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”






Landline, by Rainbow Rowell

Landline Rainbow RowellLandline
by Rainbow Rowell
Pub Date: July 8, 2014

I adore Rainbow Rowell. Every single one of her books, both adult and YA, have hit it out of the park for me. I find her writing intelligent, witty, able to make me laugh and cry from one sentence to the next, and her characters are people I understand and know. The thing about Rainbow Rowell novels is I get TOTALLY sucked in. I start reading, and immediately identify with her characters. I immediately know them. And then I read seemingly insignificant details Rowell throws in for color, and I really can’t put the book down. People were freaking out about how great Eleanor & Park was, but it wasn’t until Fangirl came out that I decided to give her a try, and now I’ve read all of her books (aside from her new one Carry On, a Harry Potter-esque spinoff from Fangirl. It’ll happen, but I want it to be the proper time.)

This is her second and latest adult title, about Georgie McCool, a TV writer in California on the verge of great fame. She and her writing partner Seth, who have been collaborating since college, have a chance to pitch the TV show they’ve been talking about for years to a major studio figure. The meeting is set in a few days, they just need to write up four episodes to present. Except the meeting is just after Christmas. And Georgie and her family had planned on going to her husband Neal’s mother’s house in Omaha. When Georgie tells Neal she needs to stay to work on what could be the biggest break of her career, Neal is upset, and goes to his mother’s house with their two little girls without her. Georgie spends the next few days fretting about her relationship with her husband. When she stays in her old room at her mother’s house, she discovers that her old phone can call Neal in the past – 22 year old Neal, the Neal she knew in college. Will talking to the Neal of the past help her figure out the Neal she knows now?

What I *really* love about this book is the story of Georgie and Neal’s imperfect marriage. Neither are blatantly sabotaging the marriage, but it’s the little things that start to add up. Georgie recalls how she met Neal, and what her best friend Seth thought about him (not good). She recalls how he made her feel. They seem mismatched, and Georgie’s more than aware of that, but somehow these two mismatched and imperfect people found love and comfort with each other. The trick is working at the relationship to keeping that up, a lesson we could all use a reminder on. This book recounts how magical courtship can be, and how not perfect marriage can be as well. You can be in a happy marriage and still have problems, and I think that’s one of the beautiful messages of the book. Life is a fine balancing act. And you can see all the adorableness of these two people as Georgie remembers all the little things that made her fall in love with her husband.

There’s some blue language in the book (but honestly it’s nothing more than what I encounter on a daily basis – don’t know what that says about me), and references to the LGBTQ community, but nothing I found totally offensive. With the bulk of the story focused on Georgie and Neal, it’s a great book to read and reflect on your own relationships with your family and significant others. It’s just a sweet book.

I really can’t pick one book of Rowell’s to start with – each one is fabulous – but since this one takes place around Christmas it’s a little more timely. It’s like one of the vignettes from Love Actually got expanded into a book. Christmas is a magical time for romantics!