Fifteenth-century England was a time of tremendous change. As the Wars of the Roses raged on, a new middle class emerged, comprised mainly of merchants with enough money to help the nobles fund their ongoing war. Edward Morland, the coarse, pigheaded patriarch of the Morland family, was a member of this new middle class, and he understood that the key to his family’s rise was a good match for his only surviving son, Robert. The wife he chooses for Robert is Eleanor Courteney, an orphan with ties to the Plantagenets, and the marriage is bound to raise the Morland family’s status. Eleanor is unhappy, but as a woman of the era, she has no right to object, and is quickly moved to York, where she is expected to be a civilizing influence on the Morland men. Through her life she becomes much more than that, bearing a number of children to carry on the Morland family name and inspiring her husband to expand the family’s sheep-farming business.
Originally published in 1980, the first volume in Harrod-Eagles’s ambitious, multi-century Morland family saga returns to print in the U.S. with this new edition. Eleanor is an appealing heroine, with tremendous resolve and the desire to secure the future of her children and grandchildren in a changing world. Though some parts of the book toy with history a little too much, such as Eleanor’s relationship with/fixation on a prominent figure of the era, Harrod-Eagles stays true to the facts and social mores of the era, presenting a family—and a country—on the cusp of something new. This is a fine family saga that stands effectively on its own, but readers wishing to spend more time with the Morlands can indulge themselves in the thirty-one volumes that follow.