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Review: The Dark Rose, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Morland family has survived the Wars of the Roses to see the Tudors take the throne of England.  French Paul, the great grandson of the founders of the dynasty, now runs the Morland properties, but struggles with jealousy of his half-siblings and dislike of his wife.  Only his mistress in the city of York brings him happiness, but she also brings strife within his family.  Meanwhile, Paul’s niece Nanette becomes a beloved maid to Anne Boleyn, witnessing first hand the conflict and drama inherent in the Tudor court.

This second volume in the Morland dynasty may mark my abrupt end of reading the series.  This is just far too romanticized a version of history for me.   Most historical fiction does it to some extent, but this goes a little too far.  It’s like a story you would tell a small child, rather than an attempt to actually imagine history as it might have been, at least as far as I’m concerned.  When Nanette has witnessed the many murders of Henry VIII, including that of her friend Anne Boleyn, and still manages to see these murders as something that just had to happen and doesn’t fault him at all for it, I just have to take exception to that.  Yet the characters that don’t appear are purely villainized, like Henry’s next wife Jane Seymour, who is called something like the honey scorpion.

The author clearly attempts to have characters with multiple sides to them.  Paul’s bastard son is one such, as the author makes him a love-starved boy that finally seeks vengeance on the father who never gave him what he needed.  Despite that, everything just feels painted with a rosy brush.  Of course Adrian would have been a good man if he’d been given love.  Of course the council would never do anything evil, even though clearly the king would never do anything evil either.  There is incest in here that made me distinctly uncomfortable, but no one seems to mind when an uncle marries his niece, even though the characters mention the difficulty they might have with it.

The entire series has a nice dynastic feel that I like, but overall I feel like I’m reading a fairy tale that has little to do with actual history.  For that reason, I’m unsure if I’ll continue.  The Dark Rose was entertaining, but I think I’d rather spend my time reading something with a historical feel instead of a rosy “oh-wasn’t-the-past-great” one.

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.

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