A self-taught scientist spying for the North rescues a Union soldier in the Confederate state of North Carolina.
Marlie Lynch is the free-born daughter of a formerly enslaved medicine woman and a mysterious white father. Even though her connection to the landowning white Lynch family is not openly acknowledged, Marlie lives in their house and dines with the family. This nominal protection allows her to take risks for her cause. On the surface, she’s collecting the herbs and roots that go into her medicinal decoctions. But she’s also helping those less fortunate get to safety through the Underground Railroad and carrying books, food, and information in and out of the local prison camp. There, she meets the imprisoned soldier Ewan McCall. But Ewan is more than just another redheaded white boy fighting for the Union. He’s a skilled interrogator and is tormented by the things he’s done to extract information from captured Rebels. When Ewan seizes an opportunity to escape the prison, Marlie shelters him at the Lynch estate. But before long, the hatred and racism that surround Marlie’s home invade her very family, and she flees with Ewan through the Carolina woods. The second book in Cole’s Loyal League series (An Extraordinary Union, 2017) follows much the same pattern as the first. Again, Cole's heroine is gorgeously portrayed and powerful enough that readers will worship at her feet just as Ewan does. But if this book shows that Cole is settling into a pattern, readers won’t want her to break the mold on book No. 3. Her prose is flawless. Her historical research is absorbing, and her characters are achingly human. This book is fantastic.
As the war closes in around them, the line blurs between who is the rescuer and who is the rescued.