The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Published by Sourcebooks
Set against the backdrop of Elizabeth I’s reign, this could alternately be titled: The one in which I lose interest in the Morland Dynasty series.
Don’t get me wrong, “The Princeling” is no mid-series slump (and, frankly, it is not even mid-series, there are at least 30 of the Morland Dynasty books). Harrod Eagles still does a fabulous job walking the line of getting across what is happening in England at the time these particular Morlands are living and not making it seem that she has forced them into every single event in English history. The events in which they do take part happen naturally and absolutely work as a consistent story. Even what I know she glosses over works for me, because it is simply not what was concerning the Morlands at that time.
Additionally, it is nothing short of amazing how many characters Harrod Eagles can help the reader keep track of, without sounding condescending about it. I very rarely had to stop and ask myself, “now who was that?” A major feat indeed, with so many generations passed since the events of “The Founding” and Eleanor’s descendants so spread out. Clearly she is a very skilled storyteller and does epic history very well indeed.
However, I find that the farther removed I get from Eleanor, the less I personally care about any of her progeny. In “The Dark Rose,” I attached myself to Nannette as my main character of interest but, although she reappears in this book, she is seen a great deal less. It seems as if the story is more fractured in general, paying more attention to more different characters with less of a single, sympathetic protagonist to give anchor to the book. On one hand, this technique broadens the amount of England’s story at this given time that can be told by this one family, but on the other it left me without much of a connection to the book, although that was a purely personal response and may not be shared by others reading this series.
I was also quite put off by the suggestion that one of the boys and his mother had a (never acted upon) love that went beyond that of mother and child. Here is a passage regarding the two of them from page 18, when he would have been a young boy:
“It is John,” Elizabeth exclaimed, and got up and went to the window. She looked down and her face coloured as she waved to the person below, smiling with a tenderness that would not have looked strange on the face of a lover.
This, along with a Morland girl deeply in love with the husband who made her his with rape and whom she great fears, coming so close on the heels of the creepily passionate uncle to half-niece love from “The Dark Rose” really just turned me off. Yes, they are relatively minor parts of the book, but they really stuck with and bothered me. Enough that, in addition to my relatively lack of interest in the characters has probably decreed that this is my last Morland Dynasty book.
Even though I wasn’t completely enamored of this iteration, I would still absolutely recommend that fans of British historical fiction check out this series. Since it is simply the story of a family, you can really start or stop from anywhere, although there is some continuity of the story from book to book, but you aren’t emotionally manipulated by cliffhangers to continue if you do happen to lose interest as I did.
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