The Morland Dynasty: The Maiden by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1985
Warner Books, 2000
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: 1720: political intrigue besets the kingdom as the Stuarts try to claim the throne occupied by the Hanoverians and the Morlands have to use all their wiles to keep their fortunes intact.
Jemmy Morland, sole heir to his father’s will, has no option but to marry the cold-hearted Lady Mary to secure Hanoverian protection and safeguard his inheritance. Then the rebellion of ’45 and the bloody massacre at Culloden thrust his daughter Jemima into the spotlight as the savior of the family.
Intelligent, single-minded, and a rare beauty, Jemima is a capable caretaker of the Morland heritage. Although Morland Place and its lands suffer from the excesses of her dissolute husband, Jemima’s quiet courage earns her an abiding love and loyalty. (jacket copy)
I am highly distraught. I’ve been requesting the Morland Dynasty from the Multnomah County Library over the past couple of months, and have really been enjoying them. They provide a nice, brainless respite from some of the other stuff I’ve been reading (not that they’re unintelligent, but they require little effort from me, and I can tear right through them). After finishing The Chevalier, I hopped online to request The Flood-Tide, which follows The Maiden, only to discover that the MCL doesn’t have it. Gasp! Horror! I cannot continue the series without reading the ninth book! Gah! I’m not sure what I’ll do, perhaps try to find a copy for a dollar somewhere. But it’s hard to justify spending even that for a book in the middle of a series I don’t own, when I’ve got wedding expenses and Christmas on my tail. Poop.I even put off reading The Maiden for a couple of days, tryig to prolong my enjoyment of the series, but I’m too impatient to delay gratification.
The Maiden is a bit of an odd one compared to the last few entries in the Morland Dynasty. It’s the last book featuring Annunciata Morland, and CHE gets a little heavy-handed when she makes Annunciata basically declare her heir, the next person to shepherd the Morland family through whatever troubles may crop up. Other than the South Sea Bubble in 1720 at the book’s opening and the battle of Culloden during the ’45 (the other major Jacobite rising; see The Chevalier), there aren’t many significant historical events for the Morlands to get involved with. Instead, this novel focuses more on the family’s problems, and the need for those to carry the plot weakens the book somewhat.
Jemmy, heir of the unfortunate James Matthias and the nefarious India Neville, makes an arranged marriage to Lady Mary Holles. Lady Mary has a substantial dowry, and her Hanoverian political connexions are very desirable for the Jacobite Morlands, who need all the protection they can get. Though Mary is fully aware of her consequence, she is also painfully shy, and the combination of her timidity and a self-important, manipulative duenna make her seem haughty and cold. Unfortunately, Jemmy’s love for his cousin/aunt Aliena (Annunciata’s last child) and her daughter Marie-Louise (illegitimate offspring of the young Pretender) complicate matters, and a complain overheard by chance is misinterpreted, forever ruining their burgeoning relationship. Their third and last child, Jemima, will grow up largely neglected by both parents, for her mother is absorbed with her beloved sons, and Jemmy engrossed in Marie-Louise’s charms.
I loved Cousin/Uncle George, described as “born to hang” in The Chevalier, who turned out very well indeed, but other characters were not so lucky. Marie-Louise is a thoroughly irritating character, one of my least favorite in the series, but CHE handles her very well. After all, not every character should be likeable if they are to have any kind of verisimilitude. Also annoying is Rupert, who seems like a caricature of the evil effeminate with his cruelty and profligacy. If I hadn’t seen her treat other gay characters well, I’d have been offended. CHE makes up for the unpleasantness visited upon Jemmy and Mary by giving Jemima a happy ending in this volume; thought he ending was a bit too neatly tied up, it was also unexpected. I was totally unsure about how the situation would be resolved, and was on tenterhooks for the last twelve or so pages.
Less history and more melodramatic saga than some of the entries, but with some appealing personal and family dynamics, as well as suspense. Returns to the theme of the importance of land and the backbone of the Morland fortune, cloth trade. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t really live up to the jacket’s promises, as Jemima’s life with Rupert is skimmed over very lightly in order to get to the novel’s conclusion.
Read also: The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, London by Edward Rutherfor, Devil Water by Anya Seton
Cover: You’ve seen it.
Jemima, still with her back to her mother, looked up at Henry with alarm and dismay on her face, and he saw now that there were two writing-books, one concealed by the other. Her eyes and mouth opened in frantic appeal, and Henry gave an infinitesimal nod, and pushed his hand across the table towards her. Her eyes flickered shut with relief, and she pushed the smaller book under his hand, picked up the larger, and took ti demurely across to her mother. Henry, amused, slipped the guilty screed inside his coat, wondering what quiet little Jemima could have been writing that was so shocking. He felt sorry for his little sister, who was plain n a world which valued only beauty in women. Now that her governess had started curling her hair, she looked a little better, but she was still too thin, which even the adult cut of her gown could not conceal, and her features were too big for her face, her skin too colorless. He guessed that she led a life of stupefying boredom, but then it seemed to him that all women did. He could only suppose that they liked it.
02 December – 03 December