The Sparks Fly Upward

Written by Diana Norman
Review by Ilysa Magnus

As the waning days of the French Revolution evolve into the Reign of Terror, marked by indiscriminate beheadings, fear and the tyranny of the mob, things are not so dandy on the other side of the English Channel either. Makepeace Hedley, a headstrong widow, feminist and abolitionist who was born and raised in Boston (herself knowing a bit about the tyranny of the mob), tries to keep peace within her family. Her daughter, Philippa – a fiercely independent and smart woman – becomes engaged to a campaigner for the rights of slaves in the colonies, a man she does not love, hoping to quell the feelings she has for a man she cannot have. Both have strong ties to the nobility in France, and particularly to the de Condorcet family. It soon becomes obvious to Philippa that she can only save the Marquis if she crosses the Channel — with forged papers – carrying only her enormous courage as a shield against the daily executions in Paris.

In Norman’s talented hands, what could have been a humdrum story comes so alive with passion, intrigue and sheer guts that it’s difficult to put this book down. As Makepeace creates her own personal drama – literally and figuratively – back in London trying to raise public awareness of the plight of African slaves, Philippa, in Paris, discovers just how powerful the forces of love and devotion can be. Every page of this novel is so chock full of historical detail, dialogue that literally jumps off the pages, romance, skullduggery, heroes, and villains that it is a sheer joy to read. What a pity when you reach the satisfying conclusion!

I loved this book and highly recommend it. I just wish I could convince Diana Norman to revisit these characters in a sequel!