The Maiden is the eighth book in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s Morland Dynasty series, which offers a survey of English history through the eyes of the fictional Morland family. This book opens in 1720 and focuses on the 1845 Jacobite rebellion, in which several Morlands fight on the side of Prince Charles, against the Hanoverian monarchy.
This period of English history is almost entirely new to me, and it is indeed fascinating, especially when told from the perspective of the losing side. I was particularly interested in seeing how different members of the Morland family coped with the reality that the throne simply would not return to the Stuarts. Some, like Marie-Louise, who is actually a blood relation of the Stuarts, refuse to accept the possibility, and others, some of whom cannot remember a time when a Hanover wasn’t on the throne, don’t seem to care much at all.
Most of this book focuses on the happenings at Morland Place, and the Morland story was more compelling in this installment than in any of the previous novels. Most of the characters are given multiple layers, and it’s often not quite clear if certain people will eventually warm up and be kind and contended people, as they seem to want to be, or if bitterness and disappointment will harden them. One particularly moving section involved the marriage of Jemmy, the heir to the Morland Dynasty, to Lady Mary. The marriage was arranged for political reasons, and both the groom and the bride are apprehensive and quick to misinterpret each other’s actions. Will their marriage succeed?
The spunky heroine is the Morland daughter, Jemima, and I’m happy to say that she’s much more likable than the previous heroine, Annunciata. In fact, in this book, we start to see Annunciata and her children facing up to the consequences of Annunciata’s selfishness in the past. Some recognize the errors of the past and try to move on, and others want to recapture past glories, but it’s clear that not everything is acceptable in the name of passion and romance.
So far, this is my favorite installment in the series. I was never quite sure where the story would go or what sort of person most of the characters would become, and so I became much more emotionally invested. It’s a very successful addition to an enjoyable series.