Thursday, 29 January 2015

Reading the Morlands: #6 "The Long Shadow"

This past week or so, I've kept meaning to write up an "as I go" post for The Long Shadow, but apart from some less-than-complimentary thoughts about Annunciata, I've never got that far.

Now I've finished the book entirely, so it's time for a proper review.  Or as proper as I ever manage.

The blurb for The Long Shadow is rather misleading.  It talks about the reign of James II as though that forms the bulk of the book, when it's probably less than the final hundred pages.  Which in a way is nice, as life for all the Morlands and their connections is better under Charles II than under his brother's four-year reign.

I will say this book killed any liking I had left for Annunciata.  Yet again there are few really likeable characters in this series: Hugo got on my nerves, and even Elizabeth Hobart (poor dear) couldn't  grab me.  Annunciata is fascinating, and a wonderful character, but I don't like her, or have much sympathy for her,

I continue to find it fascinating that Harrod-Eagles take on history is so far from my own.  Or should that be her take on the contemporary view as events were unfolding?  Still, I've always felt quite sorry for both Mary and Anne, and H-E/her characters seem quite the opposite.

I've had The Chevalier from the library for a few days now, and have already started it.  Despite currently having a long list of books I'm halfway through, and the entire set of Susan Holloway Scott novels (beginning with Duchess, which is about Sarah Churchill) to read as well.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Reading Plaidy - "Epitaph for three women", pt 1

To set the scene: Epitaph is book 12 in the 14-book Plantagenet Saga.  I've read this saga in order: no dipping in and out, no random reading of certain titles because I'm more interested in them than in other titles.  The saga starts with Eleanor of Aquitane who marries Henry II of England, and follows all the way through to Richard III in The Sun in Splendour.

Epitaph is set in the reign of Henry VI, the baby King.  I'm not sure who I expected the "three women" of the title to be, but I was a little surprised that they were Katherine, the Dowager Queen of England; Joan of Arc; and Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester.  It actually makes sense that it's these three: all of them have roles in Shakespearean plays, making them better known that most women of the historical period.  And as I said, I don't know who I was expecting the three women to be, given that Margaret of Anjou clearly gets the whole next book in the series, Red Rose of Anjou, to herself.

The book is divided into three parts, one named for each of the women, however the story of each part is not limited to the namesake; I'm still in the first part, but Eleanor Cobham who will become Duchess of Gloucester, has already appeared (and become the mistress of the Duke of Gloucester).

I'm finding the romance of the Dowager Queen and Owen Tudor awkward to read.  There's a separate book in the Queen's of England series about Katherine of France: it will be interesting to see if that's a separate story or really just a re-working of what she'd (I think) already written in this.  (I'm too lazy to check the publication dates right now.)

So those are my early thoughts on Epitaph.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Reading the Morlands: "The Oak Apple" and "The Black Pearl"

Reading the Morlands: The Oak Apple and The Black Pearl
A couple weeks ago I posted my thoughts to date on book 4 of the series (The Oak Apple).  Then I went on a week's holiday, mostly without internet access or at lease without the time to write blog posts, during which I finished both The Oak Apple and book 5, The Black Pearl, bringing me solidly into the reign of Charles II and the time of Annunciata Morland, who as far as I can see is the main character of three(?) of the Chronicles (books 5, 6 and 7).  

The Oak Apple - At the conclusion of this book, I can safely say that Hamil remained a git of the first order until his end.  Not surprisingly for a book that covers what is apparently known as the "First" English Civil War, there is a fair bit of death contained in this book.  The Black Pearl then covers the Great Plague, resulting in even more of the family tree being obliterated.  

I'm starting to suspect that really likeable characters in this series are few and far between.  Mary Esther is one of those, however.  Ruth is admirable rather than likeable, but I really do like what Harrod-Eagles did with Annunciata's father.

Oddly enough one of the few likable characters is one of the historical characters, Prince Rupert.  I suppose it's not actually all that odd, but it feels odd to me.

On to The Black Pearl - which I read so quickly that I feel at a disadvantage now that I'm trying to post about it.  Also, because I'm currently reading "The Long Shadow", which is making me feel *less* inclined to like Annunciata (more on that in my first Long Shadow post) which is sad given that I think I still liked her during The Black Pearl.  She just feels a bit... remote, I guess.  I'm not sure if it's unfair that in my mind I'm connecting her to various Stephanie Laurens protagonists in my head - these aren't Regency Romances, after all - but somehow Laurens' characters live more to me than Annunciata is doing.

But this could all be my Long Shadow bias speaking.

In terms of history, reading this has certainly sparked off an interest in Civil War/Restoration history that I didn't have before.  I've read a little set in this era (only two of the relevant Plaidy's so far), although that does include most of Children of the New Forest, which I've never quite properly finished and which I really should give one more go...  ~wanders off to check shelves~ Got it!

And now we all know what my next read will be...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Welcome to "Reading Plaidy"

Somewhere - and yes, I'm trying to find it - there's an infographic or ten describing various types of reader.  As in, you read one book at a time, or several, or only a single genre, or everything etc.

As anyone who looks at my Currently Reading on Goodreads knows, I'm a "lots of books at a time" reader.

And because I've been enjoying the way I've been blogging about the Morland Chronicles, I thought I might start doing the same with the Jean Plaidy books I'm also working my way through.

As a result: welcome to "Reading Plaidy".

For the last few years I've been working my way through the Plantagenet Saga, but I have been known to skip around to other Sagas occasionally when I get bored or frustrated.  For example, I've read The Murder in the Tower, which is book 1 in the Stuart Saga.  I will get to the rest of the Stuart Saga soon - possibly sooner rather than later because of my current Morland (The Oak Apple) - but for now my main Plaidy is Epitaph for Three Women, in the Plantagenet Saga.

For the sake of record keeping, the books I've read so far:

Norman: Bastard King

Plantagenet: Plantagenet Prelude, Revolt of the Eaglets, Heart of a Lion, Prince of Darkness, Battle of the Queens, Queen from Provence, Hammer of the Scots, Follies of the King, Vow on the Heron, Passage to Pontefract, Star of Lancaster

Tudor: Mary, Queen of France;

Stuart: Murder in the Tower, Three Crowns

Victoria: Captive of Kensington Palace

I think that's all of them.  I've started a couple of the England's Queens, but I'm not listing them until I've finished them!

So - stay tuned for my first Reading Plaidy post: part one of Epitaph for Three Women.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Reading the Morlands: "The Oak Apple", pt 1

So, it's been a while!  Sorry about that. A couple of illnesses and then the chaos that is December has meant that as well as not blogging, I've not actually been reading. I think I finished one book in November, and none in December at all!

But now it's a new year, and a cleaning frenzy before having guests over New Year's revealed that the latest of my Morland reads, "The Oak Apple", had hidden itself beneath the sofa, so now I'm back to it!

Currently at p191

Before it slid beneath the sofa for six weeks, I'd read about the first 115 pages. On picking it up again I did find myself a little confused about what was going on, and I'm sure there are some elements I'm missing having not gone back to skim what I'd already read. I do appreciate the family tree in the front of the book, although I wish the print was larger!

Perhaps if I had gone back and skimmed I'd be more confident about just what the family's attitudes are in terms of religion: I know they were Very Catholic previously, but they seem to have moderated a little - for the sake of survival, perhaps? - and it's clear at this point that all but one part of the family will NOT be Puritans unless forced. 

Other thoughts: Edmund seems to be a slight improvement on recent Morland heirs - entirely undone by Richard, sadly. Hamil is a git of the first order, and Mary Esther is a delight. 

All in all, I'm glad to be back with the Morlands again after a lengthy break.