Elise Cooper interviews

Melissa De La Cruz . Part II

Love & War by Melissa De La Cruz is the second book of the Alex and Eliza love story.  The Revolutionary War still looms prominently although it is coming to an end.  This story shows the struggles of early married life as Alexander Hamilton is trying to make a name for himself to prove himself worthy, while Eliza is trying to make her way into high society.  

 

The story delves into the same problem many young couples face, even today, how Alexander Hamilton has a burning ambition, and Eliza is trying to find her place in this world.  At first, he was off to war, leaving his newly wed bride with her family, and then at the war’s conclusion he starts up his law practice, spending long hours, and basically neglecting his wife.  

 

Unlike the first book, this one does have more of a balance between romance and history. It delves into the topics of unemployment, financial crises, and the political divide. As a lawyer, he took on many loyalist clients, arguing for reconciliation and challenged the laws that penalized them. The story touches on the three views of political thought for this young nation:  Hamilton believes in a strong central government; Jefferson’s belief is a middle ground of limited government except for national security, and those like Governor George Clinton who wants each state to have absolute control.  With a quote that is relevant today, the author shows the divide among Americans, “We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences rather than allow them to divide us.”

 

Readers get a glimpse into the real personality of Eliza. Hamilton is growing to depend on her as his psychological anchor, where she views his enemies as hers.  There is a fictional scene in the book where she calls out Governor Clinton as she defends her husband, “This man whose hand I hold and whose ring I share put his life on the line for this country over and over…” This is a very similar tone to what actually happened when she told former President James Monroe, “If you come to tell me you repent, that you are sorry, very sorry, for the misrepresentations and the slanders and the stories you circulated against my dear husband…”

 

The dialogue in this novel creates an atmosphere that fluctuates between joy and anger whether between husband and wife, or between the three Schuyler sisters.  It delves into how each must face their trials and tribulations.  This story is very captivating and entertaining.

 

Elise Cooper:  Through Eliza and her sisters you show the domination of certain New York families?

Melissa De La Cruz:  Her mother, Catherine Van Rensselaer, is from the richest family in New York. There were five rich families in New York that intermarried each other to keep the money.  Yet, Alexander Hamilton was able to win Eliza’s hand.  He set out to prove himself to her and her family.  Because of all the prestige and wealth, he had to show he was worthy and just as good as them, if not better.

 

EC:  This story compares the Schuyler sisters.  Can you describe the eldest, Angelica?

MC:  If I had written this five years ago I would have been drawn more to her than Eliza.  She was wicked, smart, very sophisticated, able to dazzle ballrooms, and even advised men.  She married her husband, John Church, for money, not love. I had him worshipping her and as a congenial, loveable kind of guy.  

 

EC:  Can you describe Eliza?

MC:  Practical, sensible, kind, modest, and loving.  She is very American. I became interested in her because I was tired of writing about villains and was drawn to her for being a decent person. 

 

EC:  How did she interact with Alex?

MC: It was hard to find stuff about her. What we know is through him, mainly his letters. She was very loyal to Hamilton and became his confidant, actually helping him with his career. She became the power behind the throne, but from the sidelines.  She was a very private person.

 

EC:  Can you describe the third sister, Peggy?

MC:  Unconventional, beautiful, a gossip.  She is the most indulged, materialistic, and a little spoiled.  The romance between her and her future husband, Stephan Van Rensselaer, was interesting to write.  He is younger than her and she is very sweet to him.  I think her older sisters made fun of him because of his awkwardness.  I also think she enjoyed the relationship because she was able to boss him around a little. 

 

EC:  The Hamilton play implies an attraction between Angelica and Alexander.  Do you agree?

MC:  I definitely had my own vision. I have a sister and thought ‘no way would she like him in a romantic way.’  They were sisters who loved one another.  Angelica adored Eliza.  In this story, I do not have Angelica and Hamilton attracted to each other in that way.  I remember telling people that Lin-Manuel is not a girl with a sister or he would know it just would not happen.  I do not think Angelica would ever do that because she took the role of older sister seriously. Of course, he was close to the sisters, but in a brotherly sort of way.

 

EC:  Interestingly she had her portrait painted in a prison.  Is that true?

MC:  Yes.  I tried to stick to the timeline as much as possible. This portrait captures her liveliness, directness, and how she was unpretentious.   In this book, all the people are real and many of the anecdotes are also real. She did have her portrait painted by Ralph Earl while he was in Debtor’s Prison.  Hamilton had asked her to do it figuring if she did it other society figures would follow. When Earl left prison, he did live with them.  We do not know who offered him to stay but if I had to guess I think it would have been Hamilton not Eliza.  I also do not think she was that excited to venture into Debtor’s Prison to have her portrait painted.

 

EC:  Did Hamilton really defend the Loyalist woman?

MC:  I made up the case he argues but is based on many similar cases.  He became known after the Revolution as someone who defended those loyal to the Crown.  After the War, many wanted to take the Loyalists’ property and position.  He had the foresight to know that to be the United States of America everyone had to be a part of this country.  This is why I put in the book quote, ‘We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences.’

 

EC:  It seemed Aaron Burr came in and out of their lives?

MC:  Yes.  We know him as the person who killed Alexander Hamilton, but he was also their neighbor and he did spar on legal cases.  I think he saw himself as the runner up to Alexander Hamilton’s charm.  He was not quite as handsome, and not quite as dashing.

 

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of the stories? 

MC: They are very romantic stories but I do like to have the political and historical backstory in as well. It does not matter what part I am writing, it always goes back to what happens between people, their emotions and actions. I think it’s just natural for readers to be attracted to this incredibly dynamic, charismatic, idealistic couple. In this book, I showed how the relationship, and they as people, weren’t perfect. The romance epitomizes American values, and reminds us of what our nation stands for. 

 

EC: Is this an adult book or a YA book?

MC:  60% of the YA readership is adults.  I write for my teenage self and what my teenage self would be interested in.  I want to entertain myself and allow readers to have a great story.

 

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book projects?

MC:  There will definitely be a third Alex and Eliza book, but I cannot say anything more.  I am discussing it with the publisher. Coming out next year will be the fourth book in the Disney's Descendants series.  It is about the children of Disney’s greatest villains and their adventures.  They are trying to be good and it has the theme that children should not let their parents define who they are.  

 

THANK YOU!!

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