The Morland Dynasty: The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
originally published 1981
Genre: Historical fiction, family saga, romance
Synopsis & Review: Picking up about 1509, at the death of Henry Tudor and a couple of decades after Eleanor Courtenay’s death at the end of The Founding, The Dark Rose follows the fortunes of the Morland family throughout the reign of Henry VIII. The first part is chiefly concerned with Paul, Eleanor’s great-grandson, now nominal head of the Morland family, though he is guided by his uncle Richard. Paul is unhappily married to his cousin Anne Butts, and finds love outside in marriage with a young widow called Ursula, who bears him a son, Adrian. Paul also struggles with his jealousy of his half-siblings, whom he believes to be illegitimate, and this burning jealousy shapes much of his early life. Through famine, plague, political intrigue, and social unrest, Paul strives to keep the Morlands whole, and ever rising. Children are fostered with prominent families, and join the court of the King, making connexions and improving the Morland prospects.
The second part follows Anne, called Nanette, the daughter of Paul’s half-brother Jack. After the death fo her parents, Anne fosters out with the Parr family, becoming close friends with their daughter Katherine. Upon maturity, she joins the Court, and is soon fast friends with a lovely girl called Anne Boleyn. The two enjoy the attentions of gallants and all the festivities of court life, until the King’s eye turns to Anne. Nanette proves her loyalty, staying with Anne and serving her throughout the long years of courtship, and her rise to the throne.
The Dark Rose sees the entire reign of Henry VIII, and all that it encompassed: war, famine, pestilence, the break with Rome, and the rise of Protestantism. Among all the graver matters, there are still shearing festivals, weddings, exciting hunts, and all manner of life and the Morlands make the painful transition from mediaeval to modern.
After finishing The Founding, I added The Dark Rose to my hold list at the library. 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 »
When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon K Penman
Ballantine, 10th printing, 1996
Genre: historical fiction, romance
Synopsis & Review: Though he had promised the throne to his daughter Maude (Matilda), insisting that his barons to homage to her as England’s heir, the death of Henry I prompted a succession crisis. Rather than suffer a queen regnant, the majority of England’s barons supported Henry’s nephew Stephen when he claimed the throne instead. Stephen’s usurpation ushered in an era of turmoil for England, nineteen years of bloody warfare and strife as he and Maude bitterly struggled for the throne. Barons switched sides, and unscrupulous men made war for their own ends, adding to the troubles as the balance of power swung first in one direction, then the other. Due to the horror and lawlessness, the period became known as The Anarchy, and a contemporary chronicler described it as a time “when Christ and His saints slept.”
Explaining the entire novel would take up too much time and space for one of my little blog entries, so if you haven’t read the book and are not familiar with The Anarchy, I suggest checking out the Wikipedia article linked above for the bare bones of the tale. Penman opens fifteen years before Henry’s death, with the sinking of the White Ship and the loss of his only male heir. Read the rest of this entry »
Lacy Makes a Match by Patricia Beatty
William Morrow, 1st edition, 1979
Genre: children’s literature, historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: Lacy Bingham has been feeling the loss of her adoptive mother; at twelve, she is the sole woman in the house, and stepping into Ma Bingham’s shoes is a mighty tall order for a girl in school. Frustrated at all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, mending, and more there is to do four her father and three grown brothers, Lacy casts about for some solution. Inspiration comes in the form of her eldest brother Hector’s sudden elopement: if her two other brothers, Michael and Eldon were to marry, then she would have only one other person to look after! And with that, Lacy hatches a scheme to write to a lonely hearts paper for suitable women. As she hunts for wives for her brothers, Lacy also investigates her own past, curious about how she came to be left on the Bingham’s property as a baby.
This is another of Patricia Beatty’s charming novels about spunky young girls on America’s frontiers. Read the rest of this entry »