The 27th book in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s Morland Dynasty series features some of the most riveting material in the series … and some of the dullest. The Restless Sea begins in the year 1912, and not much has changed since the conclusion of The Dream Kingdom. The most exciting event on the horizon is the plan for Teddy Morland, as well as Lizzie and her husband and children, to travel to America on the brand-new White Star ship, the Titanic. Well, history tells us what came of that plan.
The journey on the Titanic and the immediate aftermath of its sinking takes up much of the first half of the book, and this half is tremendously exciting. Lizzie and her family could only afford second class tickets, but thanks to their excellent connections, they were actually able to travel first class. For Lizzie, this is a great luxury, and readers get to enjoy it along with her. The sequence involving the sinking are exciting, just as you might expect. Thanks to James Cameron, Walter Lord, and so many others, the events are fairly familiar, but the tension is still huge, especially knowing that Harrod-Eagles could kill off any or all of the Morlands who were on the ship. For me, what was more interesting, if a little less enthralling, were the hours spent waiting for rescue, the journey to New York on the Carpathia, the public reaction to the tragedy, and the post-traumatic stress that the survivors experienced.
Unfortunately, after an amazing first half, the rest of the book feels like a let-down. Most of the characters’ lives are continuing along the same course as in The Dream Kingdom, and not much that happens feels like a surprise. There’s more aviation with Ned—and a sweet, but predictable romance that I could totally relate to. There’s Anne’s continued fight for women’s suffrage. Jessie and Violet are figuring out ways to cope with married life, and Venetia is still practicing medicine and advising the younger women in the family. Just more of the same and not too exciting. I was a little disappointed in the way Harrod-Eagles handles Anne’s story. What happens to her looked too much like punishment for those who push too far beyond the bounds—in this case by getting involved in a lesbian relationship. There’s a fine line in fiction between the world of the book punishing a character, which might look like historical accuracy, and the author punishing a character, which has unfortunate implications in this case. I want to give Harrod-Eagles the benefit of the doubt here because she’s walked that line pretty well in the past. I’m hoping she continues to do so for the rest of the series, and I can dismiss this as an unintentional misstep.