Audiobook: Dark Tides

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: 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.

Set in the poverty and glamour of Restoration London, in the golden streets of Venice, and on the tensely contested frontier of early America, this is a novel of greed and desire: for love, for wealth, for a child, and for home.

My review: Dark Tides is book 2 in The Fairmile series. It commences 21 years after Tidelands finishes.

As a Philippa Gregory fan, I’m conflicted writing this review. I loved and enjoyed the book, but feel disappointed by it too. Is that even possible? I’ve given four stars because I feel the book could have been better.

Two decades after fleeing their home in Tidelands, Alinor and Alys are doing reasonably well living beside the Thames River in a London that is recovering from the dark days before the execution of King Charles I. Now ruled by King Charles II, the city is being restored and politics is less noticeable in this second book.

The first disappointment was that Ned, Alinor’s brother, had left England to make a new life for himself in frontier America; beside a river, operating the ferry. He is still a ferryman. But that part isn’t the disappointment. This second thread in the book felt displaced. It could have been totally discarded and would not have made a bit of difference to the storyline of Dark Tides. I find myself wondering if this thread is in preparation for a third book?

Back in London, we have a new character enter the story–Livia, Rob’s widow. I was horrified to learn that Rob would not be in the book. And although the author wrote Livia’s part extremely well, I didn’t like her from the start. And that statement is amusing because it was obvious from the start that Livia could not be trusted.

Life was no longer dark and depressing for Alinor and Alyse, but they still lived a hard, but respectable life. They made ends meet. They were as comfortable as they could be given the circumstances, i.e. women with no husbands. And by inviting Livia into their home, they brought lies, deceit, suspicion and heartache into their lives again.

Thing is, and here’s another disappointment, Alinor played a minor part in this book. Alyse had a larger part, but not large enough. The main character in this book, in my opinion, was Livia. The same story could have been written using Alinor and Alyse as the main characters. Yes, it would have been from a different point of view, but that would have been acceptable and preferable, I believe.

As I said, I enjoyed the book, but would have enjoyed it immensely if the main character position remained with Alinor. I hope there is a third book planned, and I hope we return to Alinor’s viewpoint to round off her life and that of her family.

Still highly recommended.

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