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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Dark Rose: Book Two of the Morland Dynasty Series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical (16th Century England)
Length: Full Length (571 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

It is 1501, and Paul, great-grandson of Eleanor Morland, has inherited the estate and has a son to follow him. But he fathers an illegitimate boy by his beloved mistress, and bitter jealously between the half-brothers causes a destructive rift that threatens to destroy them all.

Paul’s niece Nanette has her own passions, and becomes maid-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. At the court of Henry VIII, she witnesses firsthand the events leading up to the rift with Rome, her mistress’s execution, and the further efforts of the sad, ailing king to secure the male succession. And through all the turmoil of Henry VIII’s reign—from drought to floods, from religious reform to court intrigue—the Morlands find new ways to come together while the world seems intent on tearing them apart.

The need to love and be loved is an abiding theme that pulsates like the very heartbeat of The Dark Rose. On the continuum from the powerful king to the defenseless child born of rape, these needs influence lives, politics, and even religion.

Members of the Morland family take the reader on a journey through a time in 16th century England when change rumbled and threatened like a live volcano erupting, and then subsiding only to flare up again bringing heartbreak, pain, and death. These changes often placed duty over love, making the lives of many miserable. Yet, love survived and life continued.

Nanette Morland feels the brunt of all these happenings, whether at her beloved Morland Place in the North of England or in King Henry’s court. Her life, so intricately entwined with the powerful and the weak, gives her love for a short time, but duty, hurt, and humiliation demand a strength from her that sometimes saps her vitality. Yet, she never retreats from life and her search for purpose and happiness.

The Dark Rose teems with characters that pull the reader into their lives, their emotions, their beliefs, and their struggles for a better life.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles gives the reader a vicarious experience that encompasses war, drought, killing winter cold, religious persecution, and power struggles (in families and in the realm). The reader is also privy to the trials and tribulations of a multitude of characters from the king to the commoners — some evoke sympathy while others stir hostile feelings, even hate.

The excellent research makes the reader forget that The Dark Rose is fiction. The historical facts around which the story is twined makes it seem so real. This second book of the Morland dynasty series is a compelling, emotion-stirring tale that lingers in the mind long after the last page is read. It is a KEEPER!