What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas (Review & Excerpt)

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Are you a historical fiction fan?⁣

I love when a fictional story can draw you in to help you learn and understand the past, while also have you on the edge of your seat.⁣

What Passes as Love is the story of Dahlia Holt, mixed-race daughter of a plantation owner who passes as white to escape enslavement, but finds herself in a loveless marriage to a man with secrets of his own. ⁣

“The author really gets inside Dahlia’s head…She’s resourceful, a chance-taker who dreams and schemes until opportunities present themselves. It’s impossible not to root for her, however risky her actions.” 

Historical Novels Review

Dahlia reinvents herself as Lily Dove, and when her childhood best friend Bo arrives to the estate as a slave – she is determined to be an advocate for him and the other slaves, and try to save his life – but will this raise suspicions?

And as she learns a bounty hunter has been charged to find her – she knows she needs to act fast if her and Bo have any chance.

But as Dahlia tries to navigate this white world, she is in constant fear of being found out – and finds herself not feeling like she truly belongs anywhere.

“In What Passes as Love, Trisha R. Thomas has…so brilliantly…written a powerful, thought-provoking, truly cinematic historical novel that will have you turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning. Her story is simply wonderful.” 

―Kimberla Lawson Roby, New York Times bestselling author of Casting the First Stone

It’s so interesting to follow her choices as you feel distraught when her impulses fail, inspired at her determined triumphs – but also see the lines drawn on both sides as you watch how far she will go to live the life she deserves.⁣

For readers of Passing and The Vanishing Half, What Passes as Love is written beautifully, and has a captivating and absorbing plot that never lets go and is equally hard to put down.

There are several twists and turns I didn’t see coming at all, and I appreciated it’s historical accuracies.

It’s ultimately a heartbreaking, yet compelling story of courage, hope, love, and the strength and resilience of the human spirit.⁣

I need a sequel please!!⁣

Check out an exclusive excerpt from the book below!
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⁣Thank you OTRPR and Amazon Publishing for the gifted book and having me on tour!⁣

Now on sale!

Grab this one here: AmazonBookshop.orgBarnes & Noble 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lake Union Publishing (September 1, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 335 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1542030609
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1542030601

About the Book:

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.


About the Author:

Trisha R. Thomas has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine’s Books That Made a Difference. Her work has been featured and reviewed in Cosmopolitan, the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Essence, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Her debut novel, Nappily Ever After, is now a popular Netflix original film. She is also a reviewer for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Trisha is a recipient of the Literary Lion Award from the King County Library System Foundation, was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, and was voted Best New Writer by the Black Writers Collective. For more information visit www.trisharthomas.com


An Exclusive Excerpt from the Book:

“Birth Book”

I was six years old the day Lewis Holt came to take me away. It would be a few years later when dusting Lewis Holt’s office that I’d find the thick journal sitting on his big shiny desk that still smelled like fresh oak. I flipped open the pages and read each name with the born date, their mama’s names, and the space for their father filled with the initials LH, Lewis Holt II. All the way down it read the same way. The last line was my name, Dahlia Holt. I was right there with the others. I was their real sister. I didn’t know it for sure until that day. It took everything I had not to rip the page out and carry it like a flag of freedom.

Lewis Holt had fathered 13 children on this land called the Vesterville, and I was one of them. Acres upon acres used for growing crops, along with fifty-two slaves handed down to him from his daddy. After the senior Lewis Holt died, the family worth grew in accordance with the making of more bodies to do work or be sold for profit. Not that he’d understood his mission. Young Lewis Holt was only doing what a boy his age did. Beginning at age 14 he’d had his first boy named Jeremiah with a slave named Pearl. Then he had his second and third child by the time he was 15. At twenty, he had ten additional offspring between a slave named Lucy and another named Ravena. Ravena was my mama. It was written right there in the book. Oleen used to say my mama was strong. I had no other description. I imagined strong being the most beautiful thing you could be. I wanted to be strong too.

There may have been more of us. I only knew about the names written in the birth journal. I never asked if I could call her Mother Rose. It’s what I heard from Holt and his daughters, Annabelle and Leslie. Since learning I was his daughter too, that would make Mother Rose my grandmother. It was my right to call her by the same. But before, I addressed her as Ma’am. Before that, she still called me Dahlia.

“Dahlia,” she would call out, waving a hand. “Come on, here.”

During that time, wherever I went, my friend Bo followed. He was a few years older than me. We’d sit with Mother Rose on the porch and she’d pass out figs dipped in sugar along with a soft pat on our heads. She read to us when no one else was around. She pointed to words for us to especially remember. Absolute. Happiness. Believe. She talked to us sweetly, saying we had the ability to be anything we wanted on her land, a carpenter, a farmer, or seamstress. 

When it was just me, she made me read on my own. The more words I got right the more she smiled. Her skin folded hard against her eyes. “Well done, Dahlia.”

Learning all those words is how I found out who I was. 

I rushed out of Holt’s study that day brimming with this information. I whispered about the names I saw to Miss Winnie who worked in the kitchen. I liked her most of all since not having my Oleen anymore. She sometimes put plaits in my hair like Oleen used to do. 

Winnie put her fingers to her lips to hush me. I wasn’t to speak about this book to anyone. She told me she saw a book like that once. When she lived on another plantation not too far away. There were some who didn’t get in those books, those who were buried before taking their first breath, and the ones who’d been born after their mamas were sold to other lands. She said I should be grateful to be in a book at all, to have a place to call home and a record of my existence. Here I was under the family roof, a big house with warm beds, and hot meals. If I knew what was good for me, I’d forget what else I saw. 

 I did my best to forget, but I kept thinking of those other names above mine. Some were scratched out. I could still see the first and last letters. I had an inkling of who was in that book right along with me.

I pressed Winnie a few days later, even after she’d warned me to stay silent. The questions kept coming at night. Why had Lewis Holt chosen me to come live in the Vesterville house out of all his born children in the book? Had they been there before me and now they were grown and gone? 

Winnie simply shook her head, refusing to partake in my foolishness. “Just be thankful for Mother Rose,” she’d finally added to her silence. “Mother Rose loves you girls, and that’s enough,” is all she would say. 

I thought back to how Mother Rose would watch me sitting on the wide porch rocking in her chair. She must’ve had it in her mind all along that I belonged with them. She’d watch Bo and me keenly behind those reading spectacles. Me and him holding hands, running through the tall grass under the blue sky with not a care in the world. 

We must’ve looked like pure joy, a little fair-skinned girl splashed with freckles, holding the hand of a little boy the color of strong tea, oblivious to our fates. She must’ve found it hard to accept a girl-child who looked so much like her own who was her own in a way, lost in a world of servitude. Each time she witnessed Bo and me touching hands, his fingers wrapped tightly around mine, she’d pull our wrists apart and say, “there, that’s better.” Black and white was all she saw. No in between. As much as she liked Bo, in her mind, he and I didn’t belong together. And back then, we were always together. The truth was I didn’t fit in on either side, or anywhere for that matter. 


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