Review: Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

Title: Dark Tides {Fairmile #2}

Author: Philippa Gregory

Published: 24th November 2020, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy Simon & Schuster


My Thoughts:

Dark Tides is the second book in Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction series, The Fairmile, and begins twenty one years after Tidelands ends.

Alinor Reekie and her daughter, Alys, have long left Sealsea Island behind and now reside on the banks of the Thames River, operating a small warehouse that services unlading ships. Alinor, who has has never regained full health after the near drowning she endured, supplements the family’s income with herbal preparations, while Alys’s children, twins Johnnie and Sarah, contribute what they can from their wages as apprentices. They live simply, honestly, and quietly, but unexpected visitors suddenly throw the family into turmoil.

The first of their visitors is James Avery aka James Summers, the man who deserted Alinor at her most vulnerable, leaving her heartbroken and pregnant. Having recovered his title and family fortune, and recently widowed, he is seeking the child he assumes Alinor birthed, desperately desiring an heir.

The second visitor brings tragic news, calling herself Nobildonna Livia da Ricci, with a babe in her arms, she claims to be the widow of Rob, Alinor’s son. Tearfully she tells the family Rob, who was practicing as a doctor in Venice, drowned in a boating accident and now she has come to England to raise their son as an Englishman.

To be honest I’m as disappointed by this sequel as I was surprised by Tidelands. Alinor is reduced to a minor character, I never much cared for Alys, and care for her even less here. Avery is still a fool, Livia and her machinations are entirely transparent, and Sarah’s potential is squandered.

I could have forgiven a lot if the plot hadn’t turned out to be almost wholly predictable, it’s immediately clear that Livia can’t be trusted and the story pivots around her obvious deceptions.

Additionally the story itself largely lacks the atmospheric appeal of Tidelines, Gregory uses not more than broad strokes to describe the life along the Thames, and I felt she gave Venice short shrift.

There is a second storyline that runs through the book which features Ned, Alinor’s brother, who fled to the New World (America) when Cromwell was unseated and a new King retook the throne. While I had some interest in Ned’s experience, there was very little action, and though the theme’s echoed that of his sister’s story, the storyline as a whole was superfluous.

I realise my assessment here is quite harsh, but I am struggling to find anything particularly positive to say. I did finish it, so it wasn’t unreadable, but I don’t think it was any more than barely okay, though I’m sure others will disagree.


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Also by Philippa Gregory reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory



Title: Tidelands {Fairmile #1}

Author: Philippa Gregory

Published: August 20th 2019, Simon & Schuster Au

Status: Read August 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster


My Thoughts:

Tidelands introduces a new series, Fairmile, from bestselling historical author Philippa Gregory.

“These are the tidelands: half tide, half land, good for nothing, all the way west to the New Forest, all the way east till the white cliffs.”

Set in the mid 1600’s, as the Parlimentarians/Anglicists and Royalists/Papists wrestle for control of England, Tidelands centres on Sealsea Island, off the coast of Sussex. It’s here in a small fishing hut that Alinor Reekie, ‘neither widow nor wife’, lives, earning just enough to keep body and soul together as a midwife, herbalist and healer. Her most fervent wish is to secure a better future for her children, twelve year old Rob, and thirteen year old Alys, a simple desire that seems improbable, but Alinor’s chance encounter with James, a young Catholic priest, seeking sanctuary could turn the tide for them all.

Unfolding from the shifting third person perspectives of Alinor and James, Tidelands is a bewitching story of love, desire, danger and betrayal.

It’s fair to say that though rich in description and detail, the story progresses little during the first third or more of the novel. Gregory relies somewhat heavily on foreshadowing to sustain the reader’s interest which means there are few surprises as the plot unfolds, yet I found the story engrossing, caught up in the vivid portrayal of a life and time unfamiliar to me.

“I did not know that there could be a woman like you, in a place like this.”

Key to this tale is the forbidden romance that develops between Alinor, and (Father) James Summers, the priest who also serves as a Royalist spy. James is intrigued by Alinor’s beauty and grace, qualities he never expected to find in an impoverished wisewoman, and Alinor unwisely allows herself to get swept away by the handsome young man’s sincere, if naive, interest. It’s not unsurprising, given the period and circumstances, that the relationship will end badly for at least one, and perhaps both of them.

“It’s a crime to be poor in this county; it’s a sin to be old. It’s never good to be a woman.”

Of course, Alinor will always be the one with the most to lose. Already, as a woman abandoned by her husband, envied for her beauty, and regarded warily for her skill as a wisewoman, which some equate with witchery, she is regularly the subject of suspicion, rumour and innuendo in her small community. Any failing, or error in judgement, could cost her not only her reputation, but also her life. Gregory does a wonderful job of exploring the vulnerability of women during this time period, especially a woman like Alinor who wants more than society believes she has a right too.

“It matters to me. I matter: in this, I matter.”

Beautifully written, well researched, atmospheric and interesting, Tidelands is a captivating novel I enjoyed much more than I expected to.

Read an Excerpt


Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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