This was my first Alyssa Cole book and I can safely say that I am a FAN. After reading this book, I want to read everything she has written and recommended. I am always looking to read more books by women and women of color and Cole has been on my radar based on the great reviews her books get and how well her books circulate at my library. I’m so glad I finally picked up one of her books. The premise is what got me interested in this book (and it fits a challenge requirement for me) but the writing, the story, and the characters are what kept me reading. This was an incredible historical romance and I highly recommend it.
Elle Burns is a former slave who now uses her talents of remembering everything she has ever read in explicit detail as a member of the Loyal League and a spy for the Union army. She is assigned to go undercover in the home of a confederate family and work as a slave, a role she is less than pleased with it. At the same time, Malcom McCall, a Scottish spy, is also infiltrating the family home to gather information for the Union. When Elle and Malcolm meet, they are immediately attracted to each other but realize the future of the county is more important than risking their lives to start a romance. But soon they can’t deny their feelings and find themselves hiding their true identities and their love from the world. When come across information that could change the war, they must do whatever they can to save the country and themselves.
Elle is the type of heroine we need in all books, not just romance novels. Tough, smart, resilient…I could go on. She fights for what she believes in and doesn’t quit when things get tough. She also displays vulnerability but not to the point where she doesn’t get taken seriously or needs a man to save her somehow. I thought she was very well-written and I wish Cole would write more about her in the future. Malcolm was an interesting hero-type character. I appreciated that he showed a wide range of feelings and there was depth to his character. He wasn’t just a tough guy spy with no time for emotions. He showed how much he felt for Elle without pushing her or pressuring her and loved how smart she was—-it didn’t intimidate him. In fact, the smart, tough side of Elle is what he liked most. So he is pretty much a dream man! The historical aspect of this book was great and I really liked that the characters were based on true people. It gave the actions of the book some context and put into focus how difficult an interracial relationship would have been during this time. Cole doesn’t shy away from the real issues that Elle and Malcom would have faced and instead makes it a vital part of the story. Too many times in romance novels, the characters can’t have a relationship or don’t like each other for superficial reasons. Elle’s reluctance to start a romance with Malcolm despite her attraction is justified and discussed. Not only is she black and he white, keeping themselves undercover is very important to their work and something standing in their way. The sex scenes were beautiful and well-written (no fade to black moments here) and furthered the story in a way that was refreshing. While there were only a few graphic scenes, there are several mentions of rape and talk of forcing slaves into sexual relationships so be warned if this is trigger for you. Other than that, there was nothing gratuitous in this book. There is action and drama and I was very invested in what happened to everyone in this book. It was a pleasure to read.
I highly recommend this book to fans of romance, historical fiction, or if you are just looking for a fun, romantic book to read. I will definitely be reading more Alyssa Cole in the future and look forward to it!
Author: Alyssa Cole
Rating: 5 Stars