The book is set in the southern part of the United States during the nineteenth century. Dahlia was born into slavery and also the daughter of the plantation owner, Lewis Holt. When Dahlia was six years old, she was moved into the plantation house. Her best friend was Bowman Carter, who later became the caretaker of the horses. After she moved to the plantation house, their friendship was frowned upon. It seemed to bother people that she was light-skinned and he had brown skin. Skin color seems like such a weird thing to be bothered by when you really think about it.
She was light-skinned and could have passed as a white person. Passing wasn’t something that Dahlia thought about when she was a little girl. Her half-sisters reminded her occasionally that she didn’t belong. She didn’t feel like she belonged to either race.
On Dahlia’s 16th birthday, her grandmother took Dahlia and her sisters on a shopping trip to Hampton City. Somehow Dahlia was separated from the group and met a handsome stranger, Timothy Ross. He was a wealthy white man who had recently moved to a nearby plantation with his mother and brother. He believed that Dahlia was white so he whisked her away to his plantation with plans to marry. Dahlia reinvented herself on the spot into Lily Dove.
She wasn’t sad to leave her old life except that she missed Bowman Carter. He was her one true friend. Would she be able to sacrifice her friendship with Bo in order to keep passing as Lily Dove? How much is freedom worth?
If you enjoy historical fiction that discusses race relations, freedom and relationships, then you might enjoy What Passes as Love.
If you are a callous, unfeeling harpy like Dahlia’s sisters or just don’t understand what love is, then you might not be a fan of this book at first. However, you could be won over by the end of the book.