Saturday, June 10, 2017

Alex and Eliza: a Love Story by Melissa De La Cruz

My teen reading hasn't been the best this year, so when I found out there was a novel about Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler's courtship, I just had to read it. 

 I was curious to see how Melissa De La Cruz, who's known mostly for her Blue Bloods and the Witches of East End series, tackled history; especially a well known love story.  

I'm happy to say I was pleased with this retelling of a passionate love story that has become widely known due to the musical Hamilton.  While it isn't jam packed full of historical anecdotes or have the depth of an adult historical novel, it certainly fleshes out enough of the political climate to make a person curious to explore more.  Alex and Eliza lived in an extraordinary time, surrounded by giants in American history; even as Alex himself was becoming one of those very giants himself.  A new nation struggling to defeat the British under the constant stress of harsh weather conditions, lack of food and shelter, and never knowing exactly who was firmly on the American side or the British side.  Can you imagine being part of a time where the country you lived in was brand new?  What that must have been like?  The possibilities and the unknowns?  

Melissa De La Cruz smartly decided on writing about Alex and Eliza's early meetings and the years before they were married.  Alex was a red-headed, blue-eyed, strikingly handsome wunderkind who arrived in America as a young teen with no money and no family.  All he had were his brilliant mind and ambition.  He landed an extremely important job as aide de camp to General George Washington; writing all the General's correspondence and being his right hand man. He was so valued by George that even though Alexander wanted to fight in the Revolution, George refused to send him into battle. It was frustrating for Alexander, who felt he should be able to lead a regiment into battle and prove himself to those who felt he kept himself safe by quill and paper.  

Elizabeth Schuyler was the middle of three oldest daughters to the Schuylers, a powerful family who could trace their time in America back to the 1600's.  Her father was a general in the Revolution, and marrying into the Schuyler family was seen as a savvy political move to any man who had ambition.  

Elizabeth and Alexander met at a dinner in 1777; after that they didn't meet again until 1780, when Elizabeth traveled to Morristown, NJ to stay with her Aunt.  Alexander was there with General George Washington as they wintered in town and prepared for the Spring battles that were sure to come. Elizabeth and Alexander certainly had a spark, and fell deeply in love. This is where De La Cruz takes some fictional license and creates obstacles along the path to true love.  This had me thinking about the few choices women had in matters of marriage and living a life they wanted to live.  It reminded me of just how much freedom we do have now, in America, to choose our partners, have a career, have or not have children, and support ourselves financially without a partner. While Elizabeth can, at times, sound a bit more like a modern young lady, I can see this intelligent young lady thinking about life as a woman during the revolution and wondering about her choices.  

Overall, I enjoyed this teen novel.  Even knowing the history of their marriage, and the early death of Alexander by a fatal duel with Aaron Burr, the novel ends with hope and the love of two people who truly found their better halves.  

Rating:  3/6 for a teen historical novel that takes some liberties with the love story, but overall gives life to a long ago love that still fascinates us today. Plenty of historical figures in this novel; the background of the struggles to become a nation adds a sense of urgency and danger to an enduring love story. 

Available in hardcover, audio and ebook. 

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