I’m now over one-third of the way through Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s 32-volume historical fiction series, The Morland Dynasty. In less than two years, I’ll be done. Each book covers a period in English history through the eyes of the Morland family, a wealthy, well-connected Yorkshire family. The characters are a good mix of likable and unlikable, the plots are soapy but fun, and the history is fascinating.
The Regency, the 13th book in the series opens in 1807 and continues the story of the Napoleonic Wars and of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, the Morlands are less involved with the more important events than in past books. There are no vivid descriptions of battles, just vague reports. The thread related to industrialization continues to fascinate me, but it also continues to take a backseat to other storylines.
In this book, the focus is squarely on the human drama, especially on the taming of Fanny, the wild and willful Morland heiress. Fanny, who is a child when the book opens, starts out as a selfish brat and grows into a selfish woman. Her family tried to teach her right from wrong and provide her with good examples, but she continues to manipulate. She’s not likable, but I liked reading about her, mostly because I don’t get the sense we’re supposed to admire her, unless it’s to admire her considerable intellect.
The bulk of the book focuses on relationships—who’s going to marry whom, who really loves whom, and so on. Some of the relationships were interesting. I wanted to know, for example, how Mathilde’s story would turn out, and I loved the direction it took. But the series is a little overfull of characters at this point, and it would probably be just as well if a couple of branches of the Morland family could fade out of the narrative. Even with the family trees in the front, I had a hard time connecting certain characters with the rest of the family.
By the end of the book, the family drama has shown some signs of calming, at least for a while. But the historical drama is ramping back up, with the escape of Napoleon from Elba. I’m guessing the next book, The Campaigners, will be more focused on the war. I hope so. I enjoy the Morland family drama, but the history is what makes me look forward to picking up the next book each month.