Monday, May 10, 2010
The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
The year is 1434 and Robert Morland's father, Edward tells his son to pack for a trip. When he asked where they are going his father said that it was time for him to be married and that the arrangements have been made. Robert figures that he should give his bride a present so runs to the barn and takes the best puppy in the litter for her.
A couple days later they arrive at the fine house of the Beaufort family and he is married to Eleanor Courtney, the ward of Lord Edmund Beaufort. It is a business match to benefit both families. Edward Morland is a very wealth sheep farmer and Lord Edmund has power and prestige. However, Eleanor is hurt and disappointed, she is secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York and thought it beneath her to have to marry a mere sheep farmer.
The minute Robert set eyes on Eleanor he was in love but it took many years for Eleanor to feel the same about him.
Once they arrive back at Morland Place, Eleanor is appalled at what she sees. For a wealth family, they live more like live stock than people. The next morning, with the help of her maids, Eleanor starts to make the place more liveable. She also makes the servants more presentable and not stinking by forcing every one of them to take a bath.
Robert and Eleanor have 10 children and all the while Eleanor schemes to grow the sheep farming business into something more. She talks Robert into using her ideas one by one and they build a business empire together.
Set against the backdrop of the War of the Roses, the story starts out with King Henry VI still in power. it continues through King Edward's rein and through Richard III's short rein and ends shortly after King Henry the VII comes into power. The Morlands' see some of their male children off to war and live through some of their deaths. Robert dies at a well before Eleanor and she lives to see some of her male grandchildren and great-grandchildren go to war and die.
I first heard about the Morland series soon after I started my book blog, from other historical fiction fans. It has been on my list of books to try since then, so when I was offered an advance readers copy I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed.
Though some would consider this book to be a doorstop at over 530 pages, it reads very fast. Sure there are a couple places where it drags slightly but not many. Cynthia Harrod Eagles weaves a story about a believable family and sees them through 3 generations and the War of the Roses. With the deft stroke of her pen (or computer) she captures the beauty and ugliness of the period.
I was offered a review copy of the second book in the series, The Dark Rose but turned it down due to other commitments. Boy do I regret that! I hope to continue the series one day soon. I highly recommend this book.