More Napoleonic Era! I thought of grouping at least four of these together, but it simply covers too much personal history in the lives of the Morland family characters. This book really piggybacks onto the one before it, ‘The Emperor’ and much is the same.
Unfortunately for Lucy’s marriage to Chetwyn, she is simply incapable and unwilling to end her affair with Captain Weston, she didn’t bother to hide the fact from her husband that her firstborn son, the heir to the title of Aylesbury is in fact a child of the affair. That does not bode well. Lucy will never give up anything she feels strongly about and soon she informs him that she is pregnant again by Weston. This child Chetwyn feels is beyond his power to recognize and claim as his own, and the boy Thomas is sent to Heloise to be raised.
Rebuffed at every turn Chetwyn sinks further and further into unhappiness until tragedy finally overtakes him.
Heloise lives in the country not far from Morland Place which is a terrible idea because it keeps James’ mind on her constantly, and the man is entirely useless. Not only is he incapable of showing his wife Mary Ann the love she desperately needs but hides behind her cold exterior; but he doesn’t love his son by her at all, instead becoming unnaturally devoted to their first child, a daughter called Fanny, to the degree that the kid is an incredible brat. That happens when a child sees how to manipulate before it can even talk.
This drives Mary Ann more and more to take her son and spend time in Manchester, a filthy depressing place of mills machinery and desperate poverty and misery. To her surprise, Mary Ann finds herself drawn to help the very sick and weak, and futilely tries to convince her powerful father that the revolting condition the humans are living in are a threat to all, even as cholera rages unchecked through the city.
This chain of events leads to a culmination of tragedy, with a bit of a bright spot at the end that as a reader you aren’t entirely sure the characters involved very well deserve.
The book is simply chock-full of naval matters, far worse than the one before it, and I had quite a time forcing myself to not skim it. The famous battle of Trafalgar is included in great detail, but Lucy back at home eating up all the news and talking like she knows as much as an Admiral is really off-putting. I really hope this book is a dark before the dawn type of story, but something tells me things can still get worse.