by Robert Conroy
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476780733
Date: 28 July 2015 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
NOTE: This review originally ran in our March 2014 issue.
The American Revolution wasn't a sure thing. Timing played a crucial role several times in the eventual American victory. In this novel, reinforcements arrive before Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown. The defeat of the French ships and additional troops sends the Americans fleeing, ending the Revolution. The captured troops aren't treated too badly, however the officers face a completely different situation.
Many Americans accept British rule, but others want freedom. They move West, into the Ohio valley and beyond. For a time this movement is ignored. But when the crown wants to free up troops for the fight to preserve the French Monarchy, things begin to change.
Will Drake is one of the many captured officers held on ships in horrible conditions. A freak accident and a chance meeting provides him freedom. He goes home to find betrayal, he decides to go West to find Liberty, a free city.
Sarah Benton and her family live in the Northeast. A few poorly timed words leaves her at the mercy of the local sheriff. The situation will cause the Bentons to flee, but not before making an enemy.
Owen Wells is a British marine. On a mission ashore, he takes the opportunity to go AWOL. Things are not as easy as he hoped, but the fortuitous meeting with Will Drake provides him with the opportunity to start over.
Major James Fitzroy feels like he has struck gold when he meets Hannah Doorn. She is friendly and beautiful. While the troop movements begin, their relationship blossoms, but Hannah has a secret.
Lord Cornwallis is stuck. He is told to pacify the revolutionary forces to the West, but the generals charged with the work are not the best tools. He sends them out hoping for a quick victory so he can return to his home in triumph.
This is an interesting stand-alone alternate history. Conroy has been honing his writing skills over the last several years and it shows as each novel gets a little better than the last. In Liberty: 1784 he creates an interesting snapshot of a different America. The America that he creates by the end will follow a much different path than the one in real life. I can safely say, I would enjoy seeing more of this timeline.
Conroy details the little pieces of colonial life that made it hard and interesting. History isn't just great people. Sometimes it is petty and disgusting, and Conroy shows the dirty underside of life. He does mix in major historical characters, and in some cases gives them new purpose.
Readers interested in historical alternate histories should find a lot here to enjoy. Readers of Harry Turtledove's Atlantis series should take a look at this novel.