Heat Factor: Somewhat variable, nothing terribly explicit
Character Chemistry: All over the map
Plot: Eliza Hamilton is collecting stories about her husband, and our protagonists are all somehow involved
Overall: As a basis for linking stories, this was a little odd
Consisting of three independent novellas, Hamilton’s Battalion is linked superficially by Alexander Hamilton. Hence the title. We are introduced to this thread as Elizabeth Hamilton’s secretary, a heroine of the third story, writes a note to Eliza Hamilton about correspondence received from the Mendelsons (protagonists of the first story). Eliza Hamilton is on a quest to obtain as many stories as possible about her husband, especially “…everything which will illustrate the elasticity of his mind, shrewdness of his judgment, excellence of his heart, forbearance, courage, authority, virtues, &c…” Not a tall order at all.
More on the Hamilton aspect later. For now, let us discuss the three novellas:
Promised Land, set at the Siege of Yorktown, tells the story of Rachel and Nathan Mendelson, who were married young and did not have a particularly good marriage. In the context of the Hamilton storyline focused on in this book, Rachel, who faked her death and pretends to be a man to join the Continental army, is a corporal somewhere under Hamilton’s command at the Siege of Yorktown. Nathan, who is married to Rachel, is spying for General Washington. Because Hamilton is Washington’s Right Hand Man (get it?), Hamilton is in the know about all the spying. Hamilton is all up in this story, popping in and out at convenient moments. He even gets looped into Rachel’s deception when her messmates begin to suspect her of being a woman. Even so, the story is about the rekindled romance between Rachel and Nathan, and Hamilton is a bit character.
If you’d like to read more about the romance narrative in Promised Land, see our full review here.
Hamilton plays almost no role in The Pursuit Of…, since he’s simply glimpsed during the Battle of Yorktown and then mentioned a few times as the story progresses. Most of this story takes place after Yorktown, when protagonists John and Henry are walking back to John’s family home in Rhode Island. The journey is one of self discovery for both men, and it’s charming. They both already know they’re gay, so that’s not the self discovery I’m talking about. It’s nice for the protagonists to know themselves going into a romance. That way they can learn new things about themselves as they learn about each other. The story loops back to the Hamilton plotline as Henry and John visit Eliza Hamilton to talk about their experiences with Alexander Hamilton many years later. It’s sort of a weird non-sequitur tacked on to a beautiful romance.
For more about the charming heroes and their love story in The Pursuit Of…, our full review is here.
Finally, we’ve briefly encountered Mercy Alston before, but in the third novella in this book, That Could Be Enough, we experience her story of finding love with Andromeda Stiel. This story rests on the Hamilton spine not because of any direct interaction with Alexander Hamilton, but because Mercy is a sort of secretary-servant in Eliza Hamilton’s household many years after Hamilton’s death. She’s responsible for transcribing and organizing the stories Eliza Hamilton is collecting about her husband, and she’s frozen herself into a little cocoon that Andromeda shocks her out of. We watch her grow from scornful of Eliza Hamilton’s lifelong love of Alexander to accepting of it. At first she only sees how obsessed Eliza is with her pet project, but as she emerges from the emotional freeze she’s been living in, she begins to see the expression of love and its emotional fulfillment, which is how she is finally able to come to terms with her relationship with Andromeda.
Our full review of That Could Be Enough, with more consideration of the relationship between Mercy and Andromeda, can be found here.
Frankly, the fact that Hamilton plays a bit part (or no part) in these stories for the sake of creating a narrative link is a detraction from each story. Given that Alexander Hamilton became really popular after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s famous production erupted onto the theater scene some years ago (and yes, I can sing it all by heart), it’s hard to believe that there is any reason for these authors to have agreed to this thread other than riding the coattails of that fame. The title of Cole’s work is the title of a song in the show. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to celebrate something. Celebrate Hamilton, celebrate the musical production, celebrate romance; whatever. I can absolutely understand the sentiment. In this case, the execution was simply stilted.
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And here’s the full Hamilton soundtrack, for time travelers from 2014.