An Extraordinary Union, by Alyssa Cole

I picked up this romance novel because it deals with an intriguing bit of history and I’m always interested in bits of history I haven’t come across before. An Extraordinary Union is the first in a series called the “Loyal League,” about spies — particularly formerly enslaved people acting as spies for the Union — in the US Civil War. Elle Burns is such a person, a formerly enslaved woman with the gift of an extraordinary, eidetic memory that she now uses to spy on slaveowners and Confederates. The romance is between Elle and Scots immigrant Malcom McCall — also a Union spy employed by Pinkerton’s detective agency, currently undercover as a Rebel officer in the same community where Elle is also working undercover.

There’s a believable attraction/tension between the two leads, but most intriguing to me was the historical background. These novels are loosely based on real-life people, and it’s kind of amazing to think there were Black people who either escaped slavery or were born free, but we were willing to go (or go back) to the South and pose as slaves in order to obtain and pass on information. That kind of courage truly is extraordinary.

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