PanAll About RomanceIn addition to a character-driven plot that the characters refuse to drive, the book is marred by superficial, clichéd characterization. Grace’s science career… yikes. Having the characters throw science-y words around is not a substitute for giving them actual scholarly personalities. Scientist Grace and anthropologist Sebastian assume that a thirty-year-old etiquette manual is an infallible resource and never think to try observation. Our dedicated herpetologist never appears in a scene with any live animals. Grace loves using Latin nomenclature, which is not done in casual conversation by any scientist I’ve ever met. Other than read books about other cultures, I can’t figure out what Sebastian actually does. And I disliked the cliché of yet another nerd girl who was ‘above’ conventional femininity. Female scientists can still love fashion, dancing, and conversation on topics other than their academic field! ... Historicals can and should address genuine social issues, but not in a way that makes their characters sound like time travelers ... If an author wants to make sure their characters express the views of our current day, why write a historical? ... The conceit of making over the hero instead of the heroine is cute ... And while it’s a terrible match for me because I’m someone who prizes settings, I can see this being a reasonable read for someone who doesn’t. You may also like it if you’re someone who’s just happy to see the issues listed above mentioned at all, even in an awkward and implausible way. You’ll still have the problem of two characters who can’t just have the ‘So… maybe we like each other?’ conversation for weeks, but you won’t be smacking your head like I was.
PositiveAll About RomanceThis story is honest, raw, and dark, and while the romance isn’t as strong as I’d have liked, I still recommend An Unconditional Freedom as a deeply affecting read ... the multidimensionality and raw authenticity of [Daniel\'s] pain leapt off the page and settled like a weight in my chest as I read. That’s powerful writing ... Creating Janeta as the heroine was also a strong choice by the author, because her journey of self-conceptualization in terms of race and class is fascinating and illuminating ... NOT fascinating are Janeta’s endless ruminations about Henry, the white Confederate she loved who duped her into spying, and her choice to spy on the Loyal League for Henry in order to free her father. These scenes are repetitve ... Janeta and Daniel are deep, complex characters who help each other grow and heal, respectively. However, maybe this excellent history and character development took a bit of the page count from the romance. I would have liked more chemistry between the two of them, because sometimes they come across more as therapists than lovers ... [but] An Unconditional Freedom is profoundly powerful and worth reading.