Review of Hamilton’s Battalion

Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole. 2017.

hamiltons battalion5 stars

I found these romance novellas very satisfying as romances, and loved the collection as a whole. Each of the stories was very high quality, which is rare in my experience of novella collections, though not surprising given the tremendous talents involved. I really appreciated that this collection was cross orientation; it was amazing to read these stories as connected to each other.

I read this on the strength of the authors, not for the concept in particular. I haven’t seen Hamilton, read the books or listened to the music, so I can’t speak to how satisfying this might be to Hamilton fans.

Promised Land by Rose Lerner (m/f; heroine is crossdressing for the bulk of the story)

I really enjoyed this; it was my first book by this author, who I have been wanting to read for some time. I fell very hard for both the main characters, who were drawn incredibly deeply and beautifully. The romance arc was complex and lovely, and it was so deeply Jewish in a way that just made me so happy as a Jewish reader. I liked that the MCs had very different relationships to Judaism, and complex Jewish identities. I liked the hero’s arc especially, the way he came to realize how he had been moving from privilege and selfishness and hadn’t seen his wife as clearly as he thought he had. This novella didn’t fall into most of the common cissexist tropes that often occur with crossdressing stories, which I was glad for. It made it safer for me, as a trans reader. With one notable exception: Promised Land does have a potential peril of a gender reveal scene, with discussion of looking at genitalia. It’s handled fairly well, and there is no naked reveal moment. I do wish that it had not gone this route, which seemed mainly to point out misogyny and to raise the stakes. (And perhaps because it’s an expected element of a crossdressing story.) I’d really love it if there were crossdressing stories that did not include these scenes at all.

Representation

  • Jewish hero
  • Jewish heroines
  • Jewish woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Descriptions of battle, MCs lives in peril, imprisonment, references to marriage that began with elements of coercion, misogyny, threats of a gender reveal via nakedness.

In Pursuit Of… by Courtney Milan (m/m)

This is lovely. I enjoyed it a lot. All the hallmarks of my favorite Courtney Milan romances: amazing sparky beginning, great chemistry, deeply nuanced characterization, wonderful dialogue and language, a conflict that seems almost impossible to resolve, and a very satisfying romance arc. The first half of this novella was totally the best thing about a truly terrible day. I read Henry as having ADHD, and appreciated this characterization, which felt complex and like so much of it was about coming to self acceptance and unpacking the ableist messages he’d been raised with. I love how cheese plays into this story, the way that it shifted into an epistolary romance, how the white MC isn’t let off the hook for his complicity with white supremacy, the way the story held the complexity of John’s feelings about the U.S., and his relationship with his family. It doesn’t handwave things away or try to make them simple or easy, which I really appreciated, especially given the timing of this book and the current state of the U.S.

Representation

  • Black gay hero
  • Gay hero with ADHD
  • Bisexual hapa woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Descriptions of battle, MCs lives in peril, injury in battle, threats of racist violence, internalized and external ableism, racism, white MC unlearning white supremacy, descriptions of enslavement, queer hatred, descriptions of child physical and psychological abuse, family members in peril.

That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole (f/f)

I loved this story so much; it was my personal favorite in the collection, and one of my favorite f/f books, period. I fell really hard for Mercy, who tried so hard to protect herself from pain, had such intense emotional armor. I loved watching her slowly build trust and connection and let herself feel. It was gorgeous to witness, and I really felt that Andromeda was such a good match for her. I was rooting for them so much as a couple. I really enjoyed the way letters were woven into the story; I love epistolary romances, and this one was so satisfying. I liked Andromeda very much, and loved the way she thought through design in the story, that aspect of her characterization was wonderful. This was a beautiful romance to close the book on; I liked the way it wove in the other two stories.

Representation

  • Black lesbian heroines
  • Black woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Queer hatred, dissociation, misogyny.

Overall, this collection was wonderful, and I am so glad I read it. I know it was the first m/m for Milan, and the first f/f for Cole, and I hope they continue to write in those subgenres. The collection as a whole felt very connected and was extremely strong. I loved how each of the stories centered marginalized characters in a historical period that often is portrayed as extremely white, heterosexual and gentile. This collection of historical romances does that in a way that’s deeply political and timely, raising questions about freedom and white supremacy that are very relevant today. It also offers incredibly satisfying romances that are intensely compelling and hit me right in the feels. It balances these things beautifully, and that is no small feat.

 

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
  • I am friends on Twitter with Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole, have done sensitivity reading for Alyssa Cole (though not for this book), and have had brief contact with Rose Lerner on Twitter.

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