Alex and Eliza: A Love Story
is a 2017 romance novel by Melissa de la Cruz. Set in the late eighteenth century, it follows the formerly wealthy Schuyler family whose home and land in New York are burned down by the British army. Philip and Catherine Schuyler have no other chance at restoring their wealth than to find husbands for their three daughters, Angelica, Peggy, and Eliza. Eliza falls in love with Alexander Hamilton, who will later become President of the United States, but since he is neither wealthy nor powerful as a young man, the Schuyler family drives them apart. Instead, Eliza is forced into an engagement with Henry Livingston, who turns out to be a rapist. While Angelica and Peggy find wealthy men to marry, the family is conflicted over Alex’s continued love for Eliza and their friction with the violent Henry. The novel illuminates how the institution of marriage was once an economic as well as a social necessity but suggests that many women tried to resist being treated as commodities to be with those they loved.
The first part of the book occurs on a single day in Albany, New York, at the Schuylers’ estate. Alexander Hamilton arrives with a message summoning Eliza’s father to court over financial trouble. Eliza glimpses him on the staircase and is intrigued, both because he has such a powerful (though obviously stressful) job and because he is very handsome. That night, he and Eliza spend time together. While pantomiming surrender from war, Alex gives Eliza his handkerchief. When they say goodnight, an eavesdropper steals the handkerchief from Eliza and sends it to Alex, along with a forged message from Eliza asking him to meet her in the barn. Alex excitedly waits at the barn, but Eliza never comes.
Two years pass, and Eliza leaves Albany for Morristown. She moves into her aunt Gertrude’s home and works to immunize soldiers to the smallpox epidemic. Alex learns that Eliza is moving to Morristown, and vigilantly watches the single road that leads into town. As her carriage approaches town, it breaks down. Alex seizes the opportunity to drive her in himself. However, the encounter goes awry when Alex asks Eliza about the message and the handkerchief. Eliza is aghast that Alex thinks she could be capable of such a debased act. Even after Alex apologizes, she angrily parts ways. She only warms up to Alex again some months later, when he comes to be immunized from smallpox.
As the Schuylers’ financial situation worsens, Angelica and Peggy move to Morristown, too. They work for the same smallpox project, helping to immunize President Washington’s head officials. One night, Aunt Gertrude invites Alex and his friends over for dinner with the girls. Eliza connects with Alex over their abolitionist values. Afterward, Eliza, Peggy, and Angelica convene about their marriage prospects. Peggy declares that she will marry Stephen, who is exorbitantly wealthy. Angelica is less set on marrying but intends to marry John, accepting that she is not very interested in him. Eliza is starting to fall in love with Alex, knowing her family will not endorse marrying a man who is not rich.
Alex’s best friend, Laurens, leaves to fight against the British army in Charleston. Fearing that Laurens may die, Alex goes to Eliza for support. At his request, Eliza brings him to the hospital, where they tend to wounded soldiers together. When Eliza returns home, she finally tells her sisters that she hopes to marry Alex.
Aunt Gertrude puts on a second dinner for Eliza, Peggy, and Angelica and their respective suitors. During the dinner, Angelica makes fun of Alex for being a nobody with little money. When Alex leaves, Angelica takes Eliza aside and informs her that their mother has written and is forcing Eliza to marry Henry Livingston, a man she does not care for. Alex goes straight to his overseer in Washington, declaring his interest in commanding a battalion, hoping to create a name for himself. Washington grants his request. When he finds Eliza to tell her, he learns of her marriage arrangement with Henry.
Henry moves the wounded soldiers living in the barn to a run-down whorehouse to make room for his bachelor party. Alex finds the barn, expecting to find Henry there to challenge him to a duel. However, Henry is not there. As Alex passes Eliza’s house, he hears her scream. He breaks in and finds Henry trying to rape her. Alex restrains Henry but doesn’t challenge him to a duel, at Eliza’s request. He travels on horseback to the Schuylers’ home, asking Eliza’s parents to let him marry her instead. They give him their blessing, and all travel back to Morristown to prevent Eliza’s wedding to Henry. Alex and Eliza
ends like a classic drama-romance: Alex and Eliza say their vows, then go on a honeymoon in New York.