How despicable does a fictional heroine have to be before it stops being fun to read about her? That’s the question I kept asking myself as I was reading The Long Shadow, the sixth installment in the Morland Dynasty series. I mentioned in my review of The Black Pearl that Annunciata Morland is my least favorite of the Morland heroines so far. She’s not unlike Scarlett O’Hara in a lot of ways. I grudgingly respect her inner fortitude and her ability not to let society define who she shall be, but her self-centeredness and love only for herself keep me from liking her much.
Annunciata remains the central character in The Long Shadow, and her behavior only gets more shocking, mostly because of her total disregard for the feelings of her children. Seriously, her actions, while not outright abusive, go beyond disinterest and coldness. Still, like Scarlett O’Hara, Annunciata brings the melodrama, and the melodrama makes for juicy reading. And I do appreciate that Harrod-Eagles does not insist on writing characters that are wholly good or wholly bad. I suspect there are readers who really like Annunciata’s spunk and can get behind her romanticism. I’m just not one of them.
This novel begins in 1670 and continues through the Glorious Revolution, when William of Orange invaded England. I know very little about this period of British history, and so I learned a lot about the political machinations of the period. The Morlands, as ever, are on the side of the royal family, and their loyalty costs them dearly, both as the Morland men go to fight against the rebels during the Monmouth invasion and as Annunciata herself attempts to hold Morland Place against rebel forces.
Despite my dislike of Annunciata, I still found this to be a pretty gripping read. I do look forward to meeting a new Morland heroine that I can actually like, but it looks like Annunciata is the prinicipal character in at least one more book. We’ll see if she grows up at all. I’m skeptical.