Morland Dynasty: The Long Shadow

November 28, 2009 at 3:38 am (Historical fiction, Romance) (, , , , , )

The Long Shadow by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Morland Dynasty: The Long Shadow by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1983
Sphere, 2007
367 pages
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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morland Dynasty: The Oak Apple & The Black Pearl

November 28, 2009 at 3:07 am (Historical fiction) (, , , , , , , )

The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Black Pearl by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Morland Dynasty: The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1982
Warner, 2000
403 pages
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction

The Morland Dynasty: The Black Pearl by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1982
Warner, 2000
402 pages
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction

Synopsis & Review: Thomas, the little-glimpsed son of John Morland and Mary Percy, and heir of his grandfather Paul Morland (third of his name) has passed Morland Place on to his own son Edmund, who we meet in his maturity at the beginning of The Oak Apple. It’s been a good thirty or forty years since the close of the last book, and England is well into the reign of Charles Stuart, Charles I. Edmund’s eldest son Richard is troublesome, and has a particular hatred for his father’s young wife, Mary Esther (a descendant of the decidedly loathsome Mary Seymour and Jan Chapham).

Despite the (disappointing) lapse of a few decades, The Oak Apple’s protagonists are easy to get behind. Readers soon find themselves sympathizing with Mary Esther as she tries to reconcile her stepson Richard to her, though he is determined to hate her no matter what she does, blaming any disliked decision of Edmund’s on Mary Esther. As the country grows more troubled, Mary Esther and Edmund soon face their own problems, trying to square family loyalties to God, country, and king. With MaryEsther far on one side of the debate, and Edmund on the other, Morland Place itself straddles the line between rebel and loyalist. Their sons Kit and Francis, and nephew Hamil, all join up to fight for the King, under the command of Prince Rupert, while Edmund’s eldest, the difficult Richard brings home a Puritan bride, further dividing the house.

Nehemiah’s orphaned offspring, Malachi, Ruth, and Nell, are taken in at Morland Place by Mary Esther, until such a time as they can run their home The Shawes for themselves. Ruth is an odd one out: plain, uncompromising, and observant, and also painfully in love with her cousin Kit. When she cannot have him, Ruth returns to The Shawes, determined to live her life as she please, even when it means raising a bastard child conceived on the night of Marston Moor.

The Black Pearl opens as Cromwell’s Protectorate draws to a close. The Lord Protector is dead, and men (people, in theory, but in practice mostly men) wonder what will be best for England now. When Charles II is restored to England as her king, the loyal Morlands celebrate, hoping that the return of the Stuarts may also mean the return of their lands after the deprivations of the Protectorate. Like everyone else in England, they hasten to London to welcome Charles II and assure him of their constant and unwavering loyalty. Full of plans, Ruth sends her illegitimate daughter Annunciata to London as well to seek her own fortune and find herself a husband. At Charles II’s glittering courts, Annunciata will not only find love, but also discover the truth of her parentage and help usher her family to further greatness.

I put these two together for review because they are really a matched pair, in content and thematically. (The next book, The Long Shadow, might have been covered, too, but it doesn’t fit nearly as well). The Oak Apple is the Gone with the Wind of the Morland Dynasty, covering a family and country torn apart by a civil war. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dark Angels

August 2, 2009 at 1:54 am (Historical fiction, Romance) (, , )

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen
Crown, 1st edition, 2006
530 pages
Genre: historical fiction, romance

Synopsis & Review: Alice Verney is a perfect courtier, clever, fashionable, graceful, and ambitious. Raised in an exile court, she became a maid of honor at the Restoration of Charles II, but fled to France after a scandal involving one of her dearest friends. After two years in the household of Henrietta Maria and at the court of Louis XIV, Alice returns to England to fulfill her ambitions, first by regaining her position as maid of honor, then by an advantageous marriage–and from there to ever greater heights, dragging her friends up with her. She endeavors to make herself a credit to her patrons, making herself one of the most popular ornaments at court, assuaging the ennui of a corrupt and jaded cohort with clever tricks and spectacles. Though the English and French courts differ in many ways, there are two certainties in both: ambition and duplicity. Though less refined than Louis XIV’s, the court of Charles II has grown ever more dangerous, and Alice finds that old loyalties are no longer certain.  Even as Alice arranges the lives of those around her, her life beging sliding out of her control as she falls in love with a handsome young officer who just happens to love her dear friend Louise Renee de Keroualle. While she proceeds with her plans, the murder of a member of the royal family sucks Alice into a maelstrom of intrigue. No one’s loyalties are certain anymore, not those of her father or her friends, and Alice begins taking measures to protect both herself and the queen she serves.

It’s no Forever Amber, but Dark Angels is a more than adequate historical romance, richly invested in the details Stuart England. Read the rest of this entry »

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