For three years of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother’s traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her–until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie’s home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.
Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.
When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie’s freedom on the line, she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love–and freedom–before they ever cross state lines.
What is A Hope Divided about?
In this second installment of The Loyal League, we meet Marlie and Ewan. Marlie is a free Black woman who lives with the white Lynch family–of which she is a member. Ewan is the younger McCall brother, following up on the story from the first book. Ewan is a prisoner to whom Marlie delivers supplies and books, but neither know the other’s role in spying for the Union. That is until circumstances change at the Lynch home, bringing Marlie closer to danger than she’s ever been and putting Ewan on high alert against an old foe.
Genre: Historical Romance (Civil War)
Like the previous installment in the series, this is a Civil War based historical romance between a white Union spy and a free Black woman.
Tropes: An Evil White Woman
Just as in the first book, a big feature of the story is a white Southern woman with a grudge against the Black heroine. In this book, the white woman’s role is more direct and pronounced, and she is more obviously villainous.
Plot: Home Wreckers Come in Many Forms
There are some accusations thrown about by the newest married Lynch woman against Marlie, but ultimately it is Marlie and Sarah’s home that is wrecked.
I have to say that Marlie was my favorite part of this book. Her story arc was awesome, and I especially enjoyed her reconnecting with her mother’s history. Marlie was a very well written and fully rounded character, and it was a delight to read from her perspective and about her. I also enjoyed the outright villainy of Melody. Whereas in An Extraordinary Union, the white Southern belle is definitely awful, Meldoy really drives home the subversion of the belle trope. Instead of being a dainty little flower, she is a cruel mistress with an unfounded hatred towards Black people. She is irredeemable, awful to everyone around her, and definitely sadistic. I also really enjoyed the discussions of philosophy that Ewan and Marlie have.
While I did enjoy the philosophical discussions, there were times that Ewan and Marlie’s connection dragged for me. The romance was certainly there, but it was the sexual connection that honestly didn’t do it for me. The chemistry between Elle and Malcom in the previous book was so good, but I felt like Marlie and Ewan were just recreating that. Their relationship is so tangibly different that I think I just wanted a different kind of chemistry with them.
I’m not sure how I feel about Ewans characterization but it’s not great. While I liked his character and I have no real issues with anything he does in the book, he spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince himself, Marlie, and the reader that he is a Bad Person, that he is emotionless, that he has blood on his hands, and that he is unnatural. I do appreciate that Marlie is at her core such a good person that Ewan does believe his previous actions would frighten her, but he has himself so convinced of his poor character that it gets tiring after a while. Especially because he also admits very few regrets considering the good he’s caused by doing arguably terrible things.
Yet again, Cole writes a captivating tale brimming with love, consideration, and the stark realities of the time period she’s writing in. Whereas in An Extraordinary Union, the white female antagonist fell a little flat, here she is nailed home as an evil Southern belle with a stone cold heart. Marlie’s mother is a fascinating subplot, and I hope we get more about her story in the future of the series. Ewan and Marlie are romantically my favorite couple so far, though sometimes their chemistry didn’t really work for me. I am excited to continue with The Loyal League and absolutely hoping to see Marlie and Ewan again.