Book Review: Alex and Eliza

Alex and Eliza 
Published By: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Page Count: 336
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Young Adult - Historical Fiction

Alexander Hamilton is a historical figure that has a firm hold on the current collective imagination after the smash Broadway hit brought his story to life. While I must admit that I haven't seen the musical and am largely ignorant to most of the songs from the production, as a history teacher I am familiar with Hamilton and his contributions to the Revolutionary War effort and our fledgling country. While I know the historical details, I am largely ignorant to the personal intricacies of his life which include his upbringing, self doubts, and romance with Eliza Schuyler. I also had never heard of Eliza before picking up this novel, but now that I have made her acquaintance I long to learn more about the intelligent and vivacious woman who preferred to use her mind instead of her beauty while holding firmly to her beliefs.

I was expecting this novel to involve a lot of war aspects, but for the most part there is very little fighting as the novel largely takes place in the winter months of 1780 when Washington and his troops are staying in Morristown, New Jersey. Fighting has ceased during the bitter cold, but will begin again when the spring thaw sets in. As General Washington's aide, Colonel Alexander Hamilton is kept a safe distance from the bullets and blood, but he aches to have a command to prove himself on the battlefield. His luck seems to shift when he hears that the lovely Eliza Schuyler is on her way to Morristown to stay with her aunt and uncle, the local doctor and nurse. Alex feels his heart soar with joy at the prospect of seeing Eliza again. It has been two years since the last time he laid eyes on her, but absence has truly made his heart grow fonder.

The novel focuses on the progression of the relationship between Alex and Eliza that will lead them to the alter in one of the greatest love stories in US History. There is a good amount of detail about conditions for the soldiers, medicine during the time period, and social structures of the era, but largely the novel revolves around the relationship element. I wasn't upset by this as the cover makes it very clear that love is at the forefront of this tale. There is some Pride and Prejudice elements that play out through the course of the novel - including a mother trying to marry her daughters off as quickly as possible to save the family fortune - which made me love this novel all the more.

I was intrigued to find that I saw Eliza as a kindred spirit of sorts. I admired her gumption and principles greatly. I could easily see myself wanting to be friends with her if I had lived in this time period. She lived a fascinating life and inspired me to do more research on her. I must know more about the life of this strong, brave woman.

Furthermore, I loved Eliza's sisters. Angelica and Peggy are headstrong, tempestuous, and intelligent beauties who command a room with their very presence. Eliza always feels like she fades into the background when her sisters are around, but I didn't feel that was true at all. Each of the Schuyler sisters has an independent streak and a fierce loyalty to her sisters. I admired the relationship between the trio.

Overall, I loved this novel. For me, it was the perfect balance of history and romance. I loved seeing Alex and Eliza grow as people and become more worthy of one another. While the author fully admits that not much is known about their whirlwind courtship, I feel like she made it feel authentic. I like to believe that things happened for Alex and Eliza exactly as they did in the novel. I was also thrilled to hear that another installment is forthcoming.

I think this may be Melissa de la Cruz's best novel to date. She has a gift for bringing history and its inhabitants to life.

One Last Gripe: I wanted to know even more about the medical care of the time period.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The women who fought against the gender norms of their time and station

First Sentence: Like a latter-day Greek temple, the Schuyler family mansion sat atop a softly rounded hill outside Albany.

Favorite Character: Eliza

Least Favorite Character: The entire Livingston family

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.