This novel is a sequel to Norman’s A Catch of Consequence, previously reviewed. We pick up the story of Makepeace Burke’s life, and find that she hasn’t got any more mellow with age; she’s driven, and she drives everyone around her, though with a basic goodness of heart and the best of intentions. In this novel she sets out to find her eleven year old daughter, who was on board an American ship sunk by the British (this is the War of 1812, and sea travel is dangerous). At the same time a new character — Lady Diana Stacpole, recently widowed and glad to be free of a cruel husband of twenty years — is looking for the son of an old friend, a sailor who was taken prisoner from the same ship that carried Makepeace’s daughter. These two women could hardly be more different, and in fact they rub each other the wrong way immediately. There’s considerable humor here, and a lot of insight about the way women get along, or fail to.
Beyond the wonderful character development, there’s a lot of plot: kidnappings, pirates, smugglers, chase scenes, prison breaks. I love complex plots, but here I had the sense that Norman was sometimes juggling too many eggs at once (and who am I to say something like this, given the multiple, interwoven plots of my own books? And yet, that’s how I see it.)
All in all this is an excellent novel with great characters who find their way through a thicket of challenges to come out changed to a lesser degree (Makepeace) or a greater one (Diana). It’s huge fun, and very engaging.