Y’all, I still can’t get over being lucky enough to get an ARC of this book from NetGalley, so super thanks to them for the opportunity to have read one of my most anticipated books of Fall in advance of it’s release date. This was especially valuable considering there are only two days left in November!
There are a few things you need to know if you’re going to read A Hope Divided. Number One: The romance is a blend of the historical fiction, which is to say that the history heavily informs the romance. Aka, if you want your balance to be more romance, less history, this is not going to be your favorite. And if you read An Extraordinary Union, that’s balanced a little more neutral, where this one is balanced with a slight shift to history. As a person who loves historical fiction so long as I have a good romance sub-plot, this book was perfect. But I wouldn’t pick it up if what I wanted was a light, funny read like a Julia Quinn or Lisa Kleypas. Does that make sense? I just want to make sure you read this when you’re going to love it.
Number Two: This book is well-written and contains commentary we need. Did you know people are still out here trying to say that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery like the Articles of Confederation didn’t specifically say slavery was why they created their whole separate… fake country. If you didn’t, good, keep missing it because it’s just so frustrating. But if you did see it, then you know that we need more books that explore the motivations of Southerners in a way that is easily consumable.
This book follows Marlie Lynch, the biracial daughter of a former slave who is a healer. I’m sure there’s a specific word for what Marlie and her mother did, but I’m honestly not sure if it was stated or what it would be. Anyway, Marlie is taken away to live with her white sister as a “full” member of the family after the Lynch patriarch dies leaving his estate to Steven (his son) and Sarah. However, Steven lives elsewhere with his wife, so Sarah and Marlie pretty much have free reign.
The hero is Ewan McCall, brother of Malcolm (aka hero of An Extraordinary Union), and he is in a Rebel prison, though he could pretty much escape if he wanted to. However, Marlie keeps visiting the prison and he’s enamored with her. But when a man from his past appears, the prison visits by Marlie and Sarah have to stop, thereby prompting Ewan to escape, though he doesn’t make it too far.
I loved this book. I felt like the conversations with the True Believers as compared to the Poor White Farmers was a conversation that is so unbelievably necessary to hear. Perhaps this is influenced by my reading of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, but it made me think a lot about the structural racism pieces. Poor white farmers were very negatively impacted by the Civil War, but there’s a difference between being a poor white person and a black person, both then and now. Then it was the difference between still being considered human and also, you know, being free, but today poor white people are still valued more than black people. Controversial statement, apparently, but just look at how the opioid epidemic is being handled as opposed to literally any other drug problem we’ve had in recent history.
And all of that was bundled up in this romance, where Marlie really shines! I love romance novels with heroines that I absolutely admire and while I felt like Ewan and Marlie could have figured things out faster, I still really liked them. And, I think I’m never going to understand how it would have felt to be a black-appearing woman falling in love with a white man. So maybe my impatience of like, MARLIE, EWAN IS NOT JUDGING YOU FOR YOUR SKIN COLOR, that I had too in An Extraordinary Union is really just a difference of race and time.
So, yes, highly recommend if you love this period of history and a relatively slow burn romance where the characters are very intellectually attracted to one another before they make physical moves.
And, if you haven’t read An Extraordinary Union yet, you don’t necessarily need to have done so, but what are you waiting for? Let me know if you’ll be picking this one up!