"LIBERTY: 1784 — The Second War for Independence," by Robert Conroy, Baen Books, $25, 368 pages (f)
Only a few months after the release of “1920: America's Great War,” novelist Robert Conroy gives readers another story that turns history on its side. His new offering, “Liberty: 1784 — The Second War for Independence,” supposes a British victory at Yorktown and a very different final act to the American Revolution.
The story begins with George Washington's execution for treason in the Tower of London. Readers are soon introduced to Will Drake, an American officer wasting away in a British prison ship in the Hudson River. Escaping, Will soon makes his way west, to the last rebel enclave known simply as Liberty. Somewhere near present-day Chicago, Liberty is a series of free communities keeping the spirit of the American Revolution alive.
Along the way Will meets several characters such as a beautiful young woman named Sarah, fleeing the cruelty of American loyalists; Major Fitzroy, a British officer determined to do his duty to the crown; and Owen, a deserter from the Royal Marines who joins the Revolutionaries. These characters and more mix with actual historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, John Burgoyne, John Paul Jones, and John Hancock.
Soon, a British army under Burgoyne marches west to destroy Liberty and finally bring the American Revolution to an end. Dramatic tension builds as the rebels must frantically train their ramshackle army and prepare their defenses for the final showdown with the king's troops.
Like most of Conroy's novels, “Liberty: 1784” is a thrilling adventure tale that offers an interesting perspective on one of history's most important events. Alternate history can illustrate just how fragile a series of cause and events can truly be. Here, Conroy brilliantly explores America's beginnings with a generally engaging and fun story.
Unfortunately, Conroy falls back on sex far too often in this book. Sexual scenes are a staple for most of Conroy's novels, and rape is frequently explored as a by-product of war. In “Liberty: 1784,” Conroy pushes these themes to an uncomfortable and often quite off-putting degree. Additionally, some of the foul language employed seems a bit anachronistic.
In most respects “Liberty: 1784” is an entertaining novel, though it is marred by too many of these unnecessary elements. In addition to the sex and language, the novel does contain some scenes of intense war violence and atrocities.