In order to keep the momentum going, if I write about Cynthia Harrod-Eagles's The Chevalier, surely I will finish it soon. That's what I am hoping anyway. I've been mired in Restoration era England for several years now and have to pull myself out. It's all Annunciata Morland's fault. Normally I like and admire strong female characters, especially those who show lots of moxie. Annunciata is most definitely an independent woman for the period, but she can also be cruel and completely self-absorbed and for at least two books now (she is apparently an enduring character) she has rubbed me the wrong way. This poor book has been plagued by mis-starts and periods of being set aside--so much so that this last time I picked the book up I had to go back to the beginning and start again.
I've not spent time with the Morland family for three long years now and at the rate I am reading I might have to take these books with me to the retirement home someday. But Annunciata has gone into exile with King James II and is far away in France with two of her sons. She's no longer center stage. The Morland heir, James Matthias--Matt, is just now sixteen. It's 1700 (a new century and many changes coming) and he is getting married.
India Neville. I'm undecided. If Annunciata was a challenging character to warm up to, I think India Neville hasn't a hope of being one of my favorites. Nasty characters, though, often have a way of making for interesting reading. And it's early days yet. Maybe she has hidden potential I am as yet unaware of. My first impression is that she is cold and scheming and is going to milk the Morland family for all its worth. She is an heiress but her money has been in trust after the death of her father some six or seven years previously. Upon her marriage she will come into her inheritance (she and her mama, that is). The Morlands have wealth and power and Matt is a softy and will bend under India's will every time. I can sense it already and the wedding is just taking place. The bulk of the book is going to be her plotting and manipulations. If Annunciata returns to Yorkshire it will be most interesting to see how the two women get on. If they get on or if they clash spectacularly.
So, yes, things are getting interesting and I am now hooked to keep going. So, a few teasers about India since she is the character who is going to be creating a little drama. (Perhaps a character you love to hate?). My first impressions . . . based on a few descriptions:
"India Neville was fifteen, but looked older than Matt, a fine, big, well-grown girl, only too evidently physically mature. She was handsome, straight-backed and free-moving, with high color in her cheeks and glossy black hair. On first seeing her, Matt thought she looked like a well-fed, well-groomed black filly led out for the race."
* * *
"India had been taught to walk and dance gracefully by an exiled Huguenot who gave lessons in a room in Tanner Row; Mrs. Neville had taught her to sew, to speak a few words of French (which she practiced on the dancing master, to his distress, for her accent was impeccably Whitehall) and to play the virginals. Otherwise, India's mind had all the unblemished bloom of ignorance of a butterfly wing."
* * *
"India smirked at her reflection in the mirror - a circle of polished silver, not a proper glass mirror as she would have expected. She'd order plenty of those once she was mistress of this dusty old tomb of a house."
* * *
"No, there would be no excitement there. She would do what she had to, and otherwise please herself. He would give her no trouble. He would be easier to handle even than dusty old Fragarde."
See what I mean?
There are now 35 books in the series, with the last one beginning in 1935. I am not sure if there will be anymore books or how far into the 20th century Cynthia Harrod-Eagles will take the Morlands. I have the whole run of books so there is nothing to slow me down (other than other books, of course). I have optimistically pulled book 8, The Maiden, from my "Morland bin of books". Every time I pick one of the books up it is with the intention of reading the next one as soon as I finish whatever is in hand at the moment. But best laid plans and all that. The impetus this time around is a new series by the author which I have just discovered has been released (I was expecting the book until September!) called Goodbye, Piccadilly: War at Home, 1914. I am not sure how many books are planned, but I have my copy on order and maybe I can actually keep up with the books and read each before the next one is published.
As for the Morlands? I'll just keep at my stately progress. I know there will come a time when I want to gulp the books down. Anyway, the Restoration is nearly at an end.