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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Like the other reviewers here, I found this novel strikes out for itself in new directions. When so many historical novels are simply 'history' dressed up in doublets and hose, with characters taking up far less room than events, this is a genuine novel with a story of its own to tell that happens to be set in the C18th.

It is a novel of three parts, which don't necessarily always sit well together: but they do keep the pages turning.

I partly agree with the reviewer below who gave it three stars because s/he disliked the 3rd part as being out of keeping with a 'romance', but am not sure that the book ever sets itself up to be a romantic story, and certainly not in the happy-ever-after mode (although there is an element of that too...). I found the 3rd part less compelling than the other two partly because of the change of scene (mining town in Northumberland) and partly because the other characters who are so lively and important start to fade. I also wasn't completely convinced by the love interest, but that's always personal taste.

However that is a minor quibble. Makepeace is a fabulous character with a dry wit and sense of humour that Norman catches perfectly. Her first husband is also wonderful, and the relationship between then drawn with such a light and yet perceptive hand that knocks spots off all the usual rather florid descriptions of passionate love.

Altogether this is an entertaining and well-written novel that wears its research very lightly and which treads relatively untouched ground in terms of historical fiction (anyone else bored to death with the Tudors?!). There are two sequels, Taking Liberties and The Sparks Fly Upward both of which I have bought having finished this. Highly recommended.
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on 20 September 2017
Thoroughly enjoyable read
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on 25 February 2004
What a wonderful novel! It is so full of surprises, whenever you think "Aha! I know just what is coming now!" you are wrong and the story takes an unsuspected turn that causes you to become "glued" to it. You really can't put it down! The plot, set in the 18th century (1765), is divided into three different parts corresponding to the three diferent locations where events take place. The main character, Makepeace Burkin, changes and evolves throughout the story, as she suffers the consequences of the "catch" the story begins with. Her solid puritan, egalitarian, business-oriented, no-nonsense American upbringing has made her hard-working, obstinate and fiercely independent, and it is a help in the moral choices she is constantly confronted with. However, the novel is not moralistic at all, and neither is the main character. She is a lovely tavern owner and supporter of the American cause against the British tyrants, who cannot imagine her life is going to take such a drastic turn. She has to stretch her moral principles indeed to cover many of the unbelievable, unimaginable situations she is involved in. There are many historically relevant themes in the novel, which is set in such interesting times and is narrrated from the point of view of an outsider (a colonial, a woman) who travels to the metropolis, Britain, and does not see it with much sympathy: she generally distrusts and despises the ruling classes and is confronted with many a hilarious, almost surrealistic situation whenever she is in the company of the rigid British aristocratic crowd in their own sophisticated home (Yes. Makepeace finds herself and her eccentric , lovable "family" in the tyrants' lair, in London) . However, those looking for a very romantic novel should be warned that, even though there IS a wonderful and heart-warming love story, the author does not overindulge in the romantic side of things. In fact, she is quite frugal and leaves quite a lot for the readers' imagination.
The greatest strengths of the novel are: it is a VERY GOOD story well told (a really good yarn) and the characters are all ROUND and well FLESHED OUT, even those that we only see for two pages and then dissapear. The highly interesting atmosphere of the era is described through the events or actions that affect the characters, the author never gives encyclopedia-like explanations.In short, it is a wonder how so much atmosphere, so vibrating a story, and such eccentric but believable characters
can be created by the author in just about 400 pages! Don't miss it! You won't regret it.
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on 5 December 2010
By about a third of the way through I had decided this was a very classy romantic novel, then the tone changed completely and it became something more serious and I loved it all. I read this through a morning when I was supposed to be working as I simply could not put it down. I came to this book long after it was published and am so glad I did - I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 September 2007
It's 1765 and Boston is in an uproar at taxation without representation. Tavern owner Makepeace Burke "catches" an English lord drowning in the harbor and brings him to her home to care for his injuries. Sparks start flying between Makepeace and Sir Phillip Dapifer as she tries to find a way to get him back to the English without the locals finding out she's harboring the "enemy". I really enjoyed the tension between these two, along with their very dry but highly amusing banter.

The story is told in three parts. The first part tells the tale of the "catch" of Sir Phillip, their flight from Boston and the voyage to England. The second part has Makepeace trying to fit into London society and the battles with Pip's witchy ex-wife. Eventually tragedy strikes and Makepeace is forced to start another life for herself and her family, but she is bent on revenge for those who wronged her. I see some other reviewers didn't care for the third part, but it is very similar to the revenge minded Count of Monte Cristo. And, as in that book Makepeace does finally realize that there is more to life and family than her single minded plans for revenge.

All in all a very entertaining and engaging read, and one I had a hard time putting it down. I enjoyed the glimpses of life along the Boston harbor, Georgian England and the coal mines of Northumberland. I found all the characters to be well defined, even the secondary ones. While it's not the greatest piece of historical fiction I've read, it's still worth taking the time to check this one out.
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on 16 June 2003
I was delighted to see another Diana Norman book appear, having read The Vizard Mask some years ago. A Catch of Consequence lives up to her earlier work. The historical detail is effortless, the characters compelling and engaging, and the plot gripping and unexpected, with a truly horrible pair of villains.
Norman doesn't write standard happily ever after romances, but her heroines do survive with grace and vigour and often end up with a good'un even if it isn't The One you start off thinking it will be. She does write compelling, page-turning historical fiction with a sure-footed grasp of her period and geography. If you haven't caught her before, I would recommend her.
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on 16 June 2011
I must be just one of thousands of readers who are mourning the untimely death of Diana Norman. Writing more recently as Ariana Franklin, she created a superb series of medieval murder mysteries which were set in the twelfth century, yet featured a totally modern and believable heroine for the twenty-first. Sadly, the series has been cut short, but the spirit of Adelia can still be found in this book in the character of Makepeace Burke.
You're plunged into the story as Makepeace fishes a drowning man out of Boston harbour just as the US war of independence is brewing: he turns out to be the 'catch of consequence'. Then you're whisked at breakneck pace to Georgian London's high society, and finally to Newcastle at the birth of the industrial revolution.
It's wonderful to read a book that's so fresh and original in settings, theme and tone. That said, it's written in a quirky, staccato and no-nonsense style that matches its chippy heroine, and like her it can be quite annoying. Diana Norman wastes no time in providing much background information or leisurely scene setting and sometimes you wish she would pause and do a bit more of that: I'd have liked this book to be longer. The narrative is rather clunky and the three parts of the story don't really fit together. It's a good job that she has a great ear for dialogue, there's certainly a lot of it. But where she excels is in the creation of vivid characters that inhabit a realistic past and yet with whom you can totally identify. There's little romance in this book but plenty of real emotion in the relationships between Makepeace, her two great loves Pip and Hedley, and her ill-assorted band of friends and allies.
Readers of the Mistress of the Art of Death series will not only recognise the theme - a woman struggling for some sort of independent life when faced with the constraints of love, family, and society's expectations. The characters are also very familiar: Makepeace is an early Adelia, there are elements of Bishop Rowley in both Pip and Hedley, Betty is another Gyltha, and the silent and loyal Tantaquidgeon is of course Mansur.
Would I have found and read this book if I hadn't known that Diana Norman was Ariana Franklin? Probably not, but I'm glad I did.
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on 27 October 2004
This is an extraordinarily enthralling book. I found it very hard to put down and, if it hadn't been for life, kids, work and the need for sleep, I doubt that I would have done. Diana Norman shows her artistry and descriptive powers in the first paragraph, and then astonishes with her ability to adapt, change tone and offer a gallery of narrative delights. Her palette changes and takes the reader from misty watercolours of still waters and a not-quite-afloat-or-dead body, through the brutal, stark dark and glaring contrasts of consuming fire.
Faced with challenges to her upbringing and very beliefs, Norman's central female character - Makepeace Burke - eventually acknowledges her love for her urbane, laconic and enigmatic portrait of an English Gentleman. Tantalisingly, I found this portrait less clear than that of Makepeace; I couldn't so crisply visualise him as I could her. She is the central figure and is explored and developed in a way that had me spellbound in awe. Whilst being utterly entranced by Makepeace, I wanted to know more about him; more about what he was doing - more than the hints and inferences on offer... but this near-teasing is so well-balanced; it permits Makepeace to be at the fore-front with his presence bolstering her innate strength, but not providing it. The characters, loyalty, friendships through fortune and adversity, all have their impact on the entrenched English class structure, and indeed, in some cases, their personal wars within or against it. And at the forefront of this disparate band, is Makepeace proudly asserting her American patriotism and loyalties. However, her English gentleman's status, vastly at odds with hers in the perceptions and values of 'society' provides a wedge, a conundrum for them both that is ultimately resolved and leads to Makepeace's next metamorphosis in a book of many.
She faces tragedy, treachery and ultimately triumph with everything from despairing, raging grief to granite-hard almost self-destructive vindictive and a long-established drive for revenge.
Makepeace Burke is a formidable, fascinating, surprising and ultimately whole person. The book that describes her shares all these qualities and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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on 13 September 2015
This is my third book from the late Diana Norman and I am one of the many who have come late to the genius of her wonderful, amusingly earthy and heartwarming Historical novels. I have enjoyed them so much that I have found nothing but pure enjoyment of the difference between her books and others I have read in the past.

Others have waxed lyrical and dissected in some cases but I am still full of the above book and have nothing to add except that I wish I had found her earlier; maybe if I had I could have saved myself some of the mediocrity I have waded through!

On to the next.
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on 19 August 2012
The author Diana Norman writes books which are most interesting, both historically and action gripping. The first book I ever came across by her was "The Pirate Queen" and this book "A Catch of Consequences" is no exception to her literary talent. The reader is transported into a world with values far distant from modern life and the whole narrative makes the reader unable to put the book down.
Highly recommended, as are all her books, both fiction & non-fiction.

All readily available from Amazon.co.uk at realistic prices.
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