misfitandmom (misfitandmom) wrote,

Plantagenets in the 19C?

If you're scratching your head then you haven't heard of the three novels Susan Howatch wrote with characters whose lives parallel those of that fascinating family. Each book is separate and can be read independently, although I will list them in "chronological order".

Penmarric begins as Mark Castallack and his mother Maud, cheated out of their inheritance by a scheming relative, wage a years long court battle to regain possession of the lands of Penmar and the great house that sits upon it, Penmarric. After twelve years and almost losing hope, fate takes a turn as the wastrel son of the current owner dies and a very young Mark is named heir to all of it. Mark marries Janna, who is ten years older, and has a bit of a surprise in store for him from a past relationship - but then Mark has one or two surprises for Janna as well. Building their family dynasty as the new owners of Penmarric, Janna and Mark slowly drift apart until an accidental meeting forever changes their lives, although a new one also begins as a result of that violent night.

If you like those big fat family sagas set in the past with feuding back-biting siblings I'd definitely give this one a whirl - although this one has quite a twist that you don't normally see in a book - the Castallack family and their story parallels that of Henry II, Eleanor, Richard I (the Lionheart) and the always delightfully evil King John. Ultimately, that is half the fun of this book for those reasonably familiar with Henry and his devil's brood - can you pick out which of Mark's sons are young Hal, Geoffrey, Richard and John? Henry's fate after the ultimate betrayal by his sons? Spot Rosamund Clifford, the illegitimate sons Geoffrey and William Longspee? And best of all is how the author resolves the mystery that still haunts us to this day - the ultimate fate of young Arthur, John's rival claimant to the throne of England. 

Next up is Cashelmara, se in Ireland in the latter part of the 19C.Howatch recounts three generations of the wealthy English de Salis family in six separate "books", each of those being in the first person POV of different characters.  Edward de Salis visits his distant cousins the Marriotts in New York and brings a much younger Marguerite home as his bride. When Edward's eldest son Patrick inherits the de Salis lands and fortune, he marries Marguerite's niece Sarah and upon their return from New York they live in London until their lavish lifestyle and Patrick's gambling brings it to a screeching halt. Forced to economize, Sarah and Patrick start life fresh at Cashelmara but Edward comes under the influence of childhood friend Derry Stranahan. Derry's unnatural hold over Patrick continues to grow and leads to clashes in his marriage and with his Irish tenants until Derry's fate is sealed during an Irish riot. Eventually Sarah finds her hopes to repair the marriage and run a profitable estate are hindered once again by Patrick's too close relationship with another man - Hugh McGowan. Sarah soon finds herself an unwilling member of a triangle that for the sake of her children she endures until......sound familiar? Recognize an Edward or two?

And last but not least and the one I haven't had a chance to read yet is Wheel of Fortune. I believe it is set in Wales and starts in the late 19C and carries into the 1970's and the Plantagenets in this story are Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV and V. I understand she uses her multiple point of view (don't worry, it really works trust me) and one of those is from her John of Gaunt and I'm guessing there's a Katherine in the book to go along with it. I've been waiting forever for the library's one and only hardback (hate reading 1,000 page mass market paperbacks), but I'll get to it one of these days.



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