Erryn reviews the antholgoy ‘Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances’ by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole. The ebook and softcover were published October 17, 2017 and are 378 pages. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book:
I rarely read synopses, but when I saw Courtney Milan had a new book, I read the synopses of the three novellas in Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances, and knew I wanted to review the stories. Although inspired by the story of Alexander Hamilton and the musical of the same name, these stories use Hamilton as a peripheral character while focusing instead on the men and woman who served with the Founding Father. His story has never been properly told – until now.
Stories are being compiled by Mrs. Elizabeth Schyler Hamilton. She, in an attempt to polish her husband’s memory, is seeking out stories from all the men who served with him. Her mission, as we now know, was taken on after his senseless death in a duel with his nemesis, Aaron Burr. Hamilton died relatively young, having never realized his full potential. In compiling these stories, Eliza hopes to untarnish the image of her dearest love. She wants to ensure his story is told.
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 first story in the collection is ‘Promised Land’. I know little about the Jewish faith, but this book gently schooled me and I feel enriched by having read it. Rachel, the heroine, has been fighting in the Continental Army along with Washington’s men. She has earned the rank of corporal and she is responsible for men. Men under her command. Men who have died and others who may perish, as the British and the Americans are entrenched, preparing for the battle of Yorktown.
She has left everything behind, opting to take on the persona of Ezra Jacobs. She maintains her faith as best she can and has men under her command who are also Jewish, all the while trying to reconcile this war with the tenets of peace. Rachel never expected to see the husband she abandoned, let alone capture him as a British spy.
Nathan is equally shocked. Especially since his wife Rachel supposedly died several years before. His joy at being reunited is tempered with the betrayal he feels and the secret he’s carrying. Rachel is terrified of having her secret revealed – she has plans for her future at the end of the war and they do not include being a good and obedient wife.
I loved that Rachel was a woman well ahead of her time. Yes, Elizabeth I reigned over England, but there hadn’t been tremendous progress since then. Women stayed home while men went to war. Women bore the children, and if the women didn’t die in childbirth, raised those children. Rachel had tried to become a mother, but when Nathan sent her from New York to Pennsylvania with his mother, she saw that as the end of her marriage. (And who can blame her? Some mothers-in-law are wonderful, generous, kind, and supportive of the woman their boy chooses to marry. Mrs. Mendelson was none of those things.) Nathan’s reaction when he encounters Rachel summarizes their relationship:
He’d always known, in his heart that, given the choice, she would pick the Revolution over him, this new country of goyim over her own people. But even in his moments of bittersweet resentment, he’d never imagined this. How could he – Rachel, a soldier?
So when Nathan and Rachel are brought together, they are relieved to see each other alive, but their secrets threaten to keep them apart. And yet, their love is still there. And, years later, as they recall their adventures while writing to Mrs. Hamilton, it is clear they love each other still, and the war – specifically the battle of Yorktown, brought them together, facilitating their reunion.
Oh, and Alexander Hamilton played a small but significant and pivotal role in the story, but you’ll have to read the story to discover his part. There are explicit sexual encounters between the hero and the heroine.
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 during 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.
The synopsis of Courtney Milan’s ‘Pursuit of’ was what first drew me to this anthology. As soon as I realized it was an interracial mm romance set in 1781 Colonial America, I was intrigued.
The novella begins in the heat of battle, but it’s also a far more personal battle for John Hunter, a corporal in the Continental Army. And who knew a pitched battle hand-to-hand combat scene could be so humourous? In fact, the entire story was peppered with so many funny moments that the steak– the meat of the tale – was perfectly spiced.
John Hunter, of course, does not die. Somehow he survives the fight with the most unhinged officer – of any army – that he’s ever met.
I adored Henry Latham, a man who cannot stop talking. And I mean that quite literally. I swear he even speaks in his sleep. The very few times he’s silent, either his feelings have been hurt, he’s in deep contemplation, or he’s gotten himself into a seemingly impossible-to-escape situation.
I think, in modern times, Henry would be diagnosed with some form of ADHD. The man has no filter whatsoever – whatever he thinks comes straight out of his mouth, consequences be damned. As someone with ADD and a brain-to-mouth filter with gaping holes, I cherished Henry.
So the improbable pairing of a British officer and a corporal former slave had me fascinated. I don’t want to share too many details about their voyage because the delight is in the unfolding of the journey.
It begins with Henry thinking:
They’d talked that night – well, to be fair, HENRY had talked. Still, fucking was the only thing more intimate than fighting. He’d seen something even in the darkness, in daylight it was more obvious.
John was utterly, bewitchingly lovely and Henry had been already predisposed to bewitchment.
And in the end:
“The pursuit of home,” John told him. “I told you that once, when we went our separate ways. Let me tell you it again now.”
The pursuit of HOME. That was precisely it, the thing he’d been searching for all these years on battlefields, in his father’s parlor, in his political essays.”
The story begins with the couple, as older men, visiting Eliza Hamilton. The story ends at that point. Mrs. Hamilton must suspect the men are more than friends, but is too circumspect to comment. They do tell their glancing exposure to Alexander, including the young man giving John advice and offering the black man his name to ease the journey home.
Henry might be carrying on with the tales, but John notices Mrs. Hamilton’s scribe, Mercy. He notes the longing in the black woman’s eyes, nicely setting up the next story.
I loved this story because it seems even more relevant today. Race relations, homophobia, class warfare—sound familiar? Yet this story reminds the reader that even though Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, his Declaration of Independence is a document of great depth. Even today, many of the words resonate. I’m Canadian, so I show my pride differently, but I respect America’s creation and battle for independence. Their democracy led the way for Canada and many other countries of the Commonwealth to cut the apron strings from England.
Yes, equality does not yet exist, but due to Jefferson and Hamilton’s ideals, we are much closer.
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.
Mercy has been Eliza Hamilton’s secretary for years. She has been doing her mistress’ bidding for all of that time, wondering about the depth of Eliza’s devotion to her husband who had died in such an ignominious and notorious way. Mercy had a great love once – and that love had been betrayed – so now she is cynical about all things romantic.
She is not unaffected by John Hunter and Henry Latham – admiring the men and their clear affection. Her life is staid, boring, predictable, and long years lay ahead of her. She will remain as companion to Eliza and Eliza’s sister Angelica, whose mental stability is waning. Destined to watch the two women mourn the long-gone Alexander and all other others lost over the years.
Then Andomeda Stiel sweeps into Hamilton Grange. The tall, statuesque, and gorgeous black woman has a strong carriage, is unwilling to enter by the servant’s entrance, and demands an audience with Mrs. Hamilton to tell her the story of Andromeda’s ailing relative.
A master storyteller, Andromeda is engaging, but her interest in Mercy is only thinly veiled. The young woman, accustomed to blending into the background, is beyond flustered. As with all the novellas in this anthology, we get points-of-view from both major characters. This book is weighted more toward Mercy, but that is appropriate because she has the most to lose – or gain. Andromeda is a businesswoman, successful despite being a black woman in a world dominated by white men (and the world in 2018 looks a bit different, but women and minorities still have a long way to go.)
When Andromeda unexpectedly shows up on Mercy’s doorstep under dire circumstances, Mercy is at first unhappy. But Andromeda is persuasive, and Mercy receives and gives comfort in a way she hasn’t for a long time.
I loved the way the women’s stories unfolded, keeping me wondering if they really could find their happy ending in a world where being a lesbian is illegal and viewed as immoral.
But Alyssa Cole is a magical writer and I loved the story.
Each novella is titled after a lyric from the musical ‘Hamilton’. If you’re familiar with the musical and curious, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy historical romances, you’ll enjoy this book. And, finally, if you believe in the power of love despite all odds, you will love this book.
Courtney Milan’s books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller and a RITA® winner.
Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, an exceptionally perfect dog, and an attack cat.
Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.
If you want to know when Courtney’s next book will come out, please visit her website at http://www.courtneymilan.com, where you can sign up to receive an email when she has her next release.
Alyssa Cole is a science editor, pop culture nerd, and romance junkie who splits her time between fast-paced NYC and island-paced life in the Caribbean.
In addition to writing, she has hosted a romance book club and taught romance writing at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC. When she’s not busy writing, traveling, and learning French, she can be found watching cat videos on the Internet with her real-life romance hero.
I discovered Georgette Heyer when I was thirteen, and wrote my first historical romance a few years later. My writing has improved since then, but my fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. When not reading, writing, or researching, I enjoy cooking and marathoning old TV shows. I live in Seattle with my best friend.
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FYI: I use this space for recs of books I wholeheartedly love only. My recs are honest, but I have social relationships with some of the romance authors whose books I rec.