Monday, February 25, 2019

Melinda's Review: An Unconditional Freedom

Remember, this is a Royal Pick for the month! Check back on February 28th when the monthly giveaway opens!

An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
Publisher: Kensington (February 26, 2019)
Series: The Loyal League, 3
Genre: Historical Romance

Daniel Cumberland’s uneventful life as a freed man in Massachusetts ended the night he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. To then have his freedom restored by the very man who stole his beloved’s heart is almost too much to bear. When he’s offered entry into the Loyal League, the covert organization of spies who helped free him, Daniel seizes the opportunity to help take down the Confederacy and vent the rage that consumes him.
When the Union Army occupies Janeta Sanchez’s small Florida town, her family’s goodwill and ties to Cuba fail to protect her father from being unjustly imprisoned for treason. To ensure her father’s release, Janeta is made an offer she can’t refuse: spy for the Confederacy. Driven by a desire for vengeance and the hope of saving her family, she agrees to infiltrate the Loyal League as a double agent.

Daniel is both aggravated and intrigued by the headstrong recruit. For the first time in months, he feels something other than anger, but a partner means being accountable, and Daniel’s secret plan to settle a vendetta and strike a blow for the Union can be entrusted to no one. As Janeta and Daniel track Jefferson Davis on his tour of the South, their dual hidden missions are threatened by the ghosts of their pasts and a growing mutual attraction—that might be their only hope for the future.

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Reviews for Cole's books:

Melinda's Review:

There are some authors that I am continually amazed at their writing. I mean, of course, every book I give 5 stars to I love, but the authors that move between genres easily or are especially prolific without seeming to have their talent fade at all? They are particularly perplexing to me because I know writing a book cannot be easy.

Alyssa Cole is one of those authors, and this book…just wow. An Unconditional Freedom is one of those books that will stick with me for years to come. This whole series is beautifully written, with complex characters, and a lushly written historical context of the Civil War. But this conclusion to the series blew me away and is my favorite.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn readers that this one is darker in tone for sure. Which sounds weird, because all of the books are about slavery so obviously they’re dark…but Daniel, the main character, is intense here. With good reason obviously – in the previous Loyal League books he’d been taken into slavery, even though he was a free man. So when this book opens he is a broken, bitter man. He is clearly in a deep, dark hole of depression that I recognized but was not expecting for some reason in a historical. Cole portrayed this so vividly and did this as deftly as she handles everything else. But because of this well of darkness on top of the heaviness of slavery I did have to take breaks while reading it. So just go into reading it being prepared – it is incredibly worth it though!

Daniel’s depression, PTSD, and anxiety was understandable along with his rage. The depiction of all of this was portrayed through his scorn of almost everything, including Janeta, the heroine. She surprises me so much throughout the book. Her growth and story arc was beautiful and unexpected. She’s relatively na├»ve – coming from a plantation in Cuba, having owned slaves, and her white father having married her Black mother. She’d always accepted the world that her father had told her existed and watching her eyes slowly opening via Daniel and their journey was incredibly moving.

Janeta seemed to me like the proxy for a potentially sheltered reader. Janeta starts off spying for the Confederacy but as she meets new people and experiences unfamiliar things Janeta starts to questions the status quo that she was sold on by her family and society while growing up. Cole manages this incredibly beautifully because the entire time I was reading this I felt such a kinship to Janeta even though I’d had literally none of the same experiences. But for every single thing Janeta questions I can make a parallel line to a story we were sold in History class that isn’t *quite* (or at all) accurate. I know that I personally wasn't taught the full story of so many things that took place in history - from Christopher Columbus 'discovering' America to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings and so much more. When I grew up and realized the reality of these things I felt a sort of shock and and questioned why I accepted at face value what I was told. This is maybe a tiny fraction of a percentage of what Janeta could be feeling as she becomes aware she's been living in a world that doesn't really exist.

The relationship between Daniel and Janeta is complex and starts out based on deception and holy crap was I ALL CAPS WORRIED about this throughout the book. Because this is a romance and in the hands of an author I trust implicitly I knew it would turn out okay but wow was I unsure how she would manage this. They fall in love slowly, and it takes a while for both of them to even recognize their feelings, all the while they are constantly in a state of heightened danger. That juxtaposition is one that really worked well for me.

“Hate made good kindling, but hope burned much brighter. It flared up in him, that sensation he’d thought he’d never feel again.”

Cole has clearly done her historical research for these books as the layers and depth here virtually shine. There is mention of Daughters of the Tent and I literally had to run to Wikipedia when I was done because I needed to know more! I never do that. And I don’t always read author’s notes at the end but I know hers are not to be missed, seriously read this one. It made me cry all over again. I can only imagine how difficult this book was to write during this environment and I am so grateful that Cole wrote it.

This whole series is beautiful but this conclusion to The Loyal League is the highlight for me. I cannot recommend this highly enough, it is a historical not to be missed.


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Source: eARC (publisher)

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Thanks for the review, Melinda! 


Until Next Time,

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