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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.
Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review
Alyssa Cole has made no secret of the fact that she had a hard time writing An Unconditional Freedom. I had an equally hard time reading it. Every page confronts you with the brutal truth about slavery. And when current events make you feel as if we're regressing, it makes this novel that much more imperative to read, here and now.
Daniel was born a free man and knows what freedom tastes like. He had a potentially bright future studying law but in the hopes of doing good for his fellow countryman, he placed his trust in the wrong people and was thus captured and sold as a slave. Years of mistreatment and witnessing evil upfront broke him to an extent. His heart and resolve hardened, he's determined to fight back now and bring about change. His reputation in the Loyal League is that of a lone wolf which he prefers so he's none too thrilled about the Loyal League foisting a new partner upon him. Janeta's own upbringing is a far cry from anything Daniel has experienced. Born to a former slave who ended up marrying her owner, Janeta is of both worlds. She's never known hardship, only that she is different. Her entry into the Loyal League is dubious as her agenda is to infiltrate them and spy for the South. Travelling with Daniel, she witnesses closeup the lives of those enslaved. This forces her to question her own indoctrination and discern who the good guys really are. More importantly, who stands to gain the most should the war be won or lost. She went into this to protect her family, and perhaps her naiveté made her easy to manipulate but now her allegiance is shifting.
Cole has injected a lot of the frustration and despair that's sprung up recently and poured it into her latest work. Combining history and a modern perspective, An Unconditional Freedom questions everything about why one person should feel superior to another. It highlights the economics and politics of slavery, and how lack of an education and literacy can be a weapon in suppressing a population. Reading Daniel's personal history in particular wrenches your soul apart.
Writing this book has been a labour of love and Cole has outdone herself here. There's no sugarcoating the history of a something as vile as slavery, a raw wound that just keeps reopening. An Unconditional Freedom doesn't allow you to turn away from it but invites you to learn from it in hopes that common sense, decency and an intrinsic belief in everyone's worth will always be greater than the evil that exists.