A sweeping family saga in the style of Penny Vincenzi or Sarah Harrison, this continues the tale of various families, titled and working class, in the early 1900s. Thankfully, there is a helpful and much-needed character list at the beginning to help the reader keep track, as there are quite a variety. It is the third in the series following on from the earlier novels, Netherwood and Ravenscliffe, and I very much wish I had read them in order. It doesn’t really work as a stand-alone, as I spent a lot of the book catching up with people and events from before; coming to the novel to revisit old characters would have given me a different perspective. Parts of the novel are set in Jamaica, where Silas Whittam, poor boy made good, is trying to run an English-style hotel. The change of scene and climate allows the story in develop in interesting ways and provides a good contrast to the politics back in England, where one of the main characters, Lady Henrietta, is imprisoned and force fed because of her protesting for rights for women. Certainly relationships and power struggles between men and women are a key theme of the novel. The use of the Yorkshire accent, of which ‘Ey? Don’t shoot t’ messenger’ is a typical example, is a little irritating, but I guess the intention is to indicate the ordinary and non-aristocratic background of certain characters.
Overall it is an entertaining read, which moves from family to family and place to place, keeping the reader’s interest, depicting the social history of the time with clarity and well-researched detail – but start with the first book.