What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas

What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

A young woman pays a devastating price for freedom in this heartrending and breathtaking novel of the nineteenth-century South.

1850. I was six years old the day Lewis Holt came to take me away.

Born into slavery, Dahlia never knew her mother—or what happened to her. When Dahlia’s father, the owner of Vesterville plantation, takes her to work in his home as a servant, she’s desperately lonely. Forced to leave behind her best friend, Bo, she lives in a world between black and white, belonging to neither.

Ten years later, Dahlia meets Timothy Ross, an Englishman in need of a wife. Reinventing herself as Lily Dove, Dahlia allows Timothy to believe she’s white, with no family to speak of, and agrees to marry him. She knows the danger of being found out. She also knows she’ll never have this chance at freedom again.

Ensconced in the Ross mansion, Dahlia soon finds herself held captive in a different way—as the dutiful wife of a young man who has set his sights on a political future. But when Bo arrives on the estate in shackles, Dahlia decides to risk everything to save his life. With suspicions of her true identity growing and a bounty hunter not far behind, Dahlia must act fast or pay a devastating price.

Only when they’ve lost it all do they find a new beginning.

What Passes as Love is a rapid page-turner that is so thought-provoking, and poetic at times. I didn’t want to stop reading… I was that mesmerized. Dahlia Holt takes readers on her pursuit of freedom. Though the story is told from Dahlia’s and Bo’s viewpoint there are memorable life lessons and conversations that were had with Papa Sap and Mother Rose that stuck with me. Papa Sap was the elder voice of reason to young Bo. “You can’t ask why if you want any peace. You just gotta let ‘em go.” And thanks to Mother Rose and her love for Dahlia, Dahlia was able to learn to read, write and other valuable things becoming of a lady.

Dahlia and Bo both were motherless children and shared a bond at an early age. Dahlia didn’t fit in in the slave quarters and her two sisters didn’t make her feel welcomed in their father’s, slave owner Lewis Holt’s home. With the desire in her heart for freedom Dahlia takes the opportunity that became available to get just that. Dahlia was my favorite character. She is strong willed and set on finding her identity, and her freedom. She can be careless but she is also brave. Dahlia has the power to exploit the ignorance and lies of her captors but she is wise beyond her years and use the information when necessary.

Timothy Ross seemed to be a free spirit that also took advantage of an opportunity available to him. Dahlia is soon to find out. Dahlia doesn’t let this ruin her sight on freedom she starts working on another plan. With a bounty on her head and once again being judged for her choice of actions and for her skin color by those in the slave quarters bringing about more adversity. Dahlia didn’t waver in her quest for freedom. Cleo was another favorite character. She was a voice of reason for Dahlia and saw things from Dahlia’s point of view where others of Color didn’t. She also tried to keep Dahlia in character as a lady of the house and how she should act. I was glad that Dahlia had someone looking out for her.

There was something about Ryland and I wasn’t sure if I trusted him but I wanted to. He knew Dahlia’s secret and still wanted to be with her and in the end, he loved her enough to let her go.

I didn’t like Essie and I knew she would be trouble. Was it jealousy? While reading, of any of those that judged Dahlia for her choices, I wondered what would they do if they were in her shoes? I feel the author was going for something deep and soulfully beautiful. This was an emotional book that I can tell the author put so much heart into creating.

This book is so deep and thought provoking. Yes similar stories have been written, but Dahlia’s character distilled the heartache of not having a mother’s love, separated from those that are called family because of the brutality of humanity that reveals the evil and selfish greed that man is capable. Dahlia’s story can also reveal the pure love that can unite us in times of such brutality. The author certainly knows how to craft a tense scene with sharp dialogue, and such visual scenes.

There were sexual situations, thankfully without much description. The pace is even and has a good balance of tension and suspense as it carries you along to find out what Dahlia is doing and how will she recover.

What Passes as Love was everything I wanted, and so much more. I would highly recommend this beautifully written account of a lowly human spirit having the courage and resilience to fight for her liberty and her freedom to love.

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