Kate’s Books: Alex & Eliza

alex and eliza (1)

I am Hamiltrash and proud. A year ago I fell in love with the musical and its message of diversity, freedom, and self-determination, and I have never looked back. So when I learned that Melissa de la Cruz was releasing a novel about the love story between Alex and Eliza, I was excited. After all, the musical doesn’t really delve into how Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler came to fall in love. All we know is that soon they are married and devoted to one another, and that it is Eliza Schuyler responsible for keeping Hamilton’s legacy alive.

My boyfriend got me a copy of this book (as they say in Tagalog, doon tayo sa mga nagreregalo sa atin ng libro) and I finished it when some friends and I spent the weekend on the beach in Bataan (will blog about this soon!). I wanted to write a review as soon as we got back to Manila, but had to put it off for a little bit for work. (As usual.) Anyway, here’s what I thought of Alex & Eliza: A Love Story.

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The plot:

The cannons and rifles of the American Revolution roar in the distance, but that isn’t enough to stop one of New York City society’s most exclusive and most-awaited events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. The Schuylers, descended from two of the oldest Dutch bloodlines in the New World, are one of the foremost families in the fledgling nation. Their crown jewels are the three eldest daughters: Angelica, with her razor-sharp cunning wit; Eliza, a patriot to her very core; and Peggy, known for her dazzling beauty and charm. Their mother, Catherine, is out to make suitable matches for her daughters, but Eliza would rather be serving the cause than dancing a quadrille.

Still, she can’t help but be excited when she hears that Colonel Alexander Hamilton, the rakish and handsome rising star aide-de-camp, George Washington’s right-hand man, will be a guest at the ball. Sparks fly that fateful night – and not all of them good ones, too – and thus begins an epic love story that would change the course of American history.

Featuring a cast of characters that’ll be familiar to any Hamilton: An American Musical fan, Alex and Eliza: A Love Story is a historical romance, cute and sweet, that’ll whet your appetite for more of Hamilton. Readers should note, however, that this book does not take place in the same universe as the musical, and should do their best to disassociate from Lin-Manuel’s masterpiece before cracking this book open.

What I liked:

  • I really, really, really liked Eliza! Intelligent and practical, she presents a strong character without sacrificing her femininity. It’s so refreshing. She’s complex, well-rounded, well fleshed out, and just generally wonderfully written. The book is called Alex and Eliza, but I really felt like Eliza was the main character just because I could relate to her more.
  • Melissa de la Cruz describes Alexander Hamilton as having ginger hair, which I found hilarious because I kept seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda and Javier Muñoz. Also, the use of wigs is often mentioned in the book (which I suppose is accurate, since the use of wigs was in fashion at the time thanks to the French) and it really put me in a good mood, imagining Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Philippa Soo in powdered curly wigs.
  • The romance was so great! I know a ton of people don’t like Melissa de la Cruz’s writing, but I must say – at least for this book – she writes two young people falling in love very well! The book is mostly set in Morristown, where Alexander and Eliza begin connecting through their devotion to the cause of independence, and all the scenes between the two of them made me squeal like a little girl. They clashed during their first meeting, but then slowly became friends, and then began falling in love. I especially loved the scene where Alex, still smarting from his previous less-than-friendly encounter with Eliza, rescues her when her carriage breaks down.

What I didn’t like:

  • To be honest, Angelica and Peggy’s characterizations drove me up the wall. Angelica came across as vicious and petty, while Peggy seems like a total ditz. I’m not aware if they were actually that way, so I can’t comment on that as far as being historically accurate goes, but as fictionalized characters, I totally hated them.
  • TRIGGER WARNING. In the book, Eliza is at first betrothed to Henry Livingston, thanks to his wealthy family and pedigreed background. After his stag party, a drunken Henry makes his way to Eliza’s aunt’s house and tries to rape Eliza. Naturally, Alex saves Eliza in time. I felt like this incident was handled poorly by the author and was entirely unnecessary to the plotline. Rape and rape attempts as plot devices should be dealt with very carefully, and I just don’t feel that Melissa de la Cruz did.
  • SPOILER ALERT. The book tells us that Alexander Hamilton was involved in revealing the Benedict Arnold plot. I don’t know enough about American history to comment on the accuracy of this, but I was disappointed in how it was completely shoved under the carpet. It’s a brief aside at the end of the book, and nothing more. If Melissa de la Cruz had wanted to add a little more intrigue to the novel, she should have woven it throughout the whole story, instead of shoehorning it at the very end. I’m sure she intended it to be this “woah, no way?” moment, but it just ended up feeling super awkward.

Verdict:

3.5/5. A cute, sweet, fluffy historical romance that reads like a YA novel. A great light read to delve into when you want to relax!

Disclaimer! I don’t know too much about American history – I’m not American, after all – so I can’t comment on the historical accuracy of the events and characterizations. All I can do is critique the book as a work of fiction, existing in its own universe. If anyone would like to comment on the historical accuracy, please do so in the comments!

 

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