The year is 1705 and Napoleon is in full force, charging here and there across Europe with that monstrous combination of arrogance and skill that the man displayed. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, both England and France are in upheaval as one might well imagine, and the Morland family experiences reflect that same spirit.
Jemima’s son James is the master of Morland Place, his sister Lucy now in her late teens and obliged to give up her life as a surgeon’s assistant at sea to marry and settle down. That is not in the cards of Lucy’s personality though, she is one of those people who can only be exactly who they are, and have no subtlety or tact, not out of cruelty but can hurt others despite. I found Lucy’s story fun in the last book, emotionally damaging in this one. Despite her unchangeable nature, men are drawn to her, even her husband who married her in view of her being like a little sister and his unswerving brotherly love of her eldest brother Edward, but is eventually hurt to an extreme degree when Lucy does find love in a sea captain, and chases that experience as openly as a dog would chase a ball.
James fell deeply in love with Heloise the second he laid eyes on her in the last book, with his checkered past and impossible love of a married woman he simply continues the trend. Unhappily Heloise was still married to her cruel husband who limped across the Channel and found her; and James married out of depression and anger elsewhere, only to have Heloise’s husband die, and Heloise became pregnant with James’ child. Meanwhile James broods deeply and his relationship with his wife Mary Ann never gets off the ground, leading to a sad distance between the two, and for the reader a sense of frustration when we are shown that Mary Ann is a kind person at heart; and here are two people who simply do not understand one another. James at least has still not matured, letting his rich feelings guide his actions instead of his brains.
This book deeply explores the unhappiness of arranged marriages in those times, and the pure folly and fallout of adultery, even if it was ‘expected’ and common in that era. Much of the conversation is taken up by naval matters, and Lucy’s obsession with everything related to that, she is quite annoying.
There are as always, sub-plot stories which are varying in interest and happiness to accompany these main characters but I give it a lower rating because of the unending ship-talk and the depressing subject matter. On to the next one!