Cover Image: An Extraordinary Union

An Extraordinary Union

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Member Reviews

An Extraordinary Union is a moving book that grips you from page one and does not let you go until the very end. It takes place during the Civil War. It really digs deep into the issues of slavery and reaches to the very heart of it. It invokes emotions in the reader of anger and of deep respect for what the slaves endured and hoe they maintained their gentle spirit. 

Elle Burns is a spy who proudly works for the Union and has a deep passion to end slavery. She and her family were freed slaves before she decided to put her talent of photographic memory to good use. She gets a mission that places her undercover in the home of a Confederate Senator as a mute slave. She has to endure verbal abuse at the hands of her spoiled mistress. She also has to see men look at her as with desire that they could choose to abuse if they wanted to.  

Malcolm McCall is a detective working for the Pinkerton Secret Service. He is also undercover as a Confederate soldier. He has the ability to lie well and to gain people's trust easily. When he meets Elle, he is captivated by her beauty and spirit. The two discover that in order to complete their mission, they must work together. Despite the attraction both feel for one another their racial and cultural differences are a powerful deterrent. As they gather information to help the Union they begin a sensual relationship with one another. Malcolm also promises to always protect her and not to leave her. That promise will be kept throughout the book as they find themselves in danger many times. 

The best part of the book for me really was the development of the characters. Both had walls that had to be broken down if they were going to be together. They also had to decide that the love they felt for one another was strong enough to endure. Both proved trustworthy to one another many times throughout their partnership. I highly recommend this book but it does contain a sexual relationship that is detailed, but tastefully so. The author was well versed in Civil War facts and really captured the culture of Richmond during that time in history.
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Elle, a free woman with an eidetic memory, takes on the role of a slave in order to collect information for the union. When her path crosses with fellow spy, Malcolm, things take on a different tone.

I want to start off with the fact that I really wanted to like this book. I liked the diversity in characters. Elle, especially, was amazing character, strong and determined. Her bravery to pretend to be an slave was incredible, and I liked the bits with her spying. I've not read many stories where there is a character with her kind of memory, and I liked how it was portrayed as a curse and a blessing.

This leads me to what I didn't like. There are numerous sex scenes, which I hate. I'm also sick of just how many book characters see each other and that's it, they just have to get in the other's pants. While Malcolm and Elle are given a few occasions to really get to know each other, I was not convinced of their love.

The plot (when it doesn't revolved around how preoccupied Elle and Malcolm are with each other) moves at a nice pace. The attention to historical detail was nice.

I would recommend this to readers who like their historical fiction to be steamy. If, however, you like a clean story, this is not for you.
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I’m always on the hunt for books with POC that can spark some sort of emotion in me. When the opportunity presented itself to review An Extraordinary Union, I jumped on it. Ms. Cole delivers a blazing passionate story about two people who are forbidden to love one another. From the very first page, I held on to one of the most dangerous and exciting rides that I have been on it a very long time.

Elle Burns is a former slave turned spy for the union. She first meets the hero Malcolm McCall as she was attempting to pass on a message to her superiors. She is slightly shaken to find herself attracted to a white man but she brushes that aside. Her main focus is her job for the union. She is proud to stand up for her people in her country. She is sent on a secret mission to pass as a slave and gather intel.

Malcolm never thought he would see Elle again. They run into each other at Senator Caffrey’s house where both are pretending to be something they are not. Malcolm is immediately drawn to Elle and he doesn’t hesitate to share his feelings with her. She scoffs at the notion that a white man could and would be interested in her. The pursuit begins J

Elle is such a strong female character. I admired that she took risk throughout the whole book. She would give up her freedom to pretend to be a slave to help her fellow men. I think that exhibits such braveness. She never flinches. She can shoot, read, write and is beautiful to match. The only thing against her at this time is that she is African American.

While I loved her, I also wanted to shake her. She fought Malcolm’s advances so hard.

“Get this fool idea out of your head, McCall. I will not have you.”
But you got o love Malcolm because he still sought to shake her stubbornness down. She has cause to hold onto her reservations. Their union is so unlikely but he held fast.

“I know you don’t take me seriously, but I …I feel something when I’m with you.” He saw her face screw up, and kept talking before she could stop him. “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.” 
Malcolm is a gem. He is patient and understanding. He respects Elle and is in awe of her and even tells her so in which she replies, “I know”. She is so cheeky!

Their partnership turns into a romance that is passionate and daring. I loved how in tuned and invested they became in their relationship after a while.

The action picks up at the end and gave substance to the historical plot. I became anxious wanting to know how will Malcolm and Elle get their HEA. Overall, I am pleased with how it ended though I expected to see more of a struggle. The book closes with an introduction to Malcolm’s family. I wonder if future stories will come of them.

Ms. Cole is a gifted storyteller who knows how to bring just the perfect amount of history, action and romance to her book.

~ Samantha

Review will be posted on the blog closer to release day
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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.
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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 with 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.
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What a refreshing and feminist story! I had high expectations from the plot summary, and it definitely exceeded them! I'll be recommending this one to our library patrons for sure!
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<b> I received this book from Netgalley for my honest review.  </b>

<img src="http://www.adoptionstar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/stars1.png"/>

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>I'm a man, and because of that, more capable than you</i>!

Obviously, their relationship was impossible during the Civil War, but that didn't stop them from falling in love! And it was falling in <b>love</i> 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!
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An Extraordinary Union was a bit slow to start but when it picked up I was fully engrossed in the story and characters. 

I loved that it gave a different perspective on this part history which is usually told from white standpoint. While the hero is white the heroine is black and strong and fierce and wholly amazing. I loved that she was actively a part of the movement working towards freeing slaves rather than being on the sidelines waiting to be freed. There are no words to describe how I felt while reading this book, seeing someone who looks like me doing rather than having things done for them or standing on the sidelines waiting for emancipation to be achieved. I loved, loved, loved that Elle played such a huge roll in not only helping the cause but also in working towards freeing her people.

I also loved that despite the insurmountable things in their path not only relationship wise they were able to overcome it. I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for us in the next book.
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This is a good diverse read. It wasn't quite for me, as I was expecting more of a spy story with romance rather than a romance with a spy story. But I think it will go over well for romance fans and, of course, being written by a black woman and featuring a black heroine does make it a better option than some other titles that all run together due to their sameness.
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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 <b>need</b> to read.

Ellen Burns works as a spy for the Union. She poses as a slave 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 a black 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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You know those books where you just don't have a clear-cut opinion on them, you're kind of apathetic about them? This was one of those for me.

I loved the idea of this book, and the execution of it was good, but I just had a sort of disconnect between liking the idea and liking the main characters and their relationship. That's not to say I disliked them, but I didn't really get invested in them, and so I found it harder to like the book.

On top of that, the story seemed to drag a little. If it had dragged, but the characters had engaged me, I don't think I would have had a problem, but the combination of the two meant I was just a bit bored. Up until the end when everything started happening.

Also, the development of the relationship between the two main characters was kind of lacking. We know that Malcolm is drawn to Elle, but it seems very like a relationship based on him lusting after her - with the focus on her looks - rather than anything more concrete. In addition, he doesn't seem to know quite when to back off at times. She tells him multiple times that they can't be together, and he tells her she can trust being around him without him wanting her, but he stays around her and maybe sometimes seems to push the idea of them on her. Not in a way that felt hugely uncomfortable, thankfully, but it did feel like he wasn't respecting that maybe she knew better than he did on that topic.

Overall the book was good, but I just didn't engage with it as much as I might have.
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Full review to come but know that I am super passionate about this book and want everyone to read it.
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“An Extraordinary Union” by Alyssa Cole was a very intriguing book about people of color working with the Union as spies in the South.  Ellie Burns, a former slave, has the ability to remember with astonishing accuracy things, conversations, written words, most everything.  Her talents are greatly prized by the Union.  She is sent back into slavery in the South as a spy to garner any information that she can to help the North.  Malcolm McCall is a detective with Pinkerton who is sent to infiltrate a Southern stronghold.  Elle and Malcolm are very much attracted to each other although their liaison, since one is black and the other white, is much frowned upon in that day and age.  As the two of them work together, they discover a plot that would be disastrous to the North.  They have to work together to make sure that this plot is uncovered and destroyed.  

I found this book to be very interesting and well-written.  I enjoy novels about this time period and thought that this one in particular was intriguing because of the forbidden love of the two main characters and how they handled the situation.  

I received Kindle copy of this novel from NetGalley.com in return for my honest review.
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