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The Hidden Shore by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
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#19: Covers 1843-1848; early Victorian period

Finally, with Nicholas Morland’s death in The Abyss, the series shifts focus from the Morland brothers to other members of the family; in this case, specifically, Charlotte, daughter of Rosalind and Marcus. She has spent the first 21 years of her life living on relative poverty; but at her father’s death discovers that she’s a wealthy heiress. She is vaulted into high society London, in the company of her cousin Fanny, who is already out but not married. Charlotte forms an attachment to Oliver Fleetwood (who has a “reputation”), but disappointment leads her to become involved in philanthropy and medicine.

It’s a relief for the series to move away from the Morland brothers. In some of the previous books, there was a lot of tension and build-up, so it’s good to see some of that released with this installment in the series. Charlotte is a delightful character, quiet but strong-willed and independent. Fanny, the flirt, is the first of the two girls to fall in love; and although circumstances contrive to keep Charlotte and Oliver apart, you hope (and maybe even know?) that a happy ending is in store for them. I loved watching Charlotte’s evolution as a character. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles could have made Charlotte be gauche and naive; but she’s one of those characters who can easily stand back from her surroundings and just observe. She doesn’t allow herself to get caught up in the trappings of her life, even though many young women in her position would be. In this way, get to see the Morlands from the outside looking in, which was a fun treat, since they’re such an eccentric, eclectic bunch.

The Hidden Shore is kind of an in-between book; there are no major historical events going on, although the Crimean War is just on the horizon (it’s funny that Cavendish, whose health his parents worry about wants to go into the cavalry, and everyone keeps saying that no fighting will ever take place that he’ll have to participate in). ( )
  Kasthu | Dec 21, 2010 |
Set in the 1840s, The Hidden Shore steps outside Morland Place to look at the lives of the Manchester and London branches of the family. The main heroine of this book, Charlotte, has been estranged from her extended family for most of her life. She hasn’t been raised to think about come-out parties and finding a mate worthy of her status. In fact, she doesn’t know what her status is and has never given any thought to finding a husband. But as the heir of her father’s hidden fortune and title, she finds that she must take her place in society and learn the rules as she goes.

Charlotte’s reactions to her new social circle give freshness to the oft-repeated Morland storyline of finding a suitable spouse. But even though Charlotte’s thoughts and actions added some interesting complications, the romantic storylines generally did tend toward the predictable, perhaps more so than in previous books. Plus, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the romances when the history was so much more interesting.

The historical background of this book is Victorian London, and there’s a lot of attention paid to the plight of the urban poor. This has been a running thread in the books that have dealt with the family’s mills in Manchester, but this book takes the characters deeper into more devastating poverty. I’ve read a lot of fiction set in the Victorian era, but I’ve rarely read such detailed descriptions of urban squalor in Victorian London. I think Harrod-Eagles’s focus on wealthy characters works to her advantage here. We see the awful conditions through their eyes, instead of through the eyes of people who have come to see such conditions as normal.

So overall, this was not as strong as the books immediately before it, but it was still quite good. I really like Charlotte as a character, but I worry that she is too idealized. I’m curious to see how she develops over the next few books.

See my complete review at Shelf Love. ( )
1 vote teresakayep | May 25, 2010 |
Reminded me of a Jane Austen book- the missing heiress returns! A welcome light relief after the more gothic episodes of late. ( )
  birdsam0307 | Oct 12, 2008 |
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April, 1843

The garden of Heath Cottage was small and dull, but t the bottom only a low bank and a hedge separated it from the marsh.
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Book description
When Charlotte Meldon's father dies, she believes herself to be destitute and quite alone in the world. But a lawyer's letter summons her to London, to learn that she is part of the great Morland clan, a countess in her own right, and possessed of a vast fortune.
After her lonely upbringing Charlotte is overjoyed to have a family, especially the mother whom she had always believed dead. But she is not left to enjoy them in peace; she must be launched into Society, and secure a suitably glamorous marriage. London is thrilled by her romantic story, and Charlotte's natural reserve is tried by the staring and whispering. But with her vivacious cousin Fanny by her side to encourage her, she finally succumbs to the magic.
Marriages suitable and unsuitable preoccupy the Morlands. Charlotte catches the eye of the most eligible man in London: handsome, elusive Oliver Fleetwood, the future Duke of South port. Benedict's union with Rosalind is further threatened when old ghosts return to haunt them both.  Tom Weston, the eternal bachelor, finds love in the most unexpected place; and Fanny seeks it in the wrong place.
But when Charlotte's first season ends in disillusion, she rebels against a life of idle amusement, and determines to use her great wealth to help the poor. Her unconventional next steps arouse much disapproval; but with courage, and the support of those dearest to her, she embarks on a new life, a voyage towards the shore as yet hidden from her, and a destination unguessed at...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0751519340, Paperback)

In the Morland Dynasty series, the majestic sweep of English history is richly and movingly portrayed through the fictional lives of the Morland family. It is 1843, and after Charlotte’s father dies, she believes herself to be destitute. But a lawyer’s letter reveals she is not only a part of the Morland family, but wealthy and a countess in her own right. She is expected to make a great marriage, and with her vivacious cousin Fanny at her side she is launched into her first season. It is Fanny, the hardened flirt, who loses her heart first, while Charlotte catches the eye of Oliver Fleetwood, the most eligible man in London. But the season ends in disillusion, and Charlotte turns away from the life of idle amusement in search of something more substantial, though it involves flouting convention.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:04 -0400)

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When Charlotte's father dies, she receives an unexpected letter and learns she is part of the great Morland family, and heir to a vast fortune. Entry into Society and a glamorous marriage seem the next steps, but her unconventional upbringing makes Charlotte rebel against this idle existence.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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