Genre: Historical Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 2.5 stars Series: yes - second book
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for TIDELANDS*
Midsummer Eve 1670. Two unexpected visitors arrive at a shabby warehouse on the south side of the River Thames. The first is a wealthy man hoping to find the lover he deserted twenty-one years before. James Avery has everything to offer, including the favour of the newly restored King Charles II, and he believes that the warehouse’s poor owner Alinor has the one thing his money cannot buy—his son and heir.
The second visitor is a beautiful widow from Venice in deepest mourning. She claims Alinor as her mother-in-law and has come to tell Alinor that her son Rob has drowned in the dark tides of the Venice lagoon.
Alinor writes to her brother Ned, newly arrived in faraway New England and trying to make a life between the worlds of the English newcomers and the American Indians as they move toward inevitable war. Alinor tells him that she knows—without doubt—that her son is alive and the widow is an imposter.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
DARK TIDES is the second book set in the 1600s about more ordinary people than you typically see in historical fiction. It is so interesting to read about their lives, particularly as the warehouse is based in the part of London that’s mine – Bermondsey (North Southwark.) There’s such a rich history here, and to finally see it in mainstream fiction is such a delight.
Ned’s life in America was interesting – his common sense stance of trying to live in peace while tensions between the settlers and Native Tribes rise. An air of tragedy hangs over it, as you know that (though the book doesn’t show it) war is about to come, and it will be wholesale slaughter by the bigotted settlers. His story has no impact whatsoever on the main story about Livia being a scheming, horrible person, so could have been remove completely without any impact, but was interesting enough that I didn’t mind.
The tricky thing about reading this book was I could see just how much Livia was exploiting everyone, see how badly she was going to use them then leave them to ruin, and I didn’t understand why no one around her could. After all, the first book, TIDELANDS, was a series of mistakes that come back to burn the characters, and you really think they’d have learnt the lesson.
Alinor distrusted Livia, as did Sarah and Johnnie to a lesser degree, but Alys paid them attention, and James fell right into the trap too. From about page 200, I knew how the disaster that would make up the finale would go. All this made the book drag a fair bit (taking me three times longer to read than anything else of comparable length recently) as I just wanted to shake them all to open their eyes and have a bit of common sense.
To make it even more frustrating, when it all finally came out (and I felt a lot of “well, duh, she’s been exploiting you all”), Livia doesn’t even get her comeuppance. She gets most of what she wants and walks away. Maybe it’s more realistic, but it’s not satisfying. I’d spent almost 500 pages hating her and reading on only to see her own lies take her down, and that just doesn’t happen. Not even a hint that James is going to not give her what she wants, effectively stripping away everything she’s built. Yes, Sarah takes over the money-making scheme, but that’s about it.
Read my reviews of other books by Phillipa Greggory:
Fairmile (this series):
- TIDELANDS (#1)