On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown's defenses and won a decisive victory in America's fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers' stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts...
PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner
Donning men's clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs--but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.
At first she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn't changed one bit: he's annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn't belong, and he's self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She'll be lucky if he doesn't spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.
Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything...
THE PURSUIT OF... by Courtney Milan
What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.
* They attempted to kill each other the first time they met. * They're liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they're inexplicably sharing. * They are not falling in love with each other. * They are not falling in love with each other. * They are.... Oh, no.
THAT COULD BE ENOUGH by Alyssa Cole
Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like "love" and "hope": avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman's stubborn desire to preserve her late husband's legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.
When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather's stead, Mercy's resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.
Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it's not enough.
I discovered historical romance when I was twelve, and took my first stab at writing one a few years later. My prose has improved since then, but my fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. When I'm not writing and researching my own stories, or helping other authors write and research theirs over at Rose Does The Research, you can find me reading, watching, cooking, doodling, rambling, and daydreaming in Philadelphia.
I guess I'll need to make a few caveats here: firstly, that I read this as an ARC from NetGalley, courtesy of the authors, publisher and so on, in exchange for an honest review. Secondly, that I am both quite familiar with Hamilton-the-musical (see also road trip sing-alongs) and probably not a very representative fan (in that Hamilton is one of my least favourite parts of Hamilton and I find his appeal kind of baffling). So to me the fact that Hamilton is the marketing hook and the thread connecting the stories consists in Eliza spending her widowhood gathering stories from Yorktown veterans was quite insignificant and uninteresting in the larger scheme of things: the hook was in the names of the authors, two of whom I'm already very familiar with and the third whose writing I've heard some good things about.
So I was over the moon to get the ARC and it did not disappoint. On the contrary.
First of all, it's a really strong collection. I love that it combined m/f and two different queer romances (m/m and f/f). I enjoyed the way in which the stories worked with together to create a whole that was surprisingly coherent despite the very different tones of the separate stories. And I found the afterwords interesting and illuminating. And now, onto the three separate novellas.
The volume begins with Rose Lerner's Promised Land: a second chance romance between Rachel, who cross-dresses for the sake of taking part in the Revolution, and Nathan, a man from her past. The description suggests something lighter and more frivolous than what we actually get, which is a bittersweet, profound and heart-wrenching story full of emotion. It had amazing depth and the protagonists were even better than in the previous novel by Lerner I've read. They were extremely relatable, deeply sympathetic and yet completely human and imperfect. I loved how their conflict and relationship were depicted: I think second-chance can be a balancing act between trying to show that characters made a mistake not being together, so the hurt they'd wrought wasn't quite their fault or that deep, and yet making it believable that they didn't stay together in the first place, and often the result is that the cause of the break up may feel trivial. In this case, the past hurt is real but the affection is real as well. It was impressively filled with angst but done just right: I rooted for the characters and for the romance a lot, because of how hurt they were rather than despite it.
In addition, I can't not gush about the way in which Lerner wrote the physicality of the characters. The desire was believable and palpable and yet utterly non-gratuitous. There was so much eroticism with no objectification. It was beautiful, and I particularly liked how Lerner managed to actually subvert cliched attractiveness tropes (rather than, say, writing about a supposedly not beautiful character who, as we are told at every turn, is actually very conventionally attractive with a single flaw that's not really a flaw) and write features like bodily hair with love and without othering.
Finally, I loved the way Lerner wrote Jewishness in the story. It was integral, rounded the characters and the world they lived in well and was given so much care and attention and affection. Overall, this was one of my favourite Rose Lerner stories and one of the best romances I've read this year.
The second novella was by Courtney Milan. In Pursuit Of was much funnier and lighter than I'd have expected from the description or premise. Its story about Henry, a privileged, neuroatypical [I think?] white British aristocrat who can't stop talking (or lying) and John, an insightful and witty former slave, utterly unimpressed but amused despite himself, was delightful, gripping and just so adorable. It also featured some of the best unresolved sexual tension I've read in ages, and I don't say that lightly. The pining, it was real. I found the structure of the story a little uneven towards the end, and the way we got to the resolution didn't quite work for me, but it's a minor quibble - it's absolutely Courtney Milan at her very, very good if not necessarily best (that, for the record, would be The Suffragette Scandal, for me).
Also there was cheese. The cheese, it was amazing. (Must have been goat cheese, right?)
The third novella, by Alyssa Cole, entitled That Could Be Enough, unfortunately didn't impress me quite as much. There was a lot to love in it, but the pacing and the way in which information was revealed didn't grip me. The story follows an excellent pair of characters, reserved Mercy and glamorous Andromeda, two free Black women in post-Civil War New York. The way their life in New York and the social advancement and their emotions - anger and hope - are written felt really interesting and believable. I enjoyed how their struggle against upbringing and past hurt in Mercy's case, and present discrimination in Andromeda's, was an integral part of the story. But - and your milage may absolutely vary here - for me the romance was strangely abrupt, the conflict fabricated, the love a little flat. In addition, it was the only novella where I felt there were some editing issues (one scene had a strange shift in POV that I suspect was simply a mistake in names in chapter 8 - unless I'm very confused by what is happening in the flashback and whose parents are doing what - and a minor typo or two - but of course I'm reading the ARC, so this may be gone by the time the final version is published).
All the same, there were some lovely similes and turns of phrases in this novella that I enjoyed a lot, particularly in Mercy's POV, when she uses her literary talents to think about her own feelings; it's just that the romance didn't tug on my heartstrings like I'd wanted it to.
My final verdict is a sincere recommendation: if you don't really care about Hamilton all that much, a historical romance reader will still find a lot to love in this collection. And if you love Hamilton the musical / Hamilton the character, like the authors clearly do, I suspect you'll enjoy this even more than I did.
And now I wish I had someone to talk to about this book some more... Waiting for it to be properly published will be a drag.
A linked set of romance novellas off the hook of Hamilton's widow looking for reminiscences of her husband.
I absolutely loved Rose Lerner's story about a woman who fakes her own death to flee her miserable marriage, joins the army in men's clothing, and is reunited with her husband when he turns out to be spying for the Patriots in her memory. It's a brilliant romance about a forthright, prickly woman seething with resentment about the treatment of both women and Jews, and a man who really is difficult and not in a romance hero way. He's nervous and his nerves make him self centred, he's religious and doesn't see how oppressive his beliefs can be. He's even shorter than her and how often do you see that? The story of how Nathan learns and grows and digs in to find courage and decency for love is brilliantly done and entirely convincing. Plus this is an own voices story of a Jewish community that makes no concessions to the non-Jewish gaze, and you get a dramatic tense war backdrop too. Absolutely loved it; worth the cover price on its own.
Courtney Milan's m/m was light, sweet and funny, but perhaps suffered by coming next to such a raw, emotional, real story. I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I'd read it separately, on its own terms.
Alyssa Cole's f/f is an emotional story of two black women, Mrs Hamilton's unhappy, repressed servant and a confident entrepreneur. I didn't entirely connect at first (it's an instant-attraction sort of thing which is a trope I find exceptionally hard to buy into), but the story takes off once the characters get to know each other, and the historical atmosphere and details are superbly done.
First of all, I have to say that despite how much I enjoyed the lesbian story that concludes this valuable trio of historical romance, I think I did myself a disservice by starting with it. It wasn't until I'd read the other two stories that I realized that the woman who stars in it, Mercy, is a framing device for the other two stories. In other words, the premise of the collection is that Alexander Hamilton's widow is searching for reminiscences of his days on the battlefield, and her secretary, a lonely and exceptionally gifted writer, is helping her correspond with his former wartime colleagues. We see Mercy first as just the writer on an enclosed letter; then we see her in person in the epilogue to the second story as an alluring, haunted figure, but finally in the final story she takes the stage and comes into the sunlight.
And I missed out on all those chills by skipping straight to the lesbians! But you know what? It's still okay to skip straight to the lesbians. Bad choice of words but I'm writing this on Shabbat and feeling sassy.
So, first of all, you don't have to be a Hamilton-The-Musical fan to be into this book. I still haven't listened to it yet. What you do need is an interest in historical romance about marginalized orientations and ethnicities that doesn't revolve entirely around our oppression--while not ignoring its presence, of course.
As a bisexual woman, I also like the fact that this collection includes m/f, m/m, and f/f. Separating m/f off in its own little "normal romance" parlor (as another author once misspoke to me in person; that’s certainly not the way I feel) only serves to alienate bi people and also helps nonqueer people ignore our existence, which in many cases contributes to our dehumanization. Not that anyone queer should be pressured to read nonqueer m/f, but this particular story is a giant pushback against gender roles and even if you skip it, the other two stories really are worth it all on their own.
Reading Jewish historical fiction that has nothing to do with You Know What I Mean ::vague handwave:: is such a relief for me. We have all these years of tradition and existence, in all the great adventures of history and in a variety of costumes, yet we are often distilled down to our most recent and thorough calamity. To the point where some gentiles genuinely think it was the only time in history we were ever hassled. But that's beside the point. Reading something set in 1770's America -- or 1820's London, or 1400's Hungary -- is a joy and a relief and a validation for me. And it's neat to see what our traditions look like against the more-common-in-fiction gentile backgrounds of the period.
Rose Lerner's Promised Land is about a woman who leaves her husband with the help of the mother-in-law who never liked her; she fakes her own death and joins the American Revolution as a dude. One day, she catches him British-spying in their camp. Oops! Romance novel ensues. And we know it has a happy ending not just because of genre conventions but because of the framing device set during their golden years, when they're telling the story to Hamilton's widow's secretary.
They weren't that great as a couple when they were first married, but they sizzle now. That happens when people still need time to grow.
Their “present day” (i.e. wartime) chemistry has the feel of His Girl Friday banter--
"Wait, am I the British in this analogy? As in, you heroically claimed your freedom from my tyrannical rue?" No, because he was a nebekh who couldn't stand up to his mother. "No, wait, my mother is the British, and I'm... Canada?"
Aaaaand, I screamlaughed.
"Nathan searched for a word to explain Rachel's infuriatingly uncompromising, burning sureness. This goy [gentile; it literally means 'nation', with connotations of 'everyone else'] wouldn't understand '"tzadeikes," and its English equivalent "righteous" was too silly to say out loud." I run into this all the time IRL, in which I can't use the Jewish phrase because then I sound conspicuously ethnic but then the English phrase makes me feel silly and wind up sounding like a Live Love Laugh stereotype. SO relatable!
"she said, I want to be American. He'd thought she meant, I don't want to be a Jew anymore. It had never occurred to him a person could be both." It goes on to discuss a lot of what went into the Reform movement in general -- how to keep a thousands of years old tradition yet merge them with the realities of living in a modern society? I'm grateful for those who came before me to handle those challenges and balances, because it's thanks to them that I can give myself fully to Jewishness without compromising a lot of the other things that are important to me.
Another line in the book that spoke to me: "I like that Jewishness is about what you do, and not how much you say you believe God in your heart." If a gentile reads this book and truly understands that line, maybe they'll be less likely to get confused over how Jewish atheism or agnosticism exists.
I also liked the line "until her face stopped trying to cry." I've always resented the fact that my facial muscles do that no matter how badly I want them to stop, so seeing even something that minor put into words is validating.
Nathan's become the kind of romance hero a queer feminist like me needs in her m/f because by the end he's the one man in Rachel's life who doesn't think he has the right as her husband to be the deciding vote on whether or not she's allowed to be in the army. (“She’s Corporal Mrs. Mendelsohn now!”)
And of course I enjoyed this subtle affectionate dig at the Kaddish: "His name be glorified and embellished and covered in gold leaf with little flourishes drawn round it, &c., &c."
Also, Nathan is shorter than Rachel and I swear even as feminists this seems to be a thing we have trouble accepting in m/f couples? Unless maybe at least one of them is trans? And I don't know even then. It is seriously hard to pick all of the bits of patriarchy out of your teeth even when you’ve done with chewing it up and spitting it out.
I did have a few places I stumbled as a reader that would make me give this story my “recommend with caveats” four star review rather than five stars if it were published on its own: first of all, like many other “cis woman disguised as man because women aren't allowed to do stuff” stories, there's the obligatory scene where some of her friends are demanding to see her wang. Thank God it never actually comes to that, because she sneaks off and gets Hamilton himself in on the secret verbally, but it's still something that makes trans people uncomfortable for obvious reasons (sexual harassment and genital-centrism being the ones that come to mind.) I did appreciate that she was able to pass off her reluctance to drop her pants as being self-conscious partially about being circumcised, because it's one of the details that made the story so unmistakably Jewish.
The other thing that makes it a difficult story for me personally is that I feel like the narration of the story invites the reader to concentrate more on Nathan's growth as a character than on Rachel's, even though they've both grown – he had to learn to give her space, but in some cases, her response to feeling smothered initially was, like, really mean. I mean I guess it's a sign of her understandable immaturity at nineteen or whatever but instead of asking for space she was deliberately cruel to him.
Besides, her not loving him – she married him initially to escape poverty – was not something him being more considerate of her needing space would have changed. They stop needing space from each other once they actually both fall in mutual love. So maybe the moral is don't put people in positions where feel pressured to accept your advances for non-emotional reasons?
It's a cute story, trust me. And all this wank and drama about boundaries really doesn't affect the present-day interaction all that much, other than him deliberately thinking about whether or not certain comments or questions of his would constitute giving her breathing room or not. I do like it when my m/f includes badass women in men's clothing, as those of you who have read Mangoverse can probably imagine. There's a scene where they have frantic, very sensually charged sex while he's imprisoned and hoo dilly, I need to go reread that part.
Incidentally, kudos to Lerner for some bold and awesome flag-waving in the face of antisemitic tropes. First of all, Nathan's nose is called handsome, outright. Yes. Thank you. Plus, rather than running away from negative tropes, Lerner puts them right there on the page and then humanizes them as three-dimensional characters. Rachel has made herself pass for a man and is aggressive and strong-willed, as our women are accused of being – but she's also got an incredibly poignant vulnerable streak. Nathan didn't stand up to his mom – but he actually kind of did, because all she did was talk and he still did what he wanted. Plus, his ideology changed as he became more of an American Patriot in response to losing Rachel, since it was something she cared about. And despite not arguing with his mom he's definitely not a coward because he's up to some pretty daring shenanigans in the war.
I think it's important that literature and portrayals like this exist, because it's tempting to oversimplify and say “no more wimpy Jewish men” or “no more loudmouthed, opinionated, unfeminine Jewish women.” That's not it. Where does that leave actual people who fit that description? Yes, they “have rep already” but they really don't, because some oppressive dreck in which that's their single personality note is not going to validate even them. Life has nuance and so does this story. (I've seen this argument made about polyamorous and/or horny bisexual characters, because making every bi character a monogamous person who's not that interested in sex is not the right way to fix the problem.)
(tl;dr Nathan isn't actually wimpy.)
The m/m story The Pursuit of Happiness was the one in the collection that made me the happiest, and not because I'm any great reader of m/m -- in fact, it's rarely on my list, and when it is, it's usually by men. So this speaks to the high quality of Courtney Milan's storytelling -- and most of the reason was her character Henry. He's hilarious and adorable and hapless and strikes this amazing note of sad-funny that was everything I needed at the moment. At parts, I laughed loudly enough to scare the cat. (Like when Henry just blurts out that he’s gay in the most inappropriate way possible. But so earnestly and honestly.)
He's neurodivergent, possibly ADHD (in a world without a name for it), and talks nonstop and goes on tangents and just really badly wants to enjoy life and be loved despite having some pretty painful blobs of hurt in his history. I love his determination to live and thrive despite rejection and struggling and homophobia and ablism and just that simple human fear of not being liked. I know what it's like to live with pain and want to have fun anyway. I just found him thoroughly adorable.
To give an example of Milan's thought processes for Henry: "Technically, it had been after the redoubt was surrendered, but not by much. If that wasn't the heat of battle, it was perhaps the warmth of it." And then, when he's posing as a cheesemonger for plot reasons, he responds to a rejection of his wares with "I'm not here to mong my cheese at you." Followed by an internal consideration of whether or not that was even a real word.
I also like that the author, who is biracial and non-Black, managed to write a historical romance between a Black man and a white man without asking the Black hero to compromise his self-respect for the white hero's sensibilities or feelings. Henry doesn't automatically do or say everything perfectly the first time, but he responds to call-ins by listening, admitting where he needs improvement, and changing it.
John, the Black hero, is also an awesome character; serious in contrast with Henry’s ridiculousness, he’s driven to reunite with his sister and willing to walk across states to get back to her. You may rest assured as a reader that the book is not going to stick a knife in you there.
Talking about marginalized people -- disabled, people of color, queer people, etc. -- in the context of the American revolution leads to some pretty heavy philosophizing. Milan put it into words here, in Henry's dismay that the revolutionaries he'd hoped would be more idealistic and therefore less full of rules, were "exactly like the British Army, down to the sneers." Anyway, the line, which, take this in your heart for a moment and savor it if you're American, because we kind of need this right now: "Maybe sewing stars and stripes atop a flawed fabric didn't change the cloth."
We all need a bath.
Anyway: this story also amused me by pointing out the illogic in shipping off a gay son into the army in order to squash his homosexuality. I mean, it sounds so tragic for like five seconds until both men started making fun of it for an entire page, and reading their exchange made me feel so much better about our history. Not that it was all roses, but there are some roses on top of the fucking thorns, thankyouverymuch.
And now, without further ado, the Black lesbian romance review, copied and pasted from where it originally appeared on the Lesbrary blog!
That Could Be Enough, Alyssa Cole’s lesbian offering in the early American romance collection Hamilton’s Battalion, is everything a gentle historical f/f romance should be. Both characters, Mercy the servant/secretary and Andromeda the dressmaker, are fully fleshed out even within the novella’s small scope — it feels fully complete and I truly felt like I watched their courtship unfold even though it’s less than a hundred pages (in my Kindle app, anyway.)
The skeleton is your basic “woman has been hurt Really Badly and finally opens up to love again despite all her fears” trope, but the prose is so approachable and the characters so vividly painted that it felt completely fresh to me. When Mercy first sees Andromeda in the doorway of the house where she works, she’s affected in a soul-claiming way that I don’t often see represented in the romances I read but have definitely experienced in the presence of a gorgeous and captivating lady.
Mercy’s a poet, but she shut all of that down because of the way a previous girlfriend treated her poetry as part of a cruel, fatalistic breakup. “There’d been a time,” Cole writes, “when she’d felt beautiful things acutely.” This is someone who’s natural personality wants to appreciate and worship all the glories the world has to offer, but can we blame her for being terrified and walled-in after such treatment, and with nobody else in her life – before Andromeda – contradicting her ex’s pronunciations about the fate of queer lives? However, when she starts emerging from her shell again, the poem Cole gave her to write is truly beautiful. I’d put it in the review, but I want you to discover it for itself ;-P
In this respect Cole herself is a bit like Mercy, inasmuch as she did some truly stunning things with language. For example, close to the story’s opening, Mercy accidentally wrote “Yearned” in her diary when she was too tired to stop herself. The next morning, she scratches it out, in progressive horizontal lines compared to a wall, and replaces it with “Slept.” That’s some powerful imagery right there. We feel her sense of perpetual retreat.
I also really liked the scene where Andromeda whisks Mercy away to something truly cool that the local Black community is working on, something that feels so in tune with Mercy’s own interests that there’s narration about how “seen” she feels, by Andromeda’s choice. I can relate to that a lot; being truly seen is high on my list of things that I’m hoping will get me out of my current, Mercylike frame of mind, romantically.
It does contain That Old Standard Trope where someone believes the worst and doesn’t ask for clarification, but from misunderstanding to pain to happy resolution there really aren’t that many pages and honestly I can’t say I’d have behaved any better in her place because when you’re scared of rejection, asking frankly is… difficult.
Andromeda is clever and enterprising and devoted to her community, especially to her fellow Black women, and Mercy is sweet and deserves lots of pampering and reassurance and validation after the kind of self-denial in which she’s been wallowing.
Author Alyssa Cole did her research and shows us a dainty, yet earnest portrait of what life might have been like for two relatively fortunate queer Black women in the early days of America. We queer women deserve a part in the costume drama world that dazzles many of our imaginations. So do Black women, not that I can speak for them, obviously. Cole’s plot solution/resolution is completely realistic, which makes it far more enjoyable for me because it’s easier for me, personally, to enthusiastically embrace a happy ending if it’s set up to be a plausible one.
That Could Be Enough fulfills its mission. The setup and resolution affirm that yes, while the road has never been a guaranteed red carpet, it has always been possible for WoC and those of us who are queer to have a far more decent life than the hungry eyes of non-queer white literature with its appetite for exploitative tragedy would have us believe.
Incidentally, the story does contain some bits here and there that will probably make more sense to people more familiar with the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life, but I was mostly able to piece together from context what Mercy’s inner voice was thinking about and don’t worry if they lose you anyway; they’re not key to enjoying the story itself. (He’s not even alive anymore when the story takes place.)
I don’t remember this having any of the most common triggers I usually warn for. It does have a sex scene, so if that’s your preference, enjoy!
America in 2017 and America in 1781 aren't so dissimilar. Brutal and heinous and unjust. Yet for all her ugliness, America is also beautiful and resilient and hopeful. This anthology captures that essence. It reminded me that while America may be messy, she is mine. And she is worth fighting for.
Unless they are revisiting an established couple, I don’t usually rate novellas 5 stars. The reason is simple: I’m greedy. I want more development than a novella can deliver. And, truth be told, I felt that each story was somewhat hindered by the shortened length. Each had uneven and shaky aspects. Overall, though, this was an inspiring and refreshing imagining of Americans who survived, thrived, and loved.
PROMISED LAND Rose Lerner
His eyes widened. “Your husband? Who, Mendelson? But he’s-“ She didn’t want to know how that sentence ended. Shorter than you-nervous-so Jewish-an annoying chatterbox. “Yes,” she said tightly, to all of them. “And I am damned if I will sit in camp in a cursed petticoat instead of trying to get in there and fetch him back out.”
I enjoyed how Lerner turned a commonly used estranged spouses trope on its head. Rachel, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Continental army, hadn’t been pining away for Nathan, her stubborn husband who remained loyal to the Crown. She wanted – needed – more from life, and she was determined to get it. When Nathan and Rachel reunite at the battle of Yorktown, the subsequent reckoning and reconciliation were both hurtful and hopeful. And while there were moments in the romance that fell flat or dull, others were humorous and heartfelt. The ring? Pretty much perfect.
I found the descriptions of Judaism engrossing, sometimes more engrossing than the romance. Both Lerner’s story and afterword provided a fascinating glimpse into Jewish history in early America - the traditions, the beliefs, what “being a Jew” meant for both Rachel and Nathan. I’d love to read more (hint, hint). This may sound trite, but I promise that while this was my first Rose Lerner story, it won’t be my last.
THE PURSUIT OF... Courtney Milan
"I don't know how to measure the length of my wanting. Until the stars die and empires fall." Henry smiled, his heart too full. "Until all men are treated as equal," he whispered. "Until everyone is allowed life, liberty, and the pursuit of..." He trailed off. Happiness was not enough to describe his emotion.
Witty and winsome and wonderful. John and Henry are richly drawn characters, and I fell hard for them. John, whose father was also his master and sold his mother, doesn’t shy away from confronting the inherent hypocrisy in America's founding. Henry, the British officer and wealthy noble, doesn’t shy away from examining his privilege. For that reason, this story resonated particularly strongly with me. I loved the candidness. “Maybe sewing stars and stripes atop a flawed fabric didn’t change the cloth.”
As hard as I fell for Henry and John separately, I fell even harder for Henry and John together. They find value in each other where others couldn’t and wouldn’t. I literally started sweating with each subsequent letter that they traded, and I got the stuuupidest smile (and sense of relief) when John showed up on his doorstep. They were beyond endearing. I only wish that we had more.
Although an avid reader of Milan’s Twitter feed, I’ve only made a small dent in her catalogue. I now realize that I need to rectify this immediately! And while this is her first foray into m/m, I hope it is not her only.
THAT COULD BE ENOUGH Alyssa Cole
“Each dark brown mark had filled Mercy with an unexplained joy. She hadn’t kissed them, but she’d run her fingertips over them – as she had over every part of Andromeda – and felt a brief rush of bravery. The feeling that it was okay to be hurt, again and again, by our own recklessness. Perhaps that’s what life was, and hiding from it as Mercy had been doing was living a half life.”
Achingly beautiful. Having read Let It Shine and An Extraordinary Union, I was already a fan of Alyssa Cole’s work. I find it passionate and poignant. This was a slower story, removed in time and proximity from the battlefield settings of the first two tales. It also devoted a bit more page time to the romance.
And what a lovely romance it was. This was the first f/f love story that I have read, and I found the love story was just as, well, lovable. Mercy’s pain was haunting in its relatability. Watching the dashing Andromeda – who was vulnerable as well as brave– be the spark that reignited Mercy’s fire? Once again, it was achingly beautiful.
I’m not going to lie. Cole’s afterword made me teary-eyed. I thought back to the hopelessness and the devastation that I felt – and still feel – after the 2016 presidential election. Yet I took comfort in the persistent spirit. Cole's reminder about marginalized groups never seemed more apt: “They hope, though common sense may tell them not to, and sometimes America is worthy of that hope.”
The presence of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton is felt in each story. This anthology will have to tide me over until Hamilton comes to my city of Cleveland next year (and I spend the morning that tickets are released with browsers open on a laptop, iPad, Kindle, and cell phone, furiously refreshing Playhouse Square's webpage for tickets).
Promised Land is easily one of the best novellas ever. I'm baffled by lower marks on it, frankly, although I know I get along with Rose Lerner's style. 5 stars. To a novella? It's a second chance where a Jewish American couple reunites outside the battle of Yorktown. When they reunite, Rachel has chosen her love of country over her love of Nathan, her loquacious, slight, beautiful and annoying husband. It was quite emotional, idealistic and wonderful. It's a 5 star novella. I believe I have 2 of those of all that I've ever read. They are dirty, they are tired, they don't know how to trust each other but they really really want to.
Unfortunately, the results are descending. I loved the collection, but almost wish I'd read them separately (though I did space then well enough)
For The Pursuit Of... By Courtney Milan I give 4 stars. A remarkably upbeat sparkly little novella with trademark Milan humor and ideals. Again, Henry a British officer is loquacious, and upbeat and meets his match in John Hunter, a black man trying to make his way back to his sister. What results is a compelling philosophical journey and a really strong novella. 4*
And... That Could Be Enough
Alyssa Cole writes some of the best historicals set in the US. I often find them so jam packed with plot I feel that the romance doesn't shine as a central piece. Here, it felt weirdly stilted, brought on by insta love and progressing into the exchange of feeling. I think this needed a longer format because I enjoyed the characters but it was paced all wrong for me. 3*
OK THIS IS ACTUALLY ELEVENTY BILLION STARS, NOT FIVE AS INDICATED ABOVE.
Since this review is basically a keysmash, I'll just skip to the end and tell you that:
1) it really is as good as you'd expect from the plot summaries and authors;
2) it is QUEER and WONDERFUL and @@*(#$)@#U@#)U;
3) the first novella, Promised Land, FUCKED ME UP. As in, I cried. A lot. Multiple times, while reading it. Had to take breaks. Because...
4) I am a girl who talks too much and has a whole, whole lot of emotional baggage and shame wrapped up in that. Each one of these novellas had a hero/ine carrying some version of that baggage. If this is you, too, think about buying some tissues when you buy this book. And definitely, definitely buy it.
5) I'm sorry, I honestly don't understand how it is even possible that everyone in the world has not bought this book already because ALYSSA COLE WROTE US QUEER HISTORICAL BLACK LADIES.
7) Tropes. Exceptionally talented authors playing with so many juicy, delicious, beautifully done tropes. Cross-dressing! Bed sharing! Road trip! Secret identities! He thought she was dead but THERE SHE IS!
I'm going to take a deep breath and maybe read it again. Truly, though, if you haven't bought this one yet, do yourself a favor and go do that now.
A copy was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
I found these romance novellas very satisfying as romances, and loved the collection as a whole. Each of the stories was very high quality, which is rare in my experience of novella collections, though not surprising given the tremendous talents involved. I really appreciated that this collection was cross orientation; it was amazing to read these stories as connected to each other.
I read this on the strength of the authors, not for the concept in particular. I haven't seen Hamilton, read the books or listened to the music, so I can't speak to how satisfying this might be to Hamilton fans.
Promised Land by Rose Lerner (m/f; heroine is crossdressing for the bulk of the story)
I really enjoyed this; it was my first book by this author, who I have been wanting to read for some time. I fell very hard for both the main characters, who were drawn incredibly deeply and beautifully. The romance arc was complex and lovely, and it was so deeply Jewish in a way that just made me so happy as a Jewish reader. I liked that the MCs had very different relationships to Judaism, and complex Jewish identities. I liked the hero's arc especially, the way he came to realize how he had been moving from privilege and selfishness and hadn't seen his wife as clearly as he thought he had. This novella didn't fall into most of the common cissexist tropes that often occur with crossdressing stories, which I was glad for. It made it safer for me, as a trans reader. With one notable exception: Promised Land does have a potential peril of a gender reveal scene, with discussion of looking at genitalia. It's handled fairly well, and there is no naked reveal moment. I do wish that it had not gone this route, which seemed mainly to point out misogyny and to raise the stakes. (And perhaps because it's an expected element of a crossdressing story.) I'd really love it if there were crossdressing stories that did not include these scenes at all.
In Pursuit Of... by Courtney Milan (m/m)
This is lovely. I enjoyed it a lot. All the hallmarks of my favorite Courtney Milan romances: amazing sparky beginning, great chemistry, deeply nuanced characterization, wonderful dialogue and language, a conflict that seems almost impossible to resolve, and a very satisfying romance arc. The first half of this novella was totally the best thing about a truly terrible day. I read Henry as having ADHD, and appreciated this characterization, which felt complex and like so much of it was about coming to self acceptance and unpacking the ableist messages he'd been raised with. I love how cheese plays into this story, the way that it shifted into an epistolary romance, how the white MC isn't let off the hook for his complicity with white supremacy, the way the story held the complexity of John's feelings about the U.S., and his relationship with his family. It doesn't handwave things away or try to make them simple or easy, which I really appreciated, especially given the timing of this book and the current state of the U.S.
That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole
I loved this story so much; it was my personal favorite in the collection, and one of my favorite f/f books, period. I fell really hard for Mercy, who tried so hard to protect herself from pain, had such intense emotional armor. I loved watching her slowly build trust and connection and let herself feel. It was gorgeous to witness, and I really felt that Andromeda was such a good match for her. I was rooting for them so much as a couple. I really enjoyed the way letters were woven into the story; I love epistolary romances, and this one was so satisfying. I liked Andromeda very much, and loved the way she thought through design in the story, that aspect of her characterization was wonderful. This was a beautiful romance to close the book on; I liked the way it wove in the other two stories.
Overall, this collection was wonderful, and I am so glad I read it. I know it was the first m/m for Milan, and the first f/f for Cole, and I hope they continue to write in those subgenres. The collection as a whole felt very connected and was extremely strong. I loved how each of the stories centered marginalized characters in a historical period that often is portrayed as extremely white, heterosexual and gentile. This collection of historical romances does that in a way that's deeply political and timely, raising questions about freedom and white supremacy that are very relevant today. It also offers incredibly satisfying romances that are intensely compelling and hit me right in the feels. It balances these things beautifully, and that is no small feat.
This book is actually three novellas, all written under the umbrella premise of Eliza Hamilton collecting stories about her husband, Alexander, in service of recording his legacy. I enjoyed all three of the novellas, but I definitely enjoyed Courtney Milan's the most (not really surprised there). I'm also not really surprised that I enjoyed Alyssa Cole's the least, as I've not had great luck with her books in the past. But overall, this is a solid trio of romances, set in a time period I don't usually read romances in.
"Promised Land" by Rose Lerner — 4/5 stars
This one was super surprising! I hadn't read anything by Rose Lerner yet, though I've got one of her series on my TBR. It was pretty unique. You read the premise, and you think you know what you're in for—woman disguises herself as male soldier, runs into husband who thought her dead, who has been secretly fighting for the—except, this felt like one of the least tropey things I've ever read. Rachel is Jewish, first off, and it's so rare to encounter a Jewish romance heroine, let alone one in a historical time period. There were all kinds of people in history who weren't white, but most of them are erased and forgotten. (This collection is aiming to do the opposite.) She was also a pretty angry individual, which came across as very refreshing. This is a second chance romance, with her husband Nathan (also the antithesis of your usual romance hero, being short and very Jewish, and not Typically Alpha Man Heroic). They have genuine issues to work out before they get their happy ending, and it was sort of agonizing!
"In Pursuit Of . . ." by Courtney Milan — 4.5/5 stars
This was so adorable I can't even stand it. I think it might be one of my favorite things Courtney Milan has written, at least since The Countess Conspiracy, which is still my favorite book of hers. The combination of humor and pathos was just perfectly balanced for me. One hero is taciturn, the other won't shut up, and they have to travel hundreds of miles with one another, back when that took months. And there's this thing with cheese that I can't really explain? I was genuinely worried there at the end, because our heroes have a lot of obstacles in their way, until I remembered that romance novels (novellas, whatever) always contain the promise of a HEA. Anyway, I was practically cackling from glee the whole time I read this. Nice antidote for the angst from the Rose Lerner one.
"That Could Be Enough" by Alyssa Cole — 3/5 stars
Sigh. I just. I WANT TO LIKE THIS AUTHOR'S STUFF. And about halfway through, I did get more into it. I just had suuuch a hard time connecting with the two main characters. Mercy (who works for Eliza Hamilton) and Andromeda (who owns her own dress shop) seem like good characters to me on paper, but in practice, I found Mercy to be too far on the stodgy end, and Andromeda to be too far on the bubbly/quirky end, almost as if they were caricatures. Neither of them felt real to me. I don't know, guys. And then she skipped the sexy times!!! I liked that one book Cole wrote, but all her others have been chemistry misses for me. Should I just give up? I don't want to!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not that familiar with Alexander Hamilton. In my defense, I’m Canadian, so he’s not a historical figure I had to learn about in school (if anything, it would have been the British side of the American War of Independence). However, there’s no denying that the extremely popular musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the revolution Mr. Hamilton was part of have inspired the writers of this set of novellas to imagine their characters as part of a resistance to the status quo – a world where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is meant to apply to all. In their hands one gets a taste of what it might mean to risk your life for that kind of future, with the added bonus that each of the diverse couples finds love along the way.
Promised Land by Rose Lerner Rachel left an unfulfilling marriage behind and joined the revolution, disguising herself as a man and rising in the ranks of the Continental army. She never expects to come across her husband, whom she believes is a Loyalist spy (and who thought she was dead!). Their marriage was one of convenience not love but in the dangerous and uncertain times they find themselves in, their second chance could be all the sweeter if they’re willing to try again.
This is an interesting story as Rachel and Nathan’s Jewish faith is key to their characters and the reason Rachel has joined the fight. It doesn’t shy away from the parts of their marriage that were less than ideal, and the fact that Rachel faked her death and had no plans to seek out Nathan means this isn’t a reunion romance of two long lost lovers -in fact, it’s quite the opposite. They both made mistakes in their fledgling marriage, ones they are willing to own up to now. And this honesty leads to a new intimacy for them and shared goals. The details of army camp life are stark but not depressing. The battle scenes are intense without being overwhelming, and full of factually believable details. You really feel as if you are in the thick of camp life and fighting for a just cause. In the end, Rachel and Nathan come to appreciate the changes in each other during their time apart, enabling them to find faith and love and start their marriage journey anew.
The Pursuit of….by Courtney Milan When Corporal John Hunter, part of the Black Regiment of soldiers under Hamilton’s command encounters Mr. Henry Latham, British army deserter in the heat of battle, they fight, but in the end, go their separate ways. Well, until Henry seeks out John days later and offers to accompany him on his journey home to find his sister. They are an unlikely pair – a slave freed for joining the army, and the son of a British Lord. Can they find the common ground that will enable them to have a lasting relationship?
In contrast to the first story, this one has a lot more humor, though still with spikes of sharp truths from John’s painful background as a black man and a slave. Along with the sharing of a hideous block of cheese, John and Henry trade details of their lives and defend each other when needed, all on the way to a fast friendship, and then more. The contrast in their backgrounds couldn’t be more different and for both, being gay is just another aspect that makes them wary of their peers yet drawn to each other. Though it seems that there really isn’t a way for them to get a happy ending together, it comes together in a sweet and very satisfactory way. This is a lovely, funny, opposites attract romance.
That Could be Enough by Alyssa Cole After Hamilton’s death, his wife Eliza is collecting tales of those who served under him, including the stories of those in the first two novellas in the collection. Mercy Alston is a black woman who serves in Mrs. Hamilton’s household, a maid who also takes notes during the soldiers’ interviews. When Andromeda Stiel, a black seamstress who has her own dressmaking business comes to tell her grandfather’s story, Mercy doesn’t know what to make of her, except that the attraction she feels for Andromeda is unnerving. Andromeda is clear that her interest in Mercy is not going to fade, but will it be enough to convince Mercy to give her a chance?
Another opposites attract romance, this one has two black women who come from different family backgrounds. Andromeda had the love and support she needed to become a successful businessman woman, no mean feat for a black woman while Mercy grew up as an orphan when her parents died of a fever. Though both were not slaves, the sting of oppression for not being white is still keenly felt. Having experienced a painful end to her last relationship, Mercy is the one who is wary of what Andromeda is really offering her. I loved seeing her open up to the lively and determined Andromeda and though they have a few ups and downs, they get a delightfully happy ending.
This anthology cashes in on the popularity of Hamilton with a trio of love stories against the backdrop of characters marginalized by race, religion, and sexuality. I haven’t seen the musical that has captured the hearts of so many, but you really don’t need to be familiar with it to understand what’s going on here. Eliza Hamilton is collecting stories from her husband’s soldiers after his death about their history with him. Hamilton, the Yorktown, and the Revolutionary are the threads that hold the novellas together.
The first story is “The Promised Land” by Rose Lerner. Rachel is a woman posing as a man to fight in the war. She faked her own death to free herself from marriage to a man she didn’t love. She is Jewish, which is important to her, but just as important is the idea of being an American. But her ruse is put in jeopardy when her husband shows up at her camp.
Nathan is shocked to find his wife is alive after all these years. He’s been working as a spy for the American forces, inspired by the ideals his wife had before her “death.” Now that he sees she’s alive, he wants to win her back. Though part of her cares for him, Rachel doesn’t want to give up her ideals or go back to the life she walked away from all those years ago.
This story is very steeped in Jewish culture. I struggled a little with the wealth of words and cultural references I didn’t know. Though as the story went on, it all melted into the bigger picture. My big issue was that I just didn’t like the heroine. I understand that she was unhappy in her marriage and that Nathan wasn’t an ideal husband, but it was hard for me to sympathize with her when she talked about hating him for loving her… for resenting his efforts to make her happy. I found myself rooting for their HEA simply because I wanted Nathan to be happy.
This was my first experience with this author and while I appreciate reading a perspective that’s underrepresented in the genre, I just didn’t connect well with this one.
Courtney Milan’s “The Pursuit Of…” was a whole different story. I absolutely adored this m/m short about a freed slave who begrudgingly falls in love with a man he saved on the battlefield. The only thing John is interested in is his family. It’s the reason he fought for America and it’s the reason he has to rush back to Rhode Island. But he gains an unlikely traveling companion after sparing Henry at the Battle of Yorktown.
Henry is the son of a wealthy Brit, but he doesn’t want to go home. He talks way too much and isn’t always the sharpest tool in the shed. We see, along with John, though, that his heart is good and he wants to be a better man.
I loved watching these two fall for each other over the course of their journey. I loved that issues of race and privilege were vital elements, but the story still never lost track of being a romance. I even loved the stinky cheese. (Just go with me here.)
Worth picking up the book even for this one alone.
Alyssa Cole’s “That Could Be Enough” rounds out the collection. Lesbian romance is generally not my cuppa-tea, but I thought this story was well told. It featured Mrs. Hamilton’s servant, Mercy, who has been burned by love and has vowed never to indulge in the emotion again. Then the brash and beautiful Andromeda visits the house to share her grandfather’s story of serving with the widow’s late husband.
The dressmaker sees something worth trying to unravel in the tightly wound Mercy. Slowly, she teaches her that love can be worth the risk. And sometimes when you love, you can be loved in return.
Overall, the Milan story was the best for me, but I enjoyed the anthology as a whole. I don’t know that I’ve read any romance from this time period and it was a fun change of pace.
This was an adorable collection of three romances.
Follows the story of Ezra Jacobs a soldier in Hamilton’s battalion keeping a secret. Ezra is really a women named Rachel, and a captured spy turns out to be her husband who after she faked her death is very much shocked to see her alive. The MCs are both Jewish and this m/f Romance was to die for.
The Prusit Of...
“Their eyes met, and Henry felt a current sweep through him. Him., Henry thought, one hand going to his heart. him. “
Henry & John, two soldiers who should hate each other but instead fall in love. I freaking adored this story and Henry is one of the most precious characters I have ever read about.
That Could Be Enough
“The smile that news caused to grace her face was different from the smiles Andromeda had seen at the grove; she hadn’t even borne witness to half of Mercy’s beauty, it seemed.”
Mercy & Andromeda are two WOC who fall in love by chance. Mercy is Mrs Hamilton’s servant and Andromeda is a successful dress maker who not only runs her own business but is currently pursuing another. Andromeda and Mercy meet when Mrs Hamilton interviews Andromeda for her grandfathers time in Hamilton’s battalion. Sparks fly and lead to a short story I won’t ever forget. I loved this story so much and it’s without a doubt my favorite of three.
Overall I adored this book and I’m so happy to have read it. It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed. Highly recommended.
When I found out that three of my favorite adult romance authors in the world were releasing an anthology of historical romance novellas about couples connected to Alexander Hamilton, I was excited. But when I actually started reading it, I was blown away. These novellas are FANTASTIC.
Rose Lerner's "Promised Land" is about a married couple who run into each other by surprise in the middle of the war - which is particularly surprising to the husband, Nathan, as he'd thought his wife Rachel was dead, but he has now been arrested by her (a soldier in men's clothing, serving in Hamilton's battalion) because she suspects him of being a British spy. Their story is brilliantly funny and smart and fiercely romantic as they battle to reconcile their real love for each other with their competing dreams. Rose Lerner writes some of the smartest, sharpest historical romances I've ever read, and this is my favorite of all of her stories so far.
Alyssa Cole's "That Could Be Enough" is just gorgeously romantic in the most swoonworthy way. It's absolutely overflowing with deeply-felt emotion - even as the central heroine fights to restrain her own emotions, having been hurt so terribly in the past that she gave up love AND the poetry-writing that was her vocation. But in the course of serving as Eliza Hamilton's secretary, she meets another woman who opens up all the emotions she's been bottling up for years. Their letters to each other are just astonishingly lovely, and I cried at the happy ending, in the best possible way.
And Courtney Milan's novella is so delightfully, hilariously funny - a romantic comedy road trip with deeply serious underpinnings (as it's also a love story between a formerly-enslaved black American soldier and a white British officer on the run, and their respective issues are explored in detail). Those emotional underpinnings - and the grave inequalities between the two men - are strongly felt, but the dialogue itself, as they banter their way into love despite everything, was so deliciously witty that I laughed out loud again and again. (The Cheese of Doom! It's just delightful.)
All in all, this is my favorite adult romance anthology I can ever remember reading. Very highly recommended!
Hamilton's Battalion is one of the greatest romance anthologies out there. It's written by three of my favorite romance authors: Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole. I feel so blessed that we get a bundle of stories by these three together.
It also develops around Eliza Hamilton recollecting stories about her husband, Alexander Hamilton, when they were fighting the battle of Yorktown more or less. We get Rose Lerner's story first and I give that: 4.5/5 stars. To be honest all of them are nearly 5 or 5, I absolutely adored them. Rose's story has second chance romance, about a couple who was married once upon a time but the heroine fakes her death so she could join the army and go to battle. Both of them are Jewish, as well as the author. This story was super sweet and cute, plus the heroine is taller than the hero who is adorable and can't stop talking and loves the heroine so much.
The second story is Courtney's. It's about two men from enemy sides, the American side and the British side. But John forgives Henry's life and from here everything starts to begin. There is a lot of cheese and fun conversations around the fire. Courtney wrote her first m/m story and it was beautiful and I cried lots. Henry and John got to my heart and I'm sure you all will enjoy them as well.
Final story is Alyssa's and it's also her first f/f I believe? Correct me if I'm wrong. And ahhh!! This one is quite different from the other two only for the fact that it develops around many years later from the other stories. It's about Mercy, Eliza Hamilton's assistant, and Andromeda, a woman who comes to share her grandpa's story to Mrs. Hamilton. Andromeda is the best ever I swear. And I'm so glad they both found each other because they fit together so well and I adored them so very much. A F/F historical romance with two black women!!!
So overall, I completely loved these stories and hopefully these authors collaborate another time. I'm so happy they got to share their stories with us and the characters' stories as well. Filled with love and emotion and meaning, I really hope you all get this book when it is out!
Trigger warnings: war, racism, mentions of slavery and antisemitism. That's about it?
Y'all should know by now that I am 100% Hamilton trash, and I will read pretty much anything that involves AHam in any way. After being massively disappointed by Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz (it's an extreme snoozefest, don't waste your money), I was somewhat sceptical about this one.
And then it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun.
The first story features a Jewish woman who's disguised herself as a man to join the Army. Everything's going well until she runs into her husband. Who thinks she died of yellow fever several years earlier...
The second is about an African-American freeman and the second son of a rich British dude who save each other's lives and fall in love along the way.
And the third is about Mercy, one of Eliza's African-American servants, who's helping Eliza put together all the soldiers' stories of Alexander, who finds herself falling in love when the granddaughter of a key figure comes to share her grandfather's story.
I think the second was my favourite of the three, solely because it was full of humour and cheese. Literally. There's a huge section of the story that involves cheese. And it was great. But the other two were pretty stinking enjoyable as well.
I’m a maaaaaassive fan of Hamilton (the musical), so when I learned about this anthology, I was incredibly excited. Courtney Milan is one of my favorite writers and she’s been slow to publish new historical romance. Alyssa Cole is an author I have grown to love from the few books of hers I’ve read, and Rose Lerner is an author whom I’ve been intending to read but hadn’t yet.
Despite the framework of Eliza Hamilton collecting stories about Alexander Hamilton for a biography, this book has little to do with Hamilton himself. He makes a couple of appearances. There are some references to the musical itself scattered throughout the anthology that fans will enjoy, but you don’t need any knowledge of it to enjoy these stories.
Promised Land by Rose Lerner 3.5 stars The weakest story for me and that’s because I think it suffered the most from the shorter length as a novella. I won’t say much about the plot here because the blurb keeps it intentionally vague, but I felt like I never quite understood the backstory of the protagonists and their initial relationship (since this is a second chance romance). I had quite a few unanswered questions and just wanted...more. Having said that, I loved all the rich cultural details about how different characters practiced Judaism and how this shaped their own identities, especially as they fought for independence.
The Pursuit Of... by Courtney Milan 4.5 stars My favorite of the bunch because I just absolutely love Milan’s writing style and she is so good at novellas, y’all! This book was unexpectedly humorous but not farcical. Rather, it deals with a lot of really serious issues deftly. She packs a love story between a white British soldier and a black American soldier who end up on a road trip together, plus some epistolary romance goodness, into 10 short chapters... and it works!
That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole 4 stars This one is set a bit later as it’s actually about Mercy, Eliza Hamilton’s black servant/assistant who is helping her collect all the stories about Hamilton. Mercy is so reserved and closed off when Andromeda appears in her life like a freight train. They are total opposites, and I love how Andromeda brought Mercy out of her shell and helped her gain confidence and learn to love again. I did think there was a biiiit too much insta-love but this is a novella, so sometimes that’s inevitable, I guess. Also wasn’t a fan of the conflict at the end, but overall, this was a great story to close out the anthology. And reading about two black queer women finding love in early 19th century New York is pretty freaking fantastic in and of itself.
What I loved the most about this anthology is that it features different marginalized groups in historical settings and that’s quite rare. Contrary to what most historical romance would have us believe, love and HEAs don’t belong exclusively to white aristocrats.
please tell your friends that i am screaming!!!! about this
POST READ EDIT PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS THAT I AM SCREAMING ABOUT THIS AND WILL BE SCREAMING ABOUT IT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE AND THAT ROMANCE IS THE GREATEST THING ON EARTH FREEDOM AND LOVE ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT MATTER AND I AM CRYING AS WE SPEAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
An excellent trio of stories told by three capable and clever authors.
Hamilton's Battalion starts with the story of Rachel Corporal Ezra and Nathan's wartorn loyalties, chemistry, and old grievances. The novel then continues with the unlikely romance of a white British officer and a black freedman fighting for the side of the colonies. There is cheese (both literal and figurative) and banter and it's delightful. Alyssa Cole ends the anthology with another strong offering: the emotional love story between reserved Mercy and glamorous Andromeda.
An enjoyable and diverse anthology that centers on the battle of Yorktown and illuminates usually ignored perspectives from that era.
This is a strong anthology. I have read and enjoyed each of these authors in the past so I wasn't surprised to enjoy this.
My favorite story was the first, written by Lerner. It was rich with historical detail about battlefield conditions and Judaism, and I was passionately invested in the success of Nathan and Rachel's relationship. Since this is a second chance romance (Rachel and Nathan were married, have problems, Rachel fakes her own death to enlist in the army cross dressing as a man) you don't have the typical novella problem of having to build a plausible relationship in relatively few pages. Nathan and Rachel have years of history for Lerner to explore, which she does with great insight. This is easily a 5 star story.
What struck me most about Milan's story, second in the anthology, was the consistently excellent dialogue. John and Henry have fascinating conversations with each other that are both deep and substantive and light and funny. Loved all the cheese talk <3. John and Henry have great chemistry right off the bat. 4.5 stars.
I liked the Cole story but it was my least favorite. It's sweet, and I liked Andromeda and Mercy, but their courtship does feel abrupt and there's a brief bit of drama at the end that feels a little silly. I didn't fully buy their chemistry but I liked them as individuals. 3 stars. I have now read 3 novellas of Cole's, I've got to get around to reading one of her full length novels.
I know that, as time periods go, the Revolutionary War is a big deal for some people. I'm not one of them, so this particular historical setting wasn't a big draw for me. That said, I did enjoy Hamilton: the musical back when it was a thing, so the though of Eliza Hamilton collecting these stories because they happen to be tangentially connected to her (dead) husband gave me a bunch of feels.
Overall, all three stories are really, really good. They're a diverse bunch, featuring heroes and heroines who are Jewish, African-American, and/or queer. They don't pretend that life in the late 18th century was easy if you happened to be ~different, but they also don't dwell gleefully on the trauma suffered by such people. There's an undercurrent of hope that's going to be familiar to anyone who knows and loves Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, and a relief to readers who are sick of ~historical accuracy arguments in favor of abusing diverse characters in fiction.
PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner is the story of a Jewish m/f couple who meet at Yorktown. She's faked her own death and joined the Continental Army while pretending to be a man, he's started spying on the British in her memory. The premise of a couple falling in love again (or rather for the first time) on the battlefield was pretty touching and I unexpectedly enjoyed the setting. Grimy, tired, fed up lady soldiers are kind of my thing, apparently. This is also the only story that features Alexander Hamilton as a character and I had no trouble picturing Lin-Manuel Miranda in the role.
THE PURSUIT OF... by Courtney Milan starts with a black Continental soldier sparing the life of a white British officer and turns into a roadtrip/buddycop sort of scenario as the m/m pair set off together to find the Continental soldier's sister. For a gay interracial romance set in the 1770s, this manages to be both funny and pleasantly light. The characters deal with racism, yes, and other forms of prejudice, but it's well handled and the twists are delightful. Cheese also features prominently in this one.
THAT COULD BE ENOUGH by Alyssa Cole was so very nearly 5* for me. It's that rare animal, a good f/f romance featuring characters who are fundamentally decent. More than that, it's a historical romance that follows two black women as they fall in love and make a life for themselves, obstacles be damned. Mercy, Eliza Hamilton's servant & secretary falls for Andromeda, a seamstress and the granddaughter of a soldier who fought alongside Alexander Hamilton. Andromeda is a flashy businesswoman who always goes after what she wants, while Mercy has been nursing a broken heart for many years and more or less lives in seclusion. The chief conflict relies on a misunderstanding that occurs just as they get close, forcing Mercy to break the bars of her self-imposed exile and fly - all good, up to and including Andromeda's justification for her part in said misunderstanding, but I found both the falling in love and the sexy parts a tad abrupt.
Delightful. Offering someone a certificate of divorce was never so romantic. (Sincerely, it's great.)
Rose Lerner has a fantastic way of taking me back to historical periods I thought I knew and showing me it from another angle. I've read about the American Revolution, for example here. But I hadn't realized how often I'd read from the POV of people who were talking from a period of pretty huge social and economic privilege. And how I'd never read a story about someone who wasn't Christian. I even think everyone was Protestant? Like, yikes. And I knew I'd only heard from people who were white, but I didn't think that would matter (hahah, it always matters, you don't get to hear only the slaveowners and their friends talk and not come up with a skewed view of who lives and who dies).
So. I ship the romance, it's wonderfully, unabashedly Jewish, and it made me think, to boot. Rose Lerner for all the historical books.
The show "Hamilton" isn't an inspiration for fanfic here, but for three stories about the aftermath of the American Revolution for people who are fighting their own personal battles for equality. Rachel, a Jewish woman solider in male disguise, is fighting against the seemingly stifling demands of marriage and religion. John, a black solider, is fighting to protect his family. And Mercy, a black woman who works for Eliza Hamilton, is fighting -- if only in the most hidden corners of her soul -- for self expression. As if in the spirit of the show, all three are matched with loquacious, persistent partners who help them find both love and freedom.
I don't want to give a plot outline of Rose Lerner's "Promised Land," because I enjoyed the surprises in it. It's a passionate story about how war changes things, even our most heartfelt beliefs. And love... love also changes things.
I thought Courtney Milan's "The Pursuit Of..." the weakest of the three romances. It's a road trip/unlikely buddies turned lovers story, in which John is trying to get home to make sure his sister is safe, but finds himself somehow stuck with babbling British deserter Henry. Given the collection's inspiration, I can hardly complain about anachronisms, but I found much of the humor and cheekiness felt forced. It does have moving moments, and a smashing happy ending, but I think I actually enjoyed the author's notes more.
The first two stories focus a lot on societal oppression. During Lerner's story, I though Rachel was unfairly harsh on Nathan -- but by Milan's story, I realized that both Rachel and John were expressing the long-simmering anger of the oppressed. Despite being about two queer black women, Alyssa Cole's "That Could Be Enough" focuses more on internal repression. Mercy has been burned so badly, both as a lover and a poet, that she's tried to keep her heart safe and her words banal. But occasionally she slips up:
"Walked Angelica about the grounds three times. She did not want to talk, but was serene. Dusted Alexander in the foyer. Cleaned the front-facing windowsill. Bathed. Yearned."
(Shocked at herself, Mercy then inks out the last word and replaces it with "slept.")
But Mercy's determination to stay closed and contained is no match for Andromeda Stiel's vibrancy. Andromeda, a successful dressmaker and businesswoman, reminded me of real life black women I've read about, like Katherine Johnson from Hidden Figures and Trevor Noah's mother Patricia in Born a Crime. She's certainly not immune to racism, but her personality is so vital and confident, she generally comes out on top. As someone with a strong community, which she supports and is in turn supported by, Andromeda even has -- relative -- freedom to love. And she shows Mercy the possibilities that she's been denying for years... as well as the sensual fun of being measured for a dress by someone who really knows how.
It was fun to spot the "Hamilton" references in the collection, but I don't think you have to know the show to enjoy it. (Though you'll likely wind up doing some googling.) If you like poignant, historically informed historicals, don't miss it.
I gave this 4.5 stars at Romantic Historical Reviews:
Alexander Hamilton is enjoying new popularity with the success of Hamilton: The Musical, currently playing on Broadway. But in this anthology from Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole, he’s relegated to the background as he leads his forces to victory at Yorktown, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.
The premise of the anthology is simple: The war is decades past; Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, is collecting soldiers’ stories about their experiences with her husband at Yorktown. The request triggers memories and events of a very different sort, and in this delightful and uniformly good trio of romance novellas featuring marginalized central characters, we reminisce on revolutionary stories of love during and after Hamilton’s war.
Promised Land by Rose Lerner 4.5 stars Corporal Ezra Jacobs has secrets. For starters he’s a she, and as Rachel Mendelson, she colluded with her mother-in-law to fake her own death. For the past three years she’s been fighting in Hamilton’s battalion for America’s independence. Suppressed and oppressed by her husband’s smothering love, his mother’s displeasure, and all the rules and expectations of her jewish faith, she’s finally living a life that makes her happy. Once the war is won, she has grand plans to reveal her true identity in a memoir and tour the country giving lectures on her experience as a female, jewish soldier in the war for independence.
Ezra/Rachel’s plans hit a roadblock when she spots a familiar figure walking through the army campground – her husband, Nathan. Knowing that he sympathized with the British during their marriage, she flags him down and has him arrested as a Loyalist spy.
Nathan is shocked, thrilled – confused – to discover that Rachel, the wife he mourned deeply after her sudden death is not dead after all. To Ezra’s relief, he doesn’t reveal the truth, but Nathan has secrets of his own. Their years apart have given him new insights into the man he was and discovering Rachel is alive gives him hope; his capture gives him one last chance to know and understand the stranger who was once his wife.
Promised Land is a beautiful, slow-paced (despite the short page-count) second-chance love story featuring a couple who were strangers to each other before and after they wed, but who somehow discover themselves and their marriage against the backdrop of Revolutionary war. Ms. Lerner brilliantly paces their slow courtship as Ezra finds reasons to visit and be near Nathan, and Nathan begins to understand what drove Rachel away, who she was and who she is now. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other significant element – the references and experiences of jewish faith sprinkled throughout. Rachel and Nathan are jewish (as are her fellow NCOs); their faith plays a major part in the evolving dynamic of their relationship – but also in the hopes and dreams of the promised land they’re all fighting for.
As the war rages, they battle to find a way forward – and forge a new relationship based on honesty, affection and freedom with each other.
The Pursuit of… by Courtney Milan 5 stars When John Hunter finds himself in a fight for his life with a British soldier, the last thing he expects is a conversation about the weather...or his favorite books...or, after pinning the other man to the ground, to hear “Ah, well,” the other man said. “You know your duty. Be quick about it, if you must. Better me than you, don’t you think?” He’s still struggling to kill the man when the bugle sounds and It was done. They’d won. He informs his opponent that it’s his lucky day and he’s now a prisoner of war, but the man surprises him again. He asks John to kill him anyway; then tells him that if Yorktown falls, the war will be over, and he’ll be sent back to Britain which he absolutely cannot do. John takes pity on him and shrugs off his uniform jacket and offers it to him as a disguise. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the soldier tells him he won’t forget the favor and that he’ll pay him back someday. John’s heard it before... and he has little faith he’ll ever see the man again.
On the run from the British army, Henry Latham knows little about the man who spared his life: his rank (from his uniform) and that he’s most likely part of the Rhode Island Regiment, but he sets out to find him anyway. After bluffing his way past guards by disguising himself as a cheesemonger who needs to deliver cheese to John (yes, Henry is a bit odd and he has a vivid, hopeful imagination), he eventually makes his way to the Black Regiment – and a very surprised John. John tries to make him uncomfortable so that he’ll leave, but Henry doesn’t falter. Instead, he asks John if there’s anything he can do for him; when John confesses he’s been invalided out and plans to walk to Rhode Island – and his home – a 500-600 mile journey – Henry offers to join him.
Once John gets over his shock that Henry is, in fact, waiting for him the following morning and planning to accompany him, the journey home – both literally and metaphorically – begins. Over the next weeks the men walk and Henry talks…and talks…and talks. I’m not going to tell you what Henry (and sometimes) John talk about. But let me assure you that this charming novella is chock full of delightful, poignant and funny conversations between a mostly surly (and amused) John and the chatty, sweet and lovable Henry. As the miles pass by the men develop an affectionate regard for each other. John challenges Henry and his beliefs and Henry shows John what it means to be valued – and necessary – to someone. Neither is troubled by their feelings for another man ,or their attraction to each other, but Ms. Milan takes her time developing their romantic relationship, and in this ultra slow burn love story, both John and Henry slowly but surely become necessary to each other.
Once in Rhode Island, Henry’s future is still murky – he’s hidden much of his life before the war in a series of flimsy, obvious lies – and despairs of what’s to come once he returns to his family. John doesn’t ask him to stay, and Henry knows he has to leave, but it’s awful anyway! Oh, Ms. Milan. You broke my heart. Fortunately, she concludes (and redeems) this marvelous novella with a series of moving letters between the men, and then a revealing epilogue.
In this second story, Ms. Milan reminds us she’s a master of the novella. Funny, moving, sweet, tender and profound, In Pursuit of… is perhaps my favorite Milan story EVER.
That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole 3.5 stars After the tremendous first two novellas, I had high hopes for Ms. Cole’s story of two black women with very different life experiences who fall in love in post Revolutionary War New York. And though I enjoyed the story and its principal characters, the development of the romantic relationship felt forced and in this shorter format, underdeveloped. Insta-lust isn’t a favorite trope of mine – and here, two very different, marginalized women fall for each other based on little more than a glance across a hallway and then a Big Misunderstanding (why??!!) sets them apart. It’s a tantalizing and promising start, but the story doesn’t quite live up to it.
Mercy Alston lives at Hamilton Grange and works as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, transcribing the memories/anecdotes/stories she receives from those who knew and fought with Eliza’s late husband during the Revolutionary War. She was once passionate about her writing but she’s subsumed her vocation into the tedium of her day to day life. For Mercy, heartbreak and loss are the language of love., so when the beautiful and flirtations Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange, Mercy reminds herself that her quiet, solitary life is enough.
Andromeda, a dressmaker with her own shop in Harlem, is intrigued by the proud, poorly dressed woman Mrs. Hamilton employs as her maid and tries (and fails) to draw her out with witty stories and questions. But Mercy’s unwillingness to respond to her flirtations only makes Andromeda all the more determined. Before she leaves, she invites Mercy to visit her in Harlem – and Mercy’s visit ends up being so much more than planned. Andromeda’s spirit and confidence are infectious, though Mercy tries hard to resist her, and when they part, Andromeda writes to Mercy, sharing details of her day to day life, and eventually Mercy thaws (privately) and acknowledges the pleasure that accompanies each letter, and responds in kind.
I loved this slow unwinding of the wound oh-so tight Mercy and Andromeda’s stubborn refusal to accept – or to allow Mercy to accept – less than enough. Andromeda is relentless in her pursuit (sometimes too pushy); Mercy – who already feels a strong attraction – is helpless to resist her. Unfortunately, once Mercy and Andromeda finally act on their attraction, Ms. Cole divides them with a simple, but big, misunderstanding, which I heartily disliked and resented. Though the novella ends on a hopeful, happy note, I wish Ms. Cole had instead used more of the story to develop the growing affection between the couple.
Hamilton’s Battalion showcases some of my favorite historical novelists working at the top of their game. The Pursuit of… by Courtney Milan is worth the cover price alone. Romantic, different and wholly entertaining, this anthology easily earns its place on my top ten books of the year
Picked this up because I love 2/3 of the authors and have been recommended Rose Lerner as a new favorite a dozen times. I was a bit skeptical of the Hamilton angle, but if anyone can pull off smutty historical Broadway fanfic as fully realized stories, these authors can. And they did! There's a lot to love, and to laugh and cry at, in each one.
I love that you can see a little bit of Hamilton - at least, the Hamilton I know from the musical - in all the main characters. One of the heroes in all three stories talks too dang much, which is a delightfully subtle-but-not-THAT-subtle reference. But all of them share some of his ambition, intellect, and complicated patriotism, too.
I think Alyssa Cole's story was my favorite - I'm usually not a huge fan of novellas, and this one was particularly short. But I was blown away by how she packed such deep characterization and historical context into so few pages about such a brief courtship.