While reading this second book in the Morland Dynasty saga, I remembered why I got hooked on the series the first time I read it almost thirty years ago - the characters. The Dark Rose carries on the story of Robert and Eleanor's brood, focussing on their great-grandson Paul and great-great grand-daughter, Anne, know as Nanette. Paul is married to a woman he does not love and finds happiness in the arms of another, who gives him a son out of wedlock with whom he has a trouble relationship while Nanette goes to Court and serves both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr, sharing in their tragic lives. The lives of the other members of the family are interwoven into the story.
As with The Founding, there is lots of historical detail and the characters observe and particpate in some of the major events of the Tudor period, including Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the resulting Pilgrimage of Grace. Once again, Ms. Harrod-Eagles captures the period atmosphere, especially the social and political tensions, yet her story does not come across as a history lesson. Instead it unfolds at a absorbing pace that keeps the reader turning the pages, eager to know what happens next.
Paul himself is not the most endearing of characters, yet this is another of the author's strengths - making us care about people who have characters flaws. His son Adrian is even more difficult, yet again, the reader has some sympathy for him, despite his less than stellar nature. Nanette's story is one that many women from the higher classes during that period experienced seeing the Tudor court from the female point of view is always interesting and she is very engaging and believable. Even Henry VIII is portrayed as a real flesh and blood person and not as the caricature he has become for so many who think of him only as a fat old man who cut off the heads of his wives.
I read this book in less than a week, and loved being swept away by the Morland family and their story and when I closed it, I was eager to start the next one in the series. So why not pick up up The Dark Rose this month from Sourcebooks Landmark and, like me, lose yourself in this wonderful work of historical fiction.