Aug 18 2006
Dear Mrs. Norman,
One thing I can always count on in your books is that I’ll get to read about one or more strong women. And that these women won’t be doing silly things like swinging broadswords while in full suits of chain mail. “Taking Liberties” gives us two female lead characters and a unique way to view the American Revolution.
Diana, Lady Stacpoole and Makepeace Hedley, expatriate American, are determined to get different people out of an English prisoner of war camp. As women, no one takes them seriously, something they use to their advantage later on. Makepeace is brash while Diana employs more subtle methods. Both are appalled at the conditions under which the American prisoners are being held and as the book progresses, they decide to work together to accomplish their goals.
I think that in order to warm to Makepeace readers need to read “A Catch of Consequence” and see what Makepeace has already gone through. Makepeace isn’t spunky. She’s no nonsense, get the job done, straight to the point and no beating around the bush. And I love her for it.
Diana is a very interesting character as well and totally opposite from Makepeace. Her adult life has been dissimulation and mental chess moves while she tried to survive the “hell on earth marriage” her parents sold her into when she was only 16. Duty, honor, country and family name are all she has left and she will defend them against all. For her noblesse oblige isn’t just a fancy term, it’s the core of who and what she is.
But to get what they both want, each woman will have to bend until they’re changed into something new. And part of the pleasure of reading Taking Liberties is to watch not only that but also how they come to rely upon and care for each other. Which is quite a feat since the book starts with the women loathing each other.
Other strengths are the secondary characters, each vividly drawn and important. Many are women just struggling to survive in a world with the balance tipped towards the men. Others are free traders, former slaves, blacks, prisoners of war and the underclass. All are people for whom true liberty is something to be fought for each day and never taken for granted. The grand finale of the book which has them all coming together is riveting with tension and suspense but finely plotted and wonderful to see.
So, where does my lower grade come from? Well, I know that this isn’t a true romance book and we do see a nice one develop for Diana, but… I wanted to see more of Makepeace and her Andra. Theirs has been a marriage of love for years but Andra is off stage for most of the book. We know that they love each other but I wanted to see more. Call me greedy. And while Diana’s lover is gentle and doesn’t rush her, I still think that she goes from an emotionally frozen woman to one ready for
both physical and emotional love very quickly.
I think one of your strengths is the fact that you aren’t afraid to give your characters flaws nor to leave some threads unfinished. And your worlds are often harsh places where good isn’t always rewarded nor evil punished. But if readers are willing to wait for the romantic payoff, it can be a wonderful trip of well researched and written stories. Call me a “squeeing” fan girl but I can’t wait for the third book in this series due next month. A- for this.