2021 Reviews · Beauty and Lace review · historical fiction · new release

Beauty & Lace Book Review: Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

Title: Dark Tides

Author: Philippa Gregory

Published: November 24th 2020

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia

Pages: 496

Genres:  Fiction, Historical

RRP: $32.99

Rating:  3 stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory’s new historical novel tracks the rise of the Tidelands family in London, Venice, and New England.

Midsummers Eve, 1670. A wealthy man waits outside a poor London warehouse to meet with Alinor, the woman he failed twenty-one years before. He has everything to offer, wealth, land, status, and he believes she has the only thing he cannot buy: his son and heir. The warehouse is failing, clinging on to poor business in Restoration London—a city gone mad for pleasure. But will Alinor and her family sell-out to Sir James? Meanwhile in New England, Alinor’s brother Ned, who rebelled against the Crown, cannot find justice in the New World, as the King’s revenge stretches across the Atlanic and turns the pioneers against each other and against the native Americans.

A beautiful widow, Livia, arrives from Venice, telling them Alinor’s son, Rob, has drowned and that she needs the family’s help with a profitable new trade. She will import beautiful statues of marble and bronze to fuel the classical craze among the wealthy landowners. She enchants the warehouse family with her son, their new heir; her sensual carefree warmth; and promises of wealth to come. She captures Sir James and spins them all into a mesh of deceit which only the brave little daughter of the warehouse can break. Sarah searches for the truth about Livia in Venice bringing home the stunning denouement to this, the second book in the Fairmile series.

Review:

‘He was not drowned in a stormy night in dark tides?’

Philippa Gregory makes a welcome return with the second historical novel in her Fairmile series, which follows previous issue Tidelands. A story of the ordinary and hardworking folk of 17th century England, Dark Tides follows the trials of Alinor and her extended clan, as they each navigate a hostile world. Dark Tides is another intriguing tale from the number one bestselling author.

Opening in the 1670s, Dark Tides introduces an immediate source of tension and speculation when two visitors arrive at a warehouse nestled on the River Thames. While one is searching for a lost love, the other is a dangerous beauty from Venice, bringing with her some devastating news. Running alongside these two intriguing threads are the experiences of Ned, a man who has recently settled in New England confronting issues of landownership and war. With concerns over the claims of the stunning widow stating her husband drowned in Venice, the search is on to uncover the truth. In this fatal game of deception, false truths, debt, prestige and conflict, across three different locations, Dark Tides is a story of overwhelming desire for the things that matter in life.

Dark Tides follows directly on from the tense ending of Tidelands, published in August 2019, but it jumps forward in time to over two decades later after the events that concluded the previous instalment of this series. I was keen to meet up with Alinor, the fabulous main character of Tidelands, but Dark Tides sees this enigmatic female lead take a backseat in favour of other characters, such as her daughter and brother. This was an interesting angle to take even though it wasn’t as favourable to me. Whilst I enjoyed the scenes with Alinor as a supporting protagonist, I don’t think this book quite matched its predecessor in terms of plot engagement.

In Dark Tides, Philippa Gregory transports her readership to seventeenth century England, around the famous River Thames and then onto the opulence of Venice. These were two contrasted locations, which allows Gregory to explore issues of wealth acquisition, poverty, class differences and labour expectations. All in all, it became clear that there were rich divisions in terms of societal classifications at this point in history and that day to day living was tough, you had to work hard to survive. Complications and high tension in Dark Tides comes in the form of a heartbreaking but possibly false claim, which must be investigated. As the narrative begins to unfold, it becomes quite clear what the outcome will be. Underlining the London and Venice sequences are some scenes that immerse the reader in New England, as Alinor’s brother Ned battles issues of land rights and war. Whilst this section of Dark Tides was historically well presented, I did find this area of the novel didn’t really spark my interest, I would have liked to have remained with Alinor for the duration. Despite some misgivings with this one, my loyalty to the writing of Philippa Gregory urged me to continue reading Dark Tides. The end did come to a dark and alarming close. I am still very interested to see how Gregory progresses the Fairmile series further. 

Dark Tides is a story of change and progression under a veil of class distinction and unfair wealth distribution. A reminder of how the everyday citizens of Britain, Europe and New England worked to simply survive, or achieve small triumphs is an important direction in Dark Tides. Philippa Gregory’s second volume in the Fairmile series was a fair read, but it certainly was not up there with the highly atmospheric and gripping first issue, Tidelands.

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory was published on 24th November 2020 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Dark Tides, Philippa Gregory, visit here.


*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty & Lace and Simon & Schuster Australia. To read the original review on the Beauty & Lace website please visit here.

2 thoughts on “Beauty & Lace Book Review: Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

  1. Oh, I’ve been awaiting this one, given how much I enjoyed TIDELANDS and its very open-ended closing scene! It sounds, however, like it doesn’t quite match up. As you say though, Gregory is a master so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it!

    Liked by 2 people

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