The Morland Dynasty: The Flood-tide by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1986
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction, romance
Synopsis & Review: (jacket copy) 1772: Although George III reigns over a peaceful England, his colonies in the Americas are claiming independence and a tide of revolutionary fervour is gripping France.
Allen Morland and his beloved wife Jemima work unstintingly to bring Morland Place back to its former glory. Their seven children often bring them heartache, but they are sustained by their love for each other.
The Morland adventurer, Charles, emigrates to Maryland in pursuit of the heiress Eugenie, but finds himself in the midst of the American claim for independence.
Meanwhile, Henri, the family’s bastard offshoot, pursues pleasure relentlessly but pennilessly until he finds a niche for himself in the fashionable Parisian salons, whilst outside revolution creeps closer.
OH GOD, THESE BOOKS ARE LIKE CRACK. I pick one up, and then I can’t put it down till I’m done, and I don’t know why. The Multnomah County Library seems to feel that it’s above stocking every book in a series, and thus this, the ninth volume in the Morland Dynasty, was missing from the MCL’s catalog. Bastards. I could not go on in the series without reading what I was sure was a PIVOTAL volume, so I decided I’d have to buy it for myself. These aren’t easy to find used at Powells or on Ebay, and I ended up getting it on Amazon, and tucking it into my own Christmas stocking to ensure that I’d have something I wanted to read for Christmas. (It’s very important to get something decent to read for Christmas, you know.) I rationalized my purchase by insisting that I would donate the book to the MCL after reading it so that others in my position would not have to suffer as I did. Whatever.
On to The Flood-tide! Jemima and Allen are several years into their marriage, with a full complement of children. Though forced after the death of her evil queer husband Rupert to sell the lovely estate of Shawes (remember, the house that Annunciata built?), Jemima and Allen saved Morland Place, including the horse farm at Twelvetrees. Fortunately, their Chelmsford cousins buy Shawes at a good price, not only keeping it in the family but also keeping Jemima and Allen solvent. The early parts of the book mostly concern their domestic activities, though there is a brief interlude at sea when William runs away to join the Navy. Edward then goes off to Eton, where he makes what becomes a lifelong friendship—and entanglement. There are unfortunate marriages, and illicit loves, even some adulteries. You know, business as usual.
Meanwhile Cousin Charles (another James Matthias descendant, via one of his unpleasant sons) begins studying botany, which eventually leads him across the Atlantic to the Americas. Along with his botanizing, he rediscovers the longlost Morland cousins in Maryland. They’re no longer Morlands by then, having many daughters and too few sons, but they retain the original property claimed, York Plantation. Charles married the sole heir to York Plantation, Eugenie de Courcey, casting his lot in the New World. But despite the beautiful surroundings and their wealth, Charles and Eugenie stand to lose everything in the Revolution when their ties to England make them suspect.
In France, Aliena dies, leaving her grandson Henri alone and at loose ends. Penniless yet profligate, rakish Henri begins to change after the death of his grandmother, seeking the unconditional love he never missed until it was gone. His need to be loved leads to a double life as Henri moves from fashionable salons to bourgeois taverns. He seeks to make contact with his Morland cousins in England, but is rebuffed by Allen when Jemima cannot face the consequences of her father’s actions. The rejection makes Henri all the more determined that his darling daughter Heloise will not suffer the same way should she ever seek out the Morlands, and he begins building a fortune for her sake.
The two revolutions slow the action of The Flood-tide a bit; military action in America and the fomenting of discord in Paris lead to didactic passages in which characters explain EVERYTHING. But, no one’s perfect. This is one of the interval books, that serves more to set up characters and events for the next Big, Exciting Things. Jemima and Allen’s brood gets more interesting once they’re either married and behaving badly or just plain behaving badly. Henri, while fun, mixes a little too much with revolutionaries for my tastes. Charles’ sojourn in America is difficult, and approaches the problem of both Loyalists and people branded as such simply for material gain; his and Eugenie’s troubles are a reminder of the loss and bitterness that is the other side of victory’s coin.
A perfectly adequate, though sometimes unexciting, entry in the Morland Dynasty.
Read also: The Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, London and Sarum by Edward Rutherford
Cover: Same ol’ same ol’ Morland Dynasty cover.
“But my dear Charles, you don’t suppose anyone really means it?” Thomas said. “I see no signs that the Patriots intend to establish equality in their new States. The property qualification, and the religious qualification–yes, even the literacy rule–will prevent a good deal more than half the people having the vote. When they talk of all men being equal, they only mean that they, the upper orders, must not be deemed inferior to the king and the aristocracy, not that the lower orders are not inferior to them. And what about the slaves? There is no mention of equality for them.”
“The first draft of the document contained a condemnation of the slave trade, but it was deleted from the second draft,” Charles told him. “You are right, of course. They do not mean to include the slaves, or the poor, in their new order–but the fact remains that it has been said, and it cannot be unsaid. When you kick a pebble down a mountainside, it falls slowly at first, bouncing and rolling, and a child could stop it with one hand. But it gathers speed, and at the bottom of the mountain it may smash a man’s skull. So it is with ideas. So it will be with this one.”
25 December – 28 December