The Hamilton Affair, by Elizabeth Cobbs

Hamilton Affair Elizabeth CobbsThe Hamilton Affair
by Elizabeth Cobbs
Pub Date: August 2, 2016

Like most of America, I am in love with the musical Hamilton. I am obsessed. When the original Broadway cast recording came out late September of last year, I bought it the day it came out, and pretty much didn’t stop listening to it until Christmas, when I felt I needed to listen to holiday tunes. In the vernacular of the internet, I am definitely trash of the thing. So when this book crossed my path, I immediately had to give it a read. I started it anticipating that it wouldn’t be particularly good, and was delighted to find it quite enjoyable.

A quick sum-up for those of you not obsessed with the musical Hamilton — Alexander Hamilton was the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, a Revolutionary War vet and aide to George Washington, and previously most famously known for being killed by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel. What the musical brings brings into play, and what the focus of this fictionalized account is, is his marriage to Elizabeth (or Eliza) Schuyler that produced a number of children, but was also marred by his affair with Maria Reynolds.

The story of The Hamilton Affair alternates between Alexander’s and Eliza’s perspectives, starting when they are young – Eliza in New York, and Alexander in the Caribbean. I will say I was a little bored with the initial chapters of their youth. I understand the author wanting to give character development and show scenes that influenced these people as adults, but I thought it dragged on a little too long. However, once Alexander and Eliza meet, I thought the book picked up the pace and was far more engaging. I could be biased because of my love of the musical (and imagining Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in the roles in my head), but the book definitely got a lot more fun once they got together. Despite Alexander’s later affair, it was evident to those who knew them that they were a loving couple, and after her husband’s death Eliza dedicated much of her time to memorializing her beloved husband. That affection comes across so well in the novel, and when the author begins the descent that leads to Alexander’s affair the author explains his motivations in a way that makes some sense. NOT JUSTIFYING HIS ACTIONS, but giving a plausible explanation. Then the story shows the last years of Hamilton’s life, the tragedies that befell the couple, and ultimately reconciliation. (The man did call Eliza “best of wives, best of women,” a line that never fails to make me tear up.)

The author had begun the research and writing of this book before the musical gained acclaim, but I do wonder if a few lines were changed here and there in the manuscript to slyly reference the musical. At least, I found it easy to slip into singing lyrics from the musical as I read, which added to the fun of reading it. And the author for sure used Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton as a reference. I’ve read Chernow’s book, loved it, but it is mighty hefty, and for those of us who might not have the inclination to read such a thick book, this more breezy novel covering some of the same information might be far more enjoyable.

I would recommend it to any fans of the musical, or those at least mildly interested in Hamilton’s life, early American history, or just a good romantic story. It’s well-written, gives historical insights and details, and brings to life two fascinating people pivotal to the development of our country.

Hamilton The Musical

“Best of wives, best of women”

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Sigil in Shadow by Constance Roberts

Sigil in ShadowSigil in Shadow
by Constance Roberts
Pub Date: June 12,2016

Thank you Constance Roberts and Sweetwater Books for letting me read a proof of this book!

So, I enjoy fantasy, especially when that fantasy includes a strong female with loyalty and brains. Ellory Dane is one such protagonist. She is not a simpering female waiting for someone to save her: she is a loyal daughter who takes care of her unstable father and makes potions to sell at the local market in order to support her family. Unfortunately, taking care of her father and tending the herbs keeps Ellory so busy she has no time for anything else. Desperately, Ellory even sells her hair to buy enough food and fuel to last through the winter. Between trying to keep her father alive, putting food on the table, and worrying she will never find a man to marry, Ellory has little hope that life will get better.

Then one day, a rumor is spread that Ellory brought a man back from the dead with one of her potions. The king insists on bringing her to the castle to replicate the resurrection potion and to be trained by the royal herbalist. Suddenly, Ellory must learn to maneuver castle politics and hide the truth from everyone in order to survive.

This story was quite a page turner with several twists in the plot. I often found myself saying ‘just one more chapter,’ and then reading another after that to see what would happen next. I enjoyed the focus on medicine and herbs, as well as the way the story examines difficult issues such as social class, addiction, political games, infidelity, and abuse.  The romance is sweet and innocent, with a few funny moments—personally, I got a kick out of the closet scene. Some relationships seemed rushed to me, but all in all I felt it was a well-thought out story with an enjoyable protagonist, a great friendship between Ellory and her mentor Treya, and a sweet romance. I would definitely recommend this to someone who likes fantasy with a strong female protagonist and a compelling story line.