Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Product ISBN: 9781402238154 Sourcebooks
Publication Date: April 2010
Originally published by Sphere 1980

From the publisher:

The first book in the epic bestselling Morland Dynasty series which spans from the Wars of the Roses to Queen Victoria's long reign, where war and famine, peace and plenty, love and loyalty, greed and envy spread the lines of the family throughout the country—into the courts of kings and the salons of the Regency, onto the battlefields of Culloden and the Crimea and beyond.

In The Founding, seeking power and prestige, grim, ambitious Yorkshireman Edward Morland arranges a marriage between his meek son Robert and spirited Eleanor, young ward of the influential Beaufort family. Eleanor is not only appalled at being forced to marry a mere "sheep farmer," but is secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York. Yet, in time, this apparently ill-matched union becomes both passionate and tender, the foundation of the Morland Dynasty, and sustains them through bloody civil war which so often divides families, sets neighbor against neighbor, and brings tragedy close to home.

My thoughts :

Despite being well connected and brought up as a gentlewoman, the orphaned 18 year old Eleanor Courtney had no dowry or expectations. When her guardian, Lord Edmund Beaufort, arranged a marriage for her, Eleanor was not too pleased especially since she harbored a secret passion for Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York. Beaufort arranged a marriage with Robert Morland, meek and mild son of a sheep farmer. Other than the fact that Robert had been brought up as a gentleman, his father was a stubborn and coarse man. Morland had plenty of money but what he lacked was connection to class. The titled Beaufort had plenty of connections but he needed cash to carry on in the War of the Roses. Ah, a match made in heaven!

I was sucked in immediately to see how the two conflicting personalities of Eleanor and Robert would mesh. When the two were wed and began their life together, tensions ran high as Eleanor was not afraid to defy her father-in-law and make demands; something her husband Robert would never dare to do himself but he admired Eleanor for having the backbone to do so. Robert was very much in love with Eleanor right from the start but it took many years and the birth of many children before Eleanor began to feel any real love for Robert. Business wise, the two were well matched; in other words, Eleanor came up with wise and profitable business decisions and convinced Robert to go along with them. If it weren't for Eleanor, Robert would have been stuck in neutral as far as the sheepfarming business went.

Along with running a successful farm and building a large family dynasty to carry on, the Morlands were always very involved in political goings-on. They were staunch Yorkists and contributed to the cause with both money and men, sometimes to their detriment. I'm not that well up on British history but I liked the way this plot thread was woven into the story. It wasn't just a boring recitation of facts. I thought the characters really came to life although a few battle scenes were enough for me. I was more interested in the family saga side of the book.

Over the course of the book's 52 year time span, Eleanor lived to see the death of many loved ones, wars, prosperity, peace, unrest and backstabbing change in rulers on the throne. Through it all, she was always in charge and presented a stalwart, hard-working front and sometimes with a most dictatorial and stubborn nature. There were times I cheered Eleanor on and at times I was very disappointed in her "my word is law, live with it" decisions; particularly in the case of her daughter Isabelle.

Even though there were many characters, Harrod-Eagles gave them varied personalities that worked well throughout the story. I just wish there weren't so many characters with the same names. Sometimes it was hard to keep them all straight. The majority of them were well fleshed out and I was invested in the book enough to want to see what happened to them all. It was interesting to see through descriptions that took me back centuries to the mid 1400's and gave me a birds eye view of how people lived, worked and thought back then - makes me glad I didn't. Overall, I did enjoy this beautifully written fictionalized account of the Morland family. Would I read the other 33 books in the series? Probably not but I certainly would be inclined to read the next one. 4****

About the author: (from the back cover) Cynthia Harrod-Eagles was born in Shepherd's Bush in London. The birth of the Morland Dynasty series enabled her to become a full-time writer in 1979. The series was originally intended to comprise twelve volumes, but it has proved so popular that it has now been extended to thirty-four. Harrod-Eagles still lives in London and has a husband and three children, and apart from writing her passions are music, horses, wine, architecture, and the English countryside.

Note: Harrod-Eagles is also the author of the Bill Slider police proceduals, a contemporary series I have greatly enjoyed.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Sourcebooks, Inc. Thank you so much Danielle. The Sourcebooks link will take you to their page on The Founding where you can read an excerpt of the book.


  1. Wow, 34 books in the series! If they're all as good as this one sounds, they might be worth pursuing.

  2. Great review!

    I'm stuck on the length of the series as well. That's awesome!

  3. Wow - now that's a long freaking series! This is the 2nd positive review I've read of this book, so we all know what that means, it's going on my wish list. lol

  4. 33 previous books in the series. WHAT? Glad you liked it. I love historical fiction.

  5. My god, surely there aren't any book series that long? I am amazed that there are that many books and that I have never heard of them.!

  6. The book sounds really interesting. 34 books in the series is slightly too much though! I often enjoy reading historical novels. Thanks for the review!

  7. Awwe man, come on. Now I'm interested in this book but if I start one I am going to want to finish the series, but 34 book!!!! That is a bit much. Oh well I'm adding it to my list.

    I just finished The Stolen Crown (I'm actually giving away a signed copy) so I am totally in the mood to read more about that time period. I guess with 34 books to read I better start soon. Thanks for the review.

  8. After seeing this book around so much lately I'd really like to read it. 34 books is a lot though. lol. Still it sounds really interesting and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  9. You've totally made me want to read this one, but I don't want to read 33 others!! LOL!!! Excellent review and like you, I'm more intrigued by the family saga than the war scenes!!

  10. Ha! 34 books sounds daunting, but I've been wanting to try the first one at least. :) Great review!

  11. I have had a copy of this for years and years (it's not as pretty as the Sourcebooks reissue) and I always mean to read it. Now seeing all the good reviews all over, I am reminded again to pull it off the shelf and sink into it. Nothing beats a good family saga.


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