Dark Tides (The Fairmile Series 2)

Written by Philippa Gregory
Review by Sarah Hendess

On Midsummer Eve, 1670, a beautiful young woman from Venice arrives at a ramshackle warehouse in London. Livia di Ricci clutches her infant son and declares herself the widow of the son of warehouse’s owner, Alinor Reekie. Alinor, however, doesn’t believe Livia for a second, but her adult daughter, Alys, embraces Livia as a sister. Alys nearly bankrupts the Reekies bankrolling the shipment of Livia’s “antiquities” from Venice to London, but Livia assures them that selling them will make them all rich. Still suspicious, Alinor sends her granddaughter, Sarah, to Venice to investigate Livia’s claims and search for Alinor’s son, Rob, whom she is certain is still alive.

Meanwhile, in New England, Alinor’s brother, Ned, is content with his life as a river ferryman several miles outside of town. Having come to America after the Restoration, he befriends the local Native Americans. But as the townspeople gear up for war against them, Ned must decide where his loyalties lie.

Dark Tides features strong female characters without being anachronistic. While the Reekie women’s options in Restoration London are limited, their intelligence, courage, and cunning are not. And once again, Gregory has shown her keen ability to immerse readers in the time and places of the story, particularly in her chilling descriptions of life in mid-17th-century Venice. The only weak point lies in Livia’s tricking a local aristocrat, James Avery, into marrying her. In the first chapter, Gregory establishes that Avery has pined for Alinor for two decades, so his falling for Livia, practically at first sight, stretches credulity.

Though this is the second book in the Fairmile series, familiarity with the first book is unnecessary. Readers may be frustrated that the European and North American storylines never directly connect, but as this is only book two of a planned trilogy, Gregory will likely reconcile these stories in the final novel.