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Liberty 1784: The Second War For Independance Hardcover – 11 Mar 2014

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About the Author

Robert Conroy is the author a run of hugely popular alternate history novels, including "Himmler's War" and "Rising Sun "for Baen Books. His "1942," which is set within a Japanese conquest of Hawaii, won the prestigious Sidewise Award for alternate histories. Conroy has written for "Military History "magazine and has traveled extensively in Europe where he's taken a special interest in battlefields, historical collections and castles. After a first career in business, Conroy has turned his lifelong passion for writing and military history into an immensely satisfying new occupation. He is married, lives in southeastern Michigan, and, when not writing, teaches business and economic history at a local college.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 65 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Engaging Drama and Plausible Historical Speculation 16 Feb. 2014
By Randy Stafford - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Washington's birthday was coming up. Baen was giving away copies of this book for review. I had been curious about Conroy's work which I had seen around. However, most of what I had seen was in the very popular vein of alternate World War Twos and American Civil Wars. It was also, to top it off, seemingly from publishers whose product I wasn't familiar with. (Actually, most of Conroy's work seems to have been published through Baen. Somehow I conflated him with the much more prolific Peter G. Tsouras.) But, being more interested in alternate America Revolutions than alternate World War Twos, I thought this was a good time to sample Conroy.

Washington's death is the opening of this book. He's beheaded at the Tower of London in the Prologue. Conroy doesn't make you guess where this timeline deviates from ours. His introduction explains that, in this history, the French fleet does not turn back the British fleet in 1781's Battle of the Capes. General Cornwallis gets his relief. Washington loses the Battle of Yorktown, and the American Revolution seems over. The leaders and officers of the rebellion are imprisoned in Jamaica or, like our hero Will Drake, thrown in a prison hulk to die.

The idea of liberty is not dead though. Out in the west, Fort Washington, near modern day Chicago, is the site of a new locus of rebels. After fortune frees him from imprisonment, Drake, an ex-spy for the American rebels, heads there. So, does Sarah Benton after resisting the attempted sexual extortions of the local sheriff, Braxton. So, does Welshman Owen Wells after deserting the Royal Marines.

And commissioned, by Governor General Charles Cornwallis, to go out west to put an end to this flare up of rebellion, is General Burgoyne, prideful enough to want to redeem his reputation after losing the Battle of Saratoga and smart enough not to repeat his mistakes. With him is our main viewpoint character amongst the British, Burgoyne's staff officer and distant cousin, Major James Fitzroy.

Along the way we meet several other viewpoint characters, historical and fictional and some for only a chapter, in an all seeing god's-eye view of things in opposition to the constricted, worm's-eye view of events we get from alternate history's main practioneer, Harry Turtledove. Conroy's keeps things going at a pretty good clip throughout the book. Yes, there are plenty of cases of characters' paths intersecting, diverging, and reuniting again. But not always in ways you would expect.

Conroy's alternate history seems plausible in not only some of the weapons and methods the rebels resort to when fighting the British but in an issue seldom talked about in history, academic or alternate: would things really have gone back to normal if the colonials lost their bid for independence? Or would, as they do here, the British have reverted to the same heavy handed policies of taxes and administration that alienated the colonials to begin with? To me, Conroy's speculation seems well grounded. Of the many historical characters we see, I only know enough about Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold, and General Cornwallis to say they seemed realistic. The British characters come in many shades here from the decent Fitzroy to gentlemanly Burgoyne to villainous Banastre Tarleton (probably most familiar to people through his portrayal as a general killing civilians in the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot and , later in his career, as a politician opposed to abolition in the film Amazing Grace) to the thoroughly evil Braxton who enjoys a campaign of raping, torturing and killing civilian rebels.

And, because Conroy is attempting a serious alternate history instead of one, say, where Queen Victoria was a vampire or a zombie plague struck 16th century London, I'm going to pay him the left-handed compliment of pointing out two areas where I don't think his historical speculations convinced. 1784 seems far too early for the French Revolution to have broken out and put pressure on the British Crown to wrap the American rebellion up quickly so troops can be sent to reinforce the monarchists of France. And, to a lesser extent, and Conroy gives detailed arguments on this one, I don't think a constitution under the circumstances of this book would have eliminated slavery.

Still, a worthwhile book in terms of drama and alternate history, and I do look forward to reading more Conroy.

[Review copy provided by Netgallery.]
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Good Book But Had Too Many Problems 13 Mar. 2014
By W. Adams - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
After reading Mr. Conroy’s extremely entertaining alternative history book 1920: America’s Great War, I had high hopes for this novel. Not only did it seem to have an interesting premise regarding “what if” the British had won the American Revolution, but it also promised to delve into the idea of how would liberty survive in a conquered country that has lost its greatest leaders. This intriguing alternative world coupled with the author’s proven ability to write an easily digested, fast-paced, and exciting narrative seemed to make this book a can’t miss for me. However, for reasons I will outline later, Liberty: 1784 was a disappointment.

The whole concept of this book revolves around one simple change in history, specifically who won the Battle of the Capes in 1781. In real history, the French fleet won said naval battle, turning back the British relief ships sent to aid General Cornwallis. As Michael Lewis, the author of The History of the British Navy, puts it: "The Battle of Chesapeake Bay [alternately known as the Battle of the Capes] was one of the decisive battles of the world. Before it, the creation of the United States of America was possible; after it, it was certain." However, in Liberty: 1784, history has been turned upside down, and the victorious British navy brings relief to Cornwallis’ army, allowing him to win the Battle of Yorktown and thus the war.

From this starting point, Mr. Conroy crafts an eerily similar but far different America. One in which the colonies’ unconditionally surrender to Britain. The people are adrift, bereft of their leaders, as the Founding Fathers are either imprisoned or sent to London to be beheaded before a vengeful King George. From northern Massachusetts to Georgia, the land is an occupied territory, governed by General Cornwallis and the cities controlled by his victorious army. Freedom is something that is not openly spoken of, for fear of being further tormented by loyalist cronies of the Crown. In fact, things are so bleak that people begin to abandon their homes and farms to disappear into the west. Rumors say these travelers are heading to sanctuary. A place where the few remaining American leaders have fled into exile with a remnant of the Continental Army, there to create a new country in the continental interior. A land of freedom that is known only as Liberty!

At first, the British care little if American malcontents vanish into the endless forests of the interior. Good riddance! But then a European spark ignites the powder keg that the American peace rests upon: the French Revolution. This savage uprising against the French monarchy sends King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette fleeing to England, where King George grants them refuge and determines to put an end to the revolutionary spirit that is spreading across the world like a plague. Thus, the enraged monarch sends an army to France but also dispatches another to America; the western force tasked with finding and destroying the final bastion of liberty on the North American continent!

The story that follows is interesting enough, especially how Mr. Conroy gives a reader numerous viewpoint characters - both historically significant and totally fictional - to see all sides of the conflict. Everyday men and women play major roles in the action along side famous names such as Benjamin Franklin, Lord Cornwallis, Benedict Arnold, and the villainous Banastre Tarleton (most well known for his role as Mel Gibson’s adversary in the movie The Patriot.) Each character’s story blends with the others to form a top to bottom picture of this desperate battle for liberty. Yet, even with this said, there were major problems with Liberty:1784 that I will briefly touch upon.

1) Too much sex. I am not a prude. I’m fine with sex that moves the story along. I realize that hundred of years ago people had sex. However, in this book, it seemed like all the female characters were either being forced to perform sexual acts, getting raped or pulling up their skirts and mounting their men quite a lot. So much so that it detracted from the main story, which was a desperate struggle for survival and the future of the American colonies.

2) Too modern in tone. After reading 1920: America’s Great War, I knew that this novel would not accurately reflect the language, culture and social norms of eighteenth century America and Britain, so it did not surprise me when the characters spoke in a modern, twenty-first century voice. However, the language was so modern in this novel that it became totally unbelievable. We have women saying things like “Fairer and weaker sex my ass.” We have men and women talking about social issues like they are drinking coffee in a local Starbucks. Honestly, it was hard to maintain the belief that these people were living in the 1700s with the language being so modern and their outlook on life so present day in tone.

3) Farfetched history. Even though Mr. Conroy’s alternate world was somewhat plausible, it took too many leaps of faith to believe this type of story would have ever happened. I’ll try to point out a few without ruining the book for anyone.

A) Conroy has a trickle of American revolutionaries setting up a new country in the heart of Native American country without any alliance with or problems from the tribes. It would seem that the natives should play a huge role in the story, but they are only minimally involved.

B) The French Revolution erupts earlier than in our real history and occurs even though the democratic movement of the time has been dealt a huge defeat by the British winning the American Revolution.

C) When the revolution breaks out, Louis XVI takes refuge in England? It doesn’t make much sense, since in real world history the French royals attempted to escape to the Queen’s family in Austria.

D) After taking in the French monarchy, King George decides to join an alliance of the European aristocracy to retaking France, but he then immediately decides to split his forces, because he has to destroy a small frontier town in America that is hoping to “hide” from the British military? Just cannot see where Britain would be concerned enough to send an army.

All in all, Liberty: 1784 was an okay read; it was well-paced, fun in many parts and had enough twists and turns to keep a reader from focusing on the fact that you know the good guys (Americans) are going to win no matter what happens. Mr. Conroy also must be given credit for going out of his way to focus on several female characters and give women the page time that they deserve in this type of novel. However, this book just did not live up to my high expectations for it, so for that reason, it was a disappointment to me. Do not take this to mean I am abandoning any further reading of Mr. Conroy though, because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I look forward to enjoying more from him in the future and would encourage you to give him a try as well.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence by Robert Conroy 23 Feb. 2014
By Geoffrey A. Snyder - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is my 4th book by Conroy and this one shows he has grown as a writer. The writing style in this book is much different from 1945, written 7 years ago and even from Castro’s Bomb and Himmler’s War written 3 years ago. It’s less self-conscious; it pays less attention to the Great Men involved and the History that was changed and pays more attention to the characters as people and their lives as the story unfolds. There are still the great men and there are still great events but they tend not to be the primary focus.

The turning point for this timeline is the Battle of Yorktown. A British supply fleet was not defeated prior to the battle so it was able to resupply Cornwallis and Washington was defeated. This started a series of events that ended with the colonies’ surrender, Washington’s beheading in London, most of our Founding Fathers imprisoned in Jamaica and the rest fleeing west the remnants of the Continental Army not captured and likewise imprisoned. It’s a decent turning point.

After this, the American colonies are under an increasingly tight rule from Britain with known rebels in hiding or fled. Rumors abound of a place near present-day Chicago called Liberty that is a rebel stronghold and something of a pressure valve for the colonies as well as an irritating thorn in the British sides. At the same time the French Revolution is also occurring but with British help for the monarchy; they are worried that these republican uprisings will boil over to Britain and are anxious to stamp them out.

This story, then, is the British determined to stamp out the American rebel stronghold before doing the same to the rebels in France and preserving their way of life. It is told primarily from the perspective of everyday men and women on the side of the Rebels and from a British Major for the British. The British are a bit of a caricature of the opinions of the 18th Century Georgian nobility and the American rebels for the most part are all Fine Upstanding people; but it works well. There’s enough humanity in the British and enough foolishness and self-centeredness in the Americans to make it work.

I did like that the characters spoke like people and not like dry historical figures. However, there were times when their language went a bit too modern and it just felt wrong. For example, in one scene, Abigail Morgan, wife of a US Representative from our timeline and a member of the Virginia upper classes, said to a room full of other women, “Fairer and weaker sex my ass.” That’s just too modern and too blunt. But, that sort of thing, while there, wasn’t commonplace.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I found the premise acceptable. I’m happy that Conroy stepped away from the mid-20th Century. He knows that era well, but it’s been done quite a bit in alternate histories. The story itself was entertaining and well written. I will look forward to future books from him.

4 stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not up to Conroy's Usual Standards 10 Mar. 2014
By rcdac - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The premise of Robert Conroy’s Liberty: 1784: The Second War for Independence is interesting, that basically, the Redcoats won the Revolutionary War, but lost the peace. Conroy’s divergence from real history is that Washington and the French lost the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 thus ending the fighting and allowing the English to round-up the Rebel leaders. The story occurs three years after Yorktown.

I just couldn’t buy into Conroy’s presentation of the premise, which was more about Rebel runaways wanting the British to leave them alone than insurrectionists opposed to British rule. Although Conroy sets the story in the heart of Shawnee country, he makes the Indians a non-factor with just scant mention of Tecumseh.

As usual Conroy delivered some interesting characters and the plot moved along at an acceptable pace. I expected more from Liberty: 1784: The Second War for Independence, but Conroy just didn’t deliver.

If you want read an alternative history, I suggest one of Conroy’s other works like Rising Sun, 1945 or 1901. I can’t recommend Liberty: 1784: The Second War for Independence.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Yawn. Wake me when it's over! 24 Mar. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Yes, Robert Conroy's books can drag on. But this one is about as exciting as reading the dictionary. Literally 80% of the story is consumed waiting for a climactic battle between the British Army and the American rebels. You can guess just by looking at the cover who will win, so there is almost zero dramatic tension in this book.

Every 20 pages or so, Conroy inserts a plot point: a skirmish between rebels and British paramilitaries, for example. Or a sexual assault. But in between these points, the characters ruminate and plan and curse their fate. Conroy is really out of his depth here trying to move the book along. A more adept writer would have mastered an ongoing storyline to keep us intrigued.

For example, Conroy could have had us follow spies behind enemy lines, in constant danger of being discovered and hanged. But not in this book.

In fact (SPOILER ALERT), one of the key points of the book occurs when an American spy dressed as a Redcoat delivers a forged message to the British commander officer that completely alters the course of the books military action. But Conroy spends about three paragraphs describing this all-important event. Who came up with the idea? How did the spy get behind enemy lines? How did he get a uniform? How did he infiltrate British high command? Did he have any close calls? How was he feeling during all this?

I will say Conroy does an impressive job bringing to life a few historic figures like Ben Franklin. But, on the other hand, almost every other Founding Father has no presence in the book. They are almost completely one dimensional, conveniently in jail or dead.

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