Diana Norman’s second book, Taking Liberties, featuring Makepeace Burke is described this way:
In the chaos of wartime Plymouth, in the early days of the American Revolution, two women come together in their search for missing loved ones. Together they face social outrage, public scandal, and even arrest. Amidst docks and prisons, government bureaucracy and brothels, they forge an unlikely and unshakable friendship. And in freeing others, they discover their own splendid liberty.
Yeah, their “splendid liberty” was the many various ways they could break the law but I digress.Where does one even begin? I was slightly disappointed in Taking Liberties where the writing is trademark Diana Norman but the story was pretty thin in some places but some parts of the book was captivating. Taking Liberties story starts when Makepeace Hedly learns that her daughter is missing after leaving from America to avoid war. Unfortunately the correspondence doesn’t reach Makepeace until four months after the fact. So, she goes in search of her daughter.
Enter Countess Diana Stacpoole. A widow whose freedom is gained after the death of a sadistic hateful, spiteful husband. She decides to act on behalf of a friend whose son is a prisoner of war. To make herself useful, Countess Diana plans to find the boy and offer to exchange him. She faces opposition from her son and daughter-in-law. She is at once stung with the knowledge that her relationship with her son is almost nonexistent and that she feels she is displaced and of no importance to those around her. The need to leave coupled with the fact that she is needed by someone else is a tempting draw for her since her time is now her own to do with as she pleases. While married, she was her husband’s caretaker despite his abusive behavior toward her, she took care of his sorry ass until he died. Diana’s decision to help her friend Martha find her son causes some tension between Diana and her son, Robert. Alas, she leaves and makes an adventure.
Meanwhile Makepeace, in her journey to find her daughter crosses paths with Diana. The ladies despise each other on sight. Makepeace comes off many a time as abrasive and unlikable to me. She has a lot of rough edges that were not as prominent to me in A Catch of Consequence. It’s as if without her husband, Andra, she has no manners and acts impulsively and unwisely at times that it is often annoying. Upon finding her daughter, Makepeace learns that Josh has also been captured as well. Josh is the son of Betty, her former black housekeeper who died in Boston. Diana and Makepeace eventually come to a truce when they both need each other. I despised Makepeace’s methods in gaining the upper hand over Diana with her wealth. I really didn’t like Makepeace Hedly much in Taking Liberties. And their open disregard for the law was also somewhat hard to swallow at times. Makepeace I could understand but for Diana it didn’t fit. Diana had a family history of smuggling and scandal and she reluctantly embraces it. I didn’t find it believable due to her station in life where the very people that she socialized with wrote the laws to begin with.
Anyway, moving on. There really wasn’t much of a romance and I wasn’t expecting one. This is about the two heroines and their journey of independence, sorta speak. The hero was basically non-existent in here or not as memorable as say Archibald Cameron (Blood Royal) or Henry King (The Vizard Mask). Or Phillip Dapifer from A Catch of Consequence. It’s not a romance but usually Norman has a prominent relationship in here but the story kind of veered all over the place.
That part that captivated me was Diana’s work in the hospital caring for the prisoners.I had only two book darts in favorite places. Diana decides to help clean up the Milbay hospital for the prisoners there who were dying on a regular basis due to lack of TLC. That part of the novel was rather interesting to read about the inner workings of the hospital for prisoners of war. Norman spent a good deal of the novel on Josh’s escape plan and visiting with the smugglers of Babb’s Cove and their constant resistance against their government. I’ve since reread this book and initially didn’t care for the first time I read it as I felt it wasn’t as strong story/character wise as her previous novels. Upon rereading it, I did like it much, much better. I must have been PMS’ing or something. I recommend this book to historical buffs. The story, the characters, plot and history captivated me as only Diana Norman can – very good book.