Title: Alex and Eliza
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: YA / Historical
Synopsis: 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. (taken from Goodreads)
Okay before I start this, ya’ll should know that I’m complete and utter Hamilton trash so of course, of course I wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a copy of Alex and Eliza.
Alex and Eliza: A Love Story is exactly what the title says it is. A love story. So if you’re looking for war and blood and political intrigue then you best pick up a different book instead. Here, we follow two POVs: Alex and Eliza’s, though the book itself mainly focuses on Eliza. To be frank, there really isn’t much I can say. Again, it’s a love story. That’s the premise, that’s the goal: for Alex and Eliza to get together. As a result, there was little to no character development in this one. It’s all fluff and flirtations and sweetness galore.
The good points? Dialogue. The banter was witty, the pick up lines smooth, and the exchanges were just enjoyable to read in general. Best part of the writing by far. The prose was pleasantly old-fashioned. The romance itself was cute, though peppered with moments that had me cringing. Still, it sets apart from the musical and dives into its own account of how Alex and Eliza came to be together. The first half was easily the more interesting part. The pace starts to slow mid-way, then quickly picks up during the last couple of chapters. This was also slightly more historically accurate (I say this based off the information I read on Wikipedia) than Hamilton.
Great for fans of fluffy romance, light reading, and Hamilton (though if you’re a fan of Hamilton, best keep the musical separate as you read the book).
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants/raves. Read at your own discretion.
I’m not new to Melissa de la Cruz’s books. The first I’ve read from her was her Blue Bloods series when I was in 6th grade. I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ve also read Something In Between, which I thought was immensely better though I found her writing style to be a bit juvenile. In short, de la Cruz’s writing and I never really clicked. I was wary, to say the least, when I learned that she wrote a YA romance novel based off Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, and I didn’t have high expectations going into this book.
Did I love it? As I expected, no.
But I did like it. Surprisingly enough, it was a pleasant and adorable read. The one thing I could say I actually loved about the book would have to be the prose. I liked how old-fashioned and formal the dialogue was written. But the writing style? Yeah, still not clicking. Too detailed at some points and painfully slow. I had to drag my way through some of the descriptions. The dialogue, I enjoyed immensely though, most especially the banter. Some of it had me chuckling out loud.
I liked Eliza. She was the most patriotic and sensible among her sisters, and she remained that way during the entire novel. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing because on one hand, it’s good that she stayed true to who she was. But on the other hand… very little character development. They really weren’t exaggerating with the whole “a love story” part. Eliza spent the first half of the book denying her feelings about Alex, then the next half of the book fretting over how she and Alex can never be together because Alex doesn’t have title or money or lands.
For some reason, I didn’t quite like Alex’s POV. Might be because I’d been expecting him to be somewhat like the Alex from Hamilton the Musical. Witty, clever, and always in a rush. Instead we get him as a lovestruck fool, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I do feel like his character wasn’t developed enough for him to be anything other than a lovestruck fool. He fell flat for me in a lot of ways. The other issues I had with him are slightly more personal, I think. I don’t know, I just thought it was weird that he kept smelling Eliza. There were times when he came off as rather creepy and even wimpish, but I did genuinely enjoy his chapters during the last quarter of the book.
I wasn’t actively rooting for them to get together. Not because I knew they were going to get together in the end anyway, but I wasn’t that invested in their romance. They had their moments–cute ones, like when Alex wanted to invite Eliza for a sleigh ride. Alex was pretty romantic in his own way. But I would have loved to see more of the letters. They were mentioned at the end, and we only ever get to see one (written by Alex to John Laurens) and I think that might be one of the reasons why I couldn’t grasp Alex’s character all that much. He was known for his writing, and he became who he was because of his skill with a quill. Would have been nice to witness that too.
I liked Angelica. It was clear from the very beginning that she was the most logical of the three, and though she did come off as condescending at times, she acted the way I’d expect an eldest sister to act. I wish the author had delved more into her relationship with Alex though. Yes, I know it’s called Alex and Eliza and yes, I know it’s their love story. But Angelica was significant in Alex’s life as well so I found it strange that we didn’t see any interactions between them or even hints of their relationship. I mean, come on. They were even speculated to be lovers in real life; they needed to establish at least something akin to a close friendship.
There’s nothing much I can say about Peggy. You know. And Peggy. If you’re Hamiltrash, you’d probably get the reference. Speaking of which, we get that line in the book:
“And Peggy, too!” said Eliza, jumping up from her chair to give each of her sisters a warm hug. “What are you doing here?”
I may or may not have grinned madly when I read that. Anyway, I kind of enjoyed Peggy and Stephen’s minor romance more than I did Alex and Eliza’s. I thought Stephen was adorable, especially when he came all the way to Morristown to visit Peggy. That was cute. I enjoyed Peggy’s interactions with Eliza, as well as when all three of the sisters interacted with each other. Seriously, they did not get enough time with each other. I wanted more sisterly affection goddamn it!
John Laurens was there! And Lafayette! I loved them for the short amount that we got them. I think that’s mostly my problem with the entire book. The parts and characters I ended up enjoying had little page time, shoved aside for Alex and Eliza to get together. To be honest, the interactions I enjoyed the most weren’t centred around Alex and Eliza at all. I loved seeing Eliza with those in the infirmary and her sisters, and Alex with the other soldiers and his friends. It made them feel more real, and the story less like a setup.
There were some cringe worthy and cliché parts. I was praying that Alex wouldn’t be the one to come in and save Eliza from Henry Livingston but nah, of course he has to swoop in and be her knight in shining armor. I was glad that Stephen was with him, at least. Would have been even more cliché to have him appear all alone. Also, that wig scratching scene at the ball was just plain weird. Other things that bothered me: the fact that people actually referred to Alexander as Alex in the novel (seems odd, considering the time period). The Schuyler sisters calling each other “sister.” The men are described to be either dashing or handsome all the damn time. Both Alex and Eliza blushed way too much. Oh, and the book had a habit of telling instead of showing.
So we have this line on page 251:
“He was too honest to lie to her.”
Kinda laughed out loud at that one cause Maria Reynolds, you guys. Maria Reynolds.
Now I’m not the type of person who likes putting quotes in their reviews unless it’s to point something out but there were a whole bunch of quotes that I ended up liking so I’m gonna go ahead and share this one particular quote that stood out to me:
“A little education, Eliza realized, could sometimes be more dangerous than no education at all.”
And then there’s this wonderful line:
“Romance during wartime, he though. In exceptional times, none of the usual rules apply. Then again, perhaps it’s not the times that are exceptional, he thought. Perhaps it’s the girl.”
As un-Alex-like as Alex seemed in this book, I did feel his love for Eliza was as deep as the history books (or in my case, Hamilton the musical) portrays. That line won me over.
I feel like those who are not familiar with Hamilton or have some basic knowledge about his life might have a difficult time enjoying this. The romance and the historical aspect was great and all but we never really get a sense of who Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton were. There were info dumps here and there, particularly in the beginning where we had that unnecessarily prologue serving as a mini history lesson.
So to sum it all up, it was fluffy, light read. Good enough to please Hamilton fans and romance/historical fans alike but still underwhelming. But hey, if Melissa de la Cruz ever decides to write a sequel focusing on that affair with Maria Reynolds, I’d probably pick that one up in a heartbeat.