Book Review: An Extraordinary Union

Cover of An Extraordinary Union

Favorite Quote: She was no simpering miss. She was Ellen Burns, and she was going to help destroy the confederacy.

We need this book in today’s world. An Extraordinary Union is majestic in its character, it’s blunt in the face of anger and injustice and pain, it’s brutal in its truths. It’s not just a must read, it’s a need to read.

What’s it About?

Ellen Burns is a spy for the Union in a Confederate senator’s household. Her mission is to uncover any information in the hopes of ending slavery. Her mission, however, is disrupted when she meets a “package” in the form of a white Confederate soldier. Only, he’s secretly a spy as well.

Malcolm McCall uses his charm and cunning to uncover secrets. As a top operative with Pinkerton, he’s good at his job, and it’s one of the reasons Elle initially mistrusts him. Is he playing a role with her too? But when their missions coincide, their connection builds and suddenly, they’re wondering if it’s possible for them to be together in a world that wants to keep them apart.

In politics and intrigue, however, love knows no bounds.


I love how Alyssa Cole tackles the Civil War Era in this novel. It doesn’t shy away from the despair of the period, but it also delivers an overarching feeling of perseverance and hope, highlighting strength and overcoming adversity, not just surviving. It challenges readers to face America’s hard past.

“Don’t you see?” she asked. “This is our homeland too. We shouldn’t have to wreak havoc on the land to be seen as citizens! We shouldn’t have to.”

This heroine blew me away. Elle takes so many risks fighting for what should be, for blacks and for a better, united America. She’s cunning and daring, stealthy yet bold. And she never backs down. She also has a eidetic memory, and I love how her counterpart, Malcolm McCall, admires and cherishes this about her. As he should!

Malcolm McCall has just as much gumption, but he has a lot to learn. At first, Elle thinks Malcolm’s a confederate soldier but he’s really an undercover agent. He has such a disarming presence and makes bold advances, but he meets Elle in the middle, shaking up her world as he slowly begins to understand what they are truly fighting for.

McCall won my heart as much as he did Elle’s–little by little. Even though he’s fighting for the Union, he admits he can never fully understand the conflict as deeply and innately as Elle. His acquaintance and friendship and relationship with Elle really strikes a chord with him, and he was so romantic and genuine. It hit me over the head: Malcolm is worthy of our Elle.

I know I’m not entitled to anything. Everything in the world conspires against anything being possible between us, but the world can go screw.

I adored this novel, and by the end, I was bawling. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Cole takes the readers next. I know it’ll be a journey that sticks deep in the soul.

Want to Read?

We have the paperback available on our catalog, and the ebook on Overdrive! Book two in the series, A Hope Divided, is out now!