The Hearth and Eagle
originally published 1948
Chicago Review Press, 1st edition, 2008
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, family saga
Book Report: Hesper Honeywood is the sole scion of one of Marblehead, Massachusetts’ oldest families. Phebe and Mark Honeywood came over from England with John Winthrop, but left the Salem settlement to help found Marblehead, contrary from its very beginnings. Hesper has been raised on tales of their bravery and strength, as well as those of many other Honeywood and Marblehead folk. Young and passionate, Hesper is also heedless, caring more for love and romance than quiet strength or courage. But it is the vigor inherited from her forebears that will carry Hesper through the tragedy and fulfillment in her very long life, one that spans from the tumultuous antebellum years, through the rise and fall of Marblehead’s various industries, to gentrification and the Great War. Hesper will know love and passion, hatred and despair, and she, like her people before her, will endure.
Are all of Anya Seton’s books back in print now? When I first started reading her in 2005, it seemed like there there were just a couple, so I had to scour libraries and used bookshops looking for antiquated hardcover books and pulp paperbacks. But now there are all these sleek trade paperbacks with lovely covers! (It’s kind of funny, because in Olivia Goldsmith’s The Bestseller, there’s a lonely, half-senile old woman who wrote blockbuster historical fiction in the Forties and Fifties, only to be long out of print when the novel was written, and an editor at one of the publishing houses has to keep soothing her. I have a feeling Goldsmith based Anna Morrison on Anya Seton, but who had the last laugh there? Ooh, burn!) Unusually this edition of The Hearth and Eagle features only a short Author’s Note prefacing the novel, rather than the Forwards that have accompanied most of the others I’ve read form the Chicago Review Press. Is that because it was a less popular work, or have they just gotten lazy in the Windy City? Read the rest of this entry »
Morland Dynasty: The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1980
Genre: historical fiction, family saga
Synopsis & Review: Yorkshire, 1434. Rising sheep-farmer Edward Morland arranges a beneficial marriage for his son Robert, to one Eleanor Courtenay of Dorset. She has no dowry, but comes from good family and is under the protection of Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. The arrangement is advantageous for everyone: The Morlands gain the patronage of Somerset and step up in the world, Somerset gains the service of wealthy clients, and the penniless Eleanor finally has a chance at marriage and children. Only Eleanor would prefer to not lower her consequence (thus raising theirs) by marriage to a sheep farmer. But as a penniless orphan, she has no say in the matter; while she makes the best of her situation, she continues to punish her husband Robert for not being gentleman enough for her tastes. Despite their initially ill-favored relations, Eleanor and Richard make an excellent team, and she gradually assumes leadership in the family, astutely shepherding the Morlands ever higher, from wealthy sheep farmers to merchants, to gentry. But in her heart Eleanor has cherished the memory of Richard, Duke of York, and when England is torn apart under mad Henry IV and his rapacious wife, the Morlands must choose a side.
I heard about this series a few years ago, and meant to look them up. For some reason, I was under the impression that it was a much older series, like from the fist half of the twentieth century, but I am obviously mental as this book (the first volume) was published in 1980. Huh. Perhaps my library system just didn’t have any when I looked? I do not know. I’m glad I tried looking again, though, because I found The Founding totally enjoyable. Read the rest of this entry »