I’m so excited to review A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole with you! It’s one of my most anticipated books coming out this fall, and I read it in less than a day after getting my hands on it.
The publisher provided me with an advanced digital copy of A Hope Divided via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
A Hope Divided is the sequel to An Extraordinary Union, which I think might be one of my favorite romance novels I read this year. It follows the story of Ewan and Marlie, who meet when Marlie administers aid to Union soldiers imprisoned in a Confederate POW camp. But when Ewan escapes from the prison and finds himself at risk of being caught by the Home Guard, he is forced to hide away in Marlie’s laboratory where she makes tisanes and poultices to help heal people.
You definitely don’t need to read An Extraordinary Union before picking up this book. Honestly, they’re barely even set in the same world; there’s a few references to Ewan’s brother, but you don’t see Ellie and Malcolm in this book. That said, I think An Extraordinary Union is excellent, so I highly recommend reading it! But you can read these books in whatever order you want.
I have so many thoughts about A Hope Divided. Right off the bat, I really like Marlie and Ewan as characters. Marlie had such an interesting backstory with her mother’s voodoo practice, and Ewan’s struggle with his role as a counterintelligence agent made him incredibly compelling and readable. I really enjoyed watching their romance unfold, especially when they had to face perfectly awful villains like Marlie’s sister-in-law and the captain of the Home Guard.
I also really appreciated the historical aspect of this book. Cole did an amazing job again finding a little-known aspect of the Civil War and bringing it to life. I’ve read a fair amount about the Civil War, but even I didn’t really know anything about the Southerners who chose not to participate in the war for whatever reasons, so I really appreciated the level of research that went into incorporating that into the story. (Side note: Can I just say how awesome it is that Cole includes references at the back of her books?! I rarely see that in historical romance novels.)
And of course, Cole addressed a lot of key topics about race and did a great job exploring some of those issues. She had some amazing quotes in this book that really addressed racism and slavery both in the historical context and in the context of today’s world. It’s amazing how relevant this is even 150 years later.
As a romance novel, though, I was left rather disappointed. I didn’t get nearly enough of Ewan and Marlie together until the second half of the book, which was just too slow of a buildup for me. I also had a hard time understanding why she kept pushing Ewan away. It’s one thing if she doesn’t want to discuss it with Ewan, but even from her point of view, I didn’t fully understand why she was so determined that they should separate after escaping the South.
Then there’s the ending. Minor spoilers ahead, but the HEA doesn’t come until the epilogue of the story. What is that?! The epilogue is traditionally a place where you give additional scenes of the couple living their happily ever after, not where they finally get one! And I didn’t feel like Ewan and Marlie ever really talked and got that satisfying moment where they acknowledge their love for each other. Instead, their HEA felt like an afterthought.
So overall I’m at a bit of as loss as to what to think of this book. On the one hand, I felt the romance aspect of it was lacking, but on the other, I thought the historical aspect was excellent. I found myself rather disappointed when I finished this book, but I think my feelings would have been different if I hadn’t been expecting a romance novel and hadn’t had such a high bar set by An Extraordinary Union.
As much as I love historical romance novels set in England, I’m very excited to see more historical romance novels set in other locations and hope it’s something we see more of in the future. But I don’t want the romance to take a back seat to the historical setting, and I felt that happened with this book. That’s not to say what romance is there isn’t excellent, but I wanted a lot more. In this case, I think the book could have benefited from a good 50 to 100 more pages focused on Marlie and Ewan’s relationship.
Anyways, I still highly recommend An Extraordinary Union, and if you go into A Hope Divided expecting less romance and more historical fiction, I think you’ll find it an excellent sequel.
A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole is on shelves November 28.