The Flood-Tide, the ninth book in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s Morland Dynasty series, covers a relatively peaceful period in England. Under the governance of Allen and Jemima Morland, Morland Place is being restored and improved, after years of war and mismanagement. Although the Morland family no longer must worry about seeing their home ravaged by war, they are touched by wars outside the boundaries of England. Jemima’s cousin Thomas and son William, who serve in the Royal Navy, are called to America to fight in the Revolutionary War. Another cousin, Charles, settles in America and must decide where his loyalties lie. Against this historical backdrop, family members marry, bear children, have affairs, and continue to adjust to changing times.
This book was just as enjoyable as previous books in the series. The Maiden (Book 8) remains my favorite, but this one was almost as good. As an American, I was especially interested in the sections devoted to the Revolutionary War. I don’t believe I’ve ever read any books about the war from the English perspective, and it was fascinating to imagine what people on the other side might have thought about these events. This different perspective allowed me to see events whose outcome and whose rightness I take for granted in a new light. Here, for example, Thomas and Charles discuss the significance of the Declaration of Independence:
“We had copies within two days,” Thomas said. “It must be a widely distributed document. Well, it was no shock, after Commonsense, and I cannot see that it changes anything.”
“A formal declaration always changes things,” Charles said. “What men say is more irrevocable than what they do. All the talk of republicanism and equality—‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’—that is contrary to everything we have always believed, everything that has made it possible for men to live together in harmony.”
The words of the Declaration of Independence are such a part of our national consciousness here in the U.S. that it’s easy to forget that not everyone agreed that the truths expressed there are self-evident or that the document was even particularly significant. And the interesting thing is that we’re not hearing these ideas from tyrannical people who don’t care at all about people from other social classes. Charles and Thomas are just men of their time believe that we are assigned a certain station; Harrod-Eagles does a nice job of treating them and their ideas with respect. It’s one of the things I appreciate about her books. She allows her characters to express ideas that as modern readers we find repugnant, but she doesn’t turn them into villains for holding these ideas. I wish more historical fiction writers would follow her lead.
That’s not to say that all of Harrod-Eagles’s characters fully embrace the morality and customs of their time. The Morland family itself continues to have its share of spunky women who buck society’s expectations. Jemima shows no interest in court life, fashion, and social advancement, and she’s frustrated when her daughter Mary does. Still, Jemima is not the renegade that Annunciata was, and it’s a relief to read about a more stable, less selflish sort of woman.
Another plot thread involves Henri, the grandson of Annunciata, who now lives in France and whose existence is kept a secret from most of the Morlands. His story was a favorite of mine, and I’m very interested to see where it goes given that this book ends with the storming of the Bastille. Will Henri get caught up in the French Revolution? Or will he flee to England, finally revealing his existence to his Morland kin? If so, how will they react? I guess I’ll find out next month, when I read The Tangled Thread, the 10th book in the series.