The Morland Dynasty: The Tangled Thread by Cyntha Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1987
Warner Books, 2000
Genre: family saga, historical fiction, romance
Synopsis & Review: (jacket copy)
1788: the bloody revolution in France causes upheaval in the Morland family.
Henri-Marie FitzJames Stuart, bastard offshoot of the Morland family, strives to protect his daughter Heloise, his mistress, Marie-France, and their son, Morland. To this end, he binds Heloise to a loveless marriage with a Revolutionary, and allies himself with the great Danton. But in the bloodbath of the guillotine and the fall of Danton, Henri-Marie loses his head and Heloise flees to England.
She is welcomed with open arms by the family, and in Yorkshire Jemima proudly witnesses three marriages amongst her turbulent brood. At last there may be an heir to Morland Place, but the seeds of disaster have already been sown.
Holy crap, I hadn’t read the jacket copy for this volume (I rarely bother anymore with this series), and so did NOT realize there was a major spoiler right there. I mean, I kept thinking Henri-Marie might escape the Terror and see England at last. But no. Oh well, for me, the perennial peeker and spoiler extraordinaire, not knowing that sustained some of the suspense in this very entertaining continuation of the Morland Dynasty. HOWEVER! The jacket copy is seriously lacking, covering only one of The Tangled Thread’s storylines. After all, it concerns Jemima still, one of those Morland matriarchs in the vein of Annunciata (though considerably less flashy). Her beloved husband Allen finally kicks the bucket, and Jemima is terribly concerned about her children: eldest son Edward is decidedly gay and remains unmarried, second son William is definitely married to the sea, and third son James is an unequivocal rake, tearing from one affair to the next, all while nursing a tendre for a married woman. (Youngest son Henry is too young to be of much concern yet; look for him in later installments.) Her elder daughter Mary is also troublesome, living with Flora (Countess of Chelmsford), traveling about England with Society as part of her establishment, and never considering any proposal of marriage. BUT! It gets better! Youngest daughter Lucy is one of the Morland tomboys, studying medicine under a former sailor and local horse doctor, Morgan Proom. Her interest in medicine and fixing broken bodies eventually leads Lucy to RUN AWAY TO SEA AS A SHIP’S DOCTOR ON A ROYAL WARSHIP. HOW RAD IS THAT? Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
The Morland Dynasty: The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1984
Warner Books, 2000
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: 1689 – The Restoration enabled the Morland family to restore their own fortune, but now the Jacobite rebellion brings another threat to their security.
Annunciata Morland, fiercely loyal to the Stuart cause, follows her beloved king, James II, into exile. She leaves her gentle grandson, Matt, to oversee Morland Place in her absence. Without her wise presence, Matt finds himself in an arranged marriage to India Neville and at the mercy of a woman as heartless as she is beautiful. After a lonely and sheltered life he lurches between the exquisite pain of love and the torment of deep despair.
When James III-the Chevalier–returns to claim the Stuart throne, the Morlands are reunited in one country. Death and defeat threaten them, but their loves and loyalty prove stronger than kingly ambition. (jacket copy)
Sometimes I just get exhausted trying to summarize a plot that follows the vagaries of history. Don’t judge me.
Number seven of the Morland Dynasty opens just before the Glorious Revolution (which sucked), and traces the various Morlands through the Jacobite uprising of 1715 (aka, the ’15–to the cool kids). With the current popularity of the Tudors–and to a lesser degree, the Plantagenets–the Stuarts, the Hanoverians, and the Jacobites get short shrift from historical fiction. I’m not sure why, though, as the intricacies of Jacobite intrigue are innately romantic and thrilling. I wonder whether perhaps intolerance of Jacobitism may have something to do with the Catholic connexion (there is still some anti-Papist sentiment both here and in the UK), or whether the complexities of loyalty to a King’s person versus to a country are too touchy a subject currently. (Note the drastic fall in US Civil War romantic fiction for the second half of the twentieth century, following the Civil Rights Movement.) Read the rest of this entry »