Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Sparks Fly Upwards by Diana Norman

A new novel of love and courage in a time of war, from the author of A Catch of Consequence and Taking Liberties. Few of those Philippa loves in London return her affection. Not the love of her life, who has a new bride. Not even her unhappy, widowed mother, Makepeace Burke. Almost inevitably, Philippa decides on a marriage of convenience to a prudish, if kind, campaigner for the freedom of slaves in the colonies. Across the Channel in France, the Reign of Terror is beheading of thousands of the French nobility. Among those in danger is Philippa's old friend, the Marquis de Condorcet. Not only has Philippa the means of rescuing him from the guillotine, she has the courage - and crosses the Channel to do it. Then, as Makepeace falls in love with an actor back in England, Philippa also finds love where she least expects it - while staring death in the face.

All right...I'll admit it. Since reading my first Diana Norman novel last year I've become something of Diana Norman fan girl, regardless of whether we are talking about books written under this name or as Ariana Franklin.

This is the third book in what I am called the Makepeace Burke trilogy, following on from A Catch of Consequence and Taking Liberties. I have no idea if the trilogy has an official name, but I haven't been able to find one so that is what I am calling it.

Makepeace is once again a widow, and as a result of a request from her brother she is now living in London, and running a theatre that is putting on a play which gives the anti-slavery message a voice. Whilst she is finding the preparation for the play challenging, especially as she has to deal with several different problems, she finds the leading man even more challenging, irritating, and frustrating,.

Makepeace's eldest daughter Philippa is dissatisfied, having just watched the love of her life marry another woman - his second wife. Having given up on her love ever noticing her, she agrees to marry a prominent anti-slavery campaigner. When Philippa hears that her friend the Marquis de Condorcet is in danger of being taken to the guillotine, she makes it her mission to save him and his family. When she is unable to get any assistance, she instead takes matters into her own hands and travels to France, determined to save them herself, and so finds herself plunged into the murky world of the French Revolution, and knowing that she has very likely jeopardised her own engagement.

As Philippa finds her situation getting more and more dangerous, it turns out that she might be the one needing to be rescued, more than once, and that despite the terrible predicament that she finds herself in, that that could be the time of greatest personal happiness for her. For Makepeace, she finds that love can be found in the most unlikely of places, with the most unlikely of people.

We get reintroduced to many of the characters from the earlier books in the trilogy, although having said that, Norman is not scared to kill off some of the characters that her readers have come to love. It is however done in such a way as to add a deeper poignancy to the events in this book. This was one of those books where you close it with a contented sigh, secure in the knowledge that you have been touched by the characters and the story, and that one day, you would love to revisit them.

Overall, this has been an excellent trilogy to read. The author has used a very colourful time in history to frame a study of what liberty means, whether it be as a woman at a time where she was little more than a man's possession, as an outsider in the upper levels of society, as a black man captured by the British during war at a time when slavery was still rife, and as a French person during The Terror. have really enjoyed reading all of them, and I am now trying to get my hands on as many of the author's back list as I can!

Rating 4.5/5

1 comment:

  1. I've heard so much of Diana Norman that I'll have to pick one of her books one of these days ;-)