Monday, March 8, 2010
Review: The Regency, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Original date of publication: 1990
My edition: 2006 (Sphere)
Why I decided to read: continuation of the Morland Dynasty series
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, September 2009
#13: 1807-1815; covers the Regency; Napoleonic period; Luddite rebellions
The Regency is the continuation of Heloise Morland’s story. In the previous book in the series, The Victory, we saw Heloise marry her heart’s desire, James Morland. Here, we witness Heloise’s re-adjustment to life at Morland Place, and deal with the challenge of taming James’s unruly daughter, Fanny, for whom she is a sort of regent before Fanny comes of age. Aged eleven when the novel begins, Fanny matures into a young woman who is anxious to gain not only her inheritance of Morland Place, but her grandfather Hobsbawn’s cotton mill empire. But a wrench is thrown into her plans when she falls in love with the up-to-no-good Lieutenant Hawker. Meanwhile, Lucy is trying to deal with the death of Weston, remaining friends with Beau Brummell and his set. Many characters are born in this book, including Nicholas and Benedict, who play leading roles in further books in this series.
I always like the books in the series that focus on the family more and not the political events taking place around them. It’s not that those political events are uninteresting (though the Napoleonic period isn’t really my thing); it’s simply that I’m becoming more and more interested in the Morlands as people, the more I read about them. The Morlands's stories tend to be a bit soap opera-ish, but are satisfying reads nevertheless.I love reading novels that focus on the way that people lived in the past, and the Morland series certainly gives its readers a good glimpse into the lives of ordinary people from the past. It was interesting to see the interplay between the older generation (Jemima’s children, now more or less middle-aged) and the younger generation—some of which experience their very own coming-out Season in London, even as war rages elsewhere in Europe.
Heloise is a bit too Mary Sue-ish, and I found myself getting frustrated with the extremely selfish Fanny (shades of Annunciata, perhaps?); but what I like about the characters in this series is that they seem like flesh-and-blood people, who might easily have lived, and who made mistakes just the same as anyone else. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles really knows how to tell a good story, and keep her readers interested in her characters over a period of time—especially since many of them appear in multiple books. It's quite a feat to keep up that kind of momentum in any series as long-running as this one is. Despite what happens at the end of this book, I have to applaud Harrod-Eagles for writing the story that way; I feel that there’s only so much she could have done with Fanny’s story in the long run, anyways.
The author sometimes lifts sentences straight from Jane Austen, especially when the girls are coming out in London; and the book's copyediting was atrocious, as was the author's erratic spelling of the word "show." Nonetheless, I think this is a strong addition to the Morland Dynasty saga, and certainly better than some of the others.