The previous book in the series, The Oak Apple, covers the events leading up to the removal of Charles I from the throne and the establishment of the English Commonwealth as headed by Oliver Cromwell. This book mostly skips the Commonwealth years, although it does deal with the tail end of that era, but then picks up speed as Charles II is called back from exile and ascends to the throne!
When the book opens the main focus is on Ralph Morland. He is head of the family, but the influence that once would have accompanied that position has been somewhat diminished as a result of having supported the Royalist side during the Civil War. Like other Royalists the Morlands were forced to pay huge fines, and large sections of Morland land has had to be sold off to meet these costs.
Ralph is married to Mary, who is quite a devout Catholic, which was still very dangerous during the end days of the Commonwealth. He has also drawn the enmity of the local magistrate who would love to see nothing more than himself becoming the owner of Morland.
As it seems is normal, in a Morland novel, some characters are introduced and others are killed off, and as always there are cousins falling love all over the place which is hard for us to necessarily understand but was seemingly normal at the time.
One character who was in little danger of being killed off, in this book at least, is cousin Annunciata. She is the daughter of Ruth, a wealthy spinster, but no one except Ruth knows exactly who her father was and Ruth isn't telling! Annunciata is headstrong and beautiful and captures the hearts of all the men around her at Morland with the utmost of ease. When Charles II returns to the throne she makes her way to London to join the Court. Given Charles' notorious reputation when it comes to women, it was something of a relief to see that Harrod-Eagles didn't take the most obvious route and make Annunciata one of his mistresses. That doesn't mean to say that Annunciata doesn't manage to stay out of trouble completely!
I have posted before about how much I enjoy reading about the Restoration court of Charles II and this book was no exception. I was also glad to see more of Charles' cousin Prince Rupert of the Rhine, a man that I would be just as happy to find out more about! The other major historical event that occurs in the pages of this volume of the saga is the onset of the plague, but I am not telling exactly how the plague affects all of our characters!
I really enjoyed this instalment of the Morland story! On to The Long Shadow now.
The saga of the Morlands continues, with hope reborn as the monarchy is restored after Cromwell's Commonwealth. For Ralph Morland, the return of the King is a chance to rebuild the family estates and fortune, and for the beautiful and ambitious Annunciata, the Restoration brings a journey to London...