The Morland Dynasty: The Long Shadow by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1983
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: The continuation of Annunciata’s saga in the Morland Dynasty, The Long Shadow finds her hosting a christening party in honor of her latest child. Not only the first party of the Season, but the first since the court went into mourning for the King’s sister Henrietta, the Dowager Countess of Chelmsford’s party is a glittering affair with the King as an honored guest, and Prince Rupert as godfather to the new infant. But at this party, cracks in the Morland façade begin to show and grow.
Annunciata , already slightly distant from her husband Ralph Morland, soon becomes entirely estranged, living her own life at Court, and only returning to Yorkshire and Morland Place on occasion. Her eldest son Hugo, Viscount Ballincrea, is eaten alive by his jealousy of her second son, George, Earl of Chelmsford. Hugo’s twin sister Arabella, grows up selfish and envious of her own mother, of whom she suspects the worst. And Auuniciata herself, unable to rest from her efforts to improve the family’s fortune, finds herself entangled in affairs of the heart with men with whom she has no hope of marriage.
When Charles II dies and James II assumes the throne, England is once again troubled, this time with fears arising from anti-Catholic sentiments, and Annunciata and her family are once again threatened. Unable to protect her children from jealousy, betrayal, and violent death, Annunciata takes refuge in a secret, hopeless love as the foundations of her family crumble beneath her.
The first Morland Dynasty character to have not one, but two books dedicated to them, Annunciata grows in depth in The Long Shadow. She makes many mistakes, but does manage to learn from them, and she provides a useful background to the short-lived Stuart Restoration.
Because of the much, much shorted time period covered in this and the last Morland Dynasty novel, The Black Pearl, characters are better developed, as are plotlines.Annunciata’s debt to Scarlett O’Hara also becomes clearer; she’s a largely disinterested and negligent mother, and is enormously selfish and self-centered. She’s also strong-willed and prone to making grandiose errors in judgment. But she is also far less conservative than Scarlett, and more dependent on others for support, particularly her ladies’ maids (an Amber trait). Now that Harrod-Eagles spends more novel on periods of time, there’s far more fodder for the imagination.
Fun, frivolous historical romantic reading. This volume and the last, in addition to closer focus on characters, bends the story more to suit its romanticism than the oldest volumes did, and so is less historical novel than historical romance. There’s plenty of romance and high melodrama.
Read also: Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor, The Black Pearl by Cynthia Harrod-Eagle, Dark Angels and Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen
Cover: Another Lely on the spine (I heartily encourage you to check out some of the art books dedicated to Stuart portraiture. They’re fascinating, and also history lessons in miniature.), and a later painting of contemporary events on the front. Standard stuff.
They were like polite strangers, she thought. He came across to her, and for a moment she thought he would stoop and kiss her, but he sat on the chair nearest the bed-head and undid the lace of his cloak and flung it back from his shoulders. Annunciata watched him, and she was trembling inside. He had brought with him the smell of outdoors and the smell of horses. He was wearing boots, and they were mud-splashed, so she guessed he had just ridden in. His clothes were fashionable, but not over-decked, and they emphasized his strong, outdoor body, so different from the pale, limp bodies of the town gallants, who were like the grass that grows under floorboards. His fingers were strong and capable as they tugged at his cloak-strings. He was so real, and too bright, like strong sunlight to unaccustomed eyes. She tried to look at his face, but her eyes shied away. He was forty-three years old, the same age as the King, but she had never before thought of him that way. Suddenly he was a grown-up, and real, and she was a child and at play. She felt small and powerless. She felt as if he had discovered her at some prank, and had come to take her home and punish her. Real life was back there at Morland Place: the rest was but a toy.
19 November – 20 November