The Morland Dynasty: The Emperor
originally published 1988
Warner Books, 2000
The Morland Dynasty: The Victory
originally published 1989
Warner Books, 2000
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, family saga
Book Report: 1795 – The shadow of Bonaparte has fallen across Europe and touches each member of the far-flung Morland family.
As the century draws to a close, Jemima Morland wearily acknowledges that her life is also nearing its end, but she has scant peace as her unpredictable children behave ever more incomprehensibly: James’ marriage to Mary Ann is close to falling apart; Lucy’s marriage de convenance to Chetwyn is in the balance—her affair with Lieutenant Weston an open scandal; Mary bears a daughter on board her husband’s ship during the battle of the Nile; and William supports a mistress whose marriage cannot be dissolved.
Jemima’s death appears to unite the family but, as ever with the Morlands, the future holds more peril than hope.
The jacket copy for these books is getting ever cheesier, in direct proportion to the ratio of history to romance included in the books, modified by the length of time each book covers. The first book, The Founding, spanned what? Sixty, eighty years? The Emperor spans eight. It’s a pity.
Let’s see … Heloise’s awful French husband finally dies, allowing her to return to the bosom of the moorlands, but too late for happiness. She and James were both responsible for monumental acts of stupidity (which do neither the Dynasty nor CHE any credit) in the last volume, Heloise by running away to the poor émigré quarter when her husband reappeared, and James by marrying the terminally stupid and annoying heiress Mary Ann Hobsbawn. So they make up for it in this volume by causing an enormous scandal, one that gets a bastard on Heloise, Sophie. James ends up returning to Morland Place after breaking Jemima’s heart, and raising Fanny, his hellspawn daughter by Mary Ann, as the most spoilt and wretched child in existence (she makes Mary Lennox at the start of The Secret Garden seem like a peach).
Down south in London, Lucy is tres chic, friends with Beau Brummell and setting all sorts of fashions. She’s also causing a scandal and a hissing by openly cavorting with her lover, and proves that she, too, is immensely stupid by not understanding why that might upset her husband. Poor Chetwyn. I liked Lucy before, but this business is just irritating. It’s fun that she is so uninterested in her children, however.
The Jemima dies, leaving Fanny as her heiress (do you smell trouble? I smell trouble!), and Mary Ann hares off to Manchester, while Lucy tries to make up to Chetwyn, and James sulks. Oh, and Heloise tries to solve the mystery of Lottie’s children’s disappearance. Meh.
1803: Napoleon is poised to invade England, with only Nelson’s weather-beaten ships in his way, but the French fleet are not the only threat to the fortunes of the Morland family.
In the north of England, Mary Ann’s relationship with the missionary, Father Rathbone, introduces her to the stark realities of life in plague-torn Manchester. In the South, Lucy’s lover, Weston, is assigned to the blockade of Brest, while her neglected husband, Chetwyn, finally finds love in an affair which threatens him with disgrace and ruin.
From the fashionable salons of Beau Brummell’s London to the shot-torn decks at Trafalgar, the Morlands face danger and personal tragedy, as well as love and fulfillment.
It starts off a bit dull, but then The Victory settles into Lucy’s bearing a bastard by Weston, one she cannot pretend is Chetwyn’s, so she must go off and have it in secrecy with Heloise. (Poor Heloise seems to do nothing but clean up after these Morlands.) Mary Ann is her usual dull self in the north, but she does provide discussion of the plight of the poor in manufactories—ah ha! That Industrial Revolution business is afoot! CHE finally kills her off with typhus, leaving James an Heloise free to marry at long last—that is, if she hasn’t been dazzled by a French duke whose been coming courting. Chetwyn makes a fool of himself with a young man, one with terrible repercussions. And Haworth continues raising Mary’s daughter, little Africa, aboard his ships.
Fortunately, The Victory is liberally splashed with naval battles that are very well written. Often, battles in fiction bore me, but she’s got a knack with them. They culminate at the riveting battle of Trafalgar, a resounding victory and stunning loss for England—and at least one Morland. It’s a quicker, more interesting read than the last one, and ties up just enough monkey business to keep the series’ pace going.
Read also: The Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles,
London and Sarum by Edward Rutherford
Cover: The usual.
09 February – 11 February
16 February – 18 February