This 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.
An Unconditional Freedom seamlessly melds historical fiction with a titillating tale of espionage, all the while remaining true to the expectations of the setting and building strong, vivid characters that will have readers rooting for them after just a few chapters.
Cole conveys the ways Janeta’s and Daniel’s layered identities pose challenges while affording them strengths of insight and character. Cole weaves a tense and gripping plot into a tapestry of fascinating and authentic historical detail, told from the distinct perspectives of people of color, without skimping on the growing feelings and strong desires that bring two lovers together. Forbidden attraction and the threat of betrayal are the initial hooks for what turns out to be a sumptuously written and meticulously researched tale of a country at war with itself and two damaged people who find themselves in each other’s arms.