Morland Dynasty: The Maiden

December 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

The Maiden by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Morland Dynasty: The Maiden by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1985
Warner Books, 2000
413 pages
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 »

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Morland Dynasty: The Chevalier

December 3, 2009 at 5:55 am (Historical fiction) (, , , , , , , )

The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Morland Dynasty: The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1984
Warner Books, 2000
414 pages
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 »

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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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The Morland Dynasty: The Princeling

November 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm (Historical fiction) (, , , , , )

princeling

The Princeling by Cynthia-Harrod Eagles

The Morland Dynasty: The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1981
Sphere, 2007
410 pages
Genre: Family saga, historical fiction

Synopsis & Review: Mary Tudor is dying, and England waiting to see what will happen, whether Elizabeth, daughter to Anne Boleyn, will be able to claim and hold the throne. In Yorkshire, the extensive Morland family continues their rise and considers a change of allegiance. Nanette, former lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr, lives at the Watermill House with her husband and children; as one of the last of the older generation, she and Paul Morland (third of his name) direct the family, choosing advantageous alliances through marriage and trade. But the family is fracturing along religious lines. When the old King, Henry VIII broke with Rome, England began a religious revolution, and the Morlands are in the thick of it. While some family members follow Henry’s compromise with a non-papist Catholicism, others are becoming more Protestant. In an effort to support Catholics, Paul Morland breaks with the Howard family of Norfolk, and instead allies himself with the Percys of Northumberland, arranging a marriage for his eldest son John to Mary Percy, a fierce Border leader.

Paul’s eldest daughter Lettice spends time at Elizabeth’s court before traveling in the train of Lord Darnley to Scotland. In that rough, perilous land, Lettice chooses between a wolf at the door, and one at the hearth, marrying a dangerous Scots baron, Lord Robert Hamilton. When Paul’s second son William disappears from court (he joins an actors’ troop), his third son dies, and his youngest disappears at sea, and with John in the Borders with the Percys, there is no longer an heir for Morland Place. It is then that Nanette’s adopted son Jan, himself a bastard Morland twice over, begins jockeying for position as the Morland heir at the behest of his wife, Mary Seymour.

This is only the third installment in the Morland Dynasty? Really? It feels like I must be much further into the series, considering how much time the first two spanned. The Princeling clocks in at just over four hundred pages, a good hundred-plus shorter than the first two, and also covers much less time (only thirty-one years). This may be the volume in which Harrod-Eagles decides to stop speeding through history quite so quickly, but then again, the next volume covers the Civil War. How does she spread this out over thirty-plus books at such a ripping pace? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Concubine

September 4, 2009 at 8:41 pm (Historical fiction) (, , , , , )

The Concubine by Norah Lofts

The Concubine by Norah Lofts

The Concubine by Norah Lofts
originally published 1963
Torc, 2006
358 pages
Genre: historical fiction, fictionalized biography

Synopsis & Review: Anne Boleyn isn’t beautiful–she’s described by one contemporary as “all eyes and hair”–but she is graceful, witty, and oh so charming. And on her return from France, she catches the eye of Henry VIII, King of England. Though she is in love with Harry Percy, heir to Northumberland, and he with her, their love is broken up and the two separated so that the King might go a-wooing. Unlike any woman before her, however, Anne denies the King his desires, and in that moment, the seeds are sown for a revolution in England. For ten years she denies him, earning herself the sobriquet The Concubine, despite having refused to give in to Henry. And after turning England upside down to gain her, Henry would then wreak a vengeance upon her for those years of denial.

I read a lot about Anne Boleyn, fiction and non-fiction both, and one thing I have difficulty resisting is a new Anne Boleyn book. (Or Mary, Queen of Scots, too, but she’s less popular.) Read the rest of this entry »

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