of romance generally, experiences of empathy and suffering are necessary (though not always sufficient) preconditions to political egalitarianism and romantic love. The villains are monsters not just because they are formed by an environment of racism, but because--in a kind of vicious circle of exploitation and learned sociopathy--they have never learned how to be moved by the suffering of others, even if they suffer themselves. This latter qualification is important because the villains of An Extraordinary Union, though often monstrous, are rarely permitted to be merely caricatures. Cole makes a point of acknowledging the contradictions of racism, not just its immorality.

Once Elle and Malcolm get past their mutual misrecognitions, they enter a cautious partnership and throw down with some spycraft from the Remington Steele playbook. If there is a weakness in the story it is in its somewhat casual imagining of espionage, which often seems to involve just going to a party, hiding behind a plant, and hoping for the best. Maybe this is just how it works--what do I know? In any event, this didn’t bother me because the pleasures of this novel are lodged in the intricate and ingenious conjunctions of character with political allegory, and in this area it is brilliant, scathing, nuanced, and wise. The dangers that beset the MCs are alarmingly real, and the excitement that attends their secret meetings and tentative proclamations as they build trust and fall in love is genuine.

The novel is also noteworthy for its fascinating metafictional play in two areas: the longstanding denigration of romance (and genre writing generally) in relation to “real” literature and the casual or unmarked racism of many romance historicals. The latter is embodied in the toxic relationship between Susie and her mother who, together, act out a kind of grotesque parody of Southern Belle historicals--exposed here as a kind of gendered violence--the transmission of patriarchal expectations to the daughter via the mother. As is often the case here, abusers like Susie are themselves objects of sustained abuse. Does it excuse them? No. Does it make the intersectional conditions under which violence and prejudice are perpetuated visible? Damn right.

Meanwhile, Elle’s remarkable eidetic memory, which makes her a superspy, also allows Cole to slyly comment on the relations between literature and popular romance. During her years on the abolitionist circuit, prior to becoming a spy, Elle’s parents paraded her before crowds of onlookers to perform a kind of vaudeville act: reciting whole swathes of Great Works from memory. These command performances were meant to demonstrate the intelligence and equality of African Americans, but, as Elle’s own experience attests, parroting the canon like a ventriloquist’s dummy was degrading and self-alienating. In this way, Cole comments tartly on the relation between people of colour and the prestigious but largely white literary canon they are expected to venerate.

Abolitionist works like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and slave narratives like Frederick Douglass’s are also part of Elle’s repertoire, suggesting perhaps something of the canon’s mixed legacy for Cole herself, while also pointing to the canon’s constantly evolving nature: if a popular abolitionist work like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s or a slave narrative like Douglass’s are now considered “literature” then might not a popular romance like Cole’s achieve the same level of cultural respect? The shifts taking place in contemporary culture and even in the slow-to-catch-up syllabi of college and university English courses (which have gradually contributed to the legitimation of genres like science fiction and crime fiction and have for a long time now taught genre work like Butler’s Kindred alongside Mrs. Dalloway) suggest that such respect is overdue.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,658 reviews1,693 followers
August 1, 2017
I liked this book! I did. But I wanted to love it, and I didn't. Ugh, and all the pieces for me loving it were in place! Tensions over class, racial and gender divides. A romance involving characters who logistically will find it difficult to be together (white man/black woman). A badass heroine who does really cool things all while still experiencing the full range of human emotion. The idea that the heroine was black was also appealing, because my favorite genre of romance (historicals) is usually exceedingly white (both in authorship and in the characters). But this didn't quite come together for me, and it's mostly in the romance itself that I find I'm dissatisfied.

I loved the heroine, Elle, on her own. Like I mentioned previously: badass. She's a former slave who returned voluntarily to slavery in order to spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. She has an eidetic memory that she uses to great effect, and she isn't afraid to put herself in uncomfortable situations to do what needs to be done. She's also smart as hell.

Malcolm was okay on his own, I guess. I mean, he's alright. But it's been a while since I finished the book, and I honestly don't remember much about him, other than I thought his chemistry with Elle was forced. That's really my main issue here. Their romance didn't seem organic at all to me. Moments which could have felt natural felt constructed and awkward, and I don't much like to use this term, but it really a lot like instalove. They just see each other once and immediately for both of them, it's, I gotta get in them pants. No slow burn about any of this, just jumping right into the sexytimes and sorting out the getting to know you later. I don't know, I can't put my finger on it. It just didn't really work for me. By the end, I was a little more engaged in their pairing, but mostly it was just a quick, fun read that I wasn't able to get really invested in. I'm going to read the next book in the series, though, and hopefully this turns out to be a case of wrong book for me, instead of wrong author for me.

[3.5 stars]
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,674 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.