1820: the landscape of England is undergoing sweeping change as the country pioneers the steam-driven machine age.
The Morlands, too, face change: Cousin Africa returns from St Helena to startle society with her unconventional ideas; Lucy brings her sons home from their Grand Tour, brimming with ideas for their future. In Manchester, Sophie and Jasper meet fierce oppostion to their plans for re-housing the factory hands; while in London, Rosamund enters a bizarre agreement with her husband Marcus, with bitter consequences.
And at Morland Place, James and Heloise watch their two sons approaching manhood. Benedict delights equally in love and locomotives, while Nicholas, the heir develops a taste for more unusual pleasures- and an impatience to claim his inheritance.
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The Devil¿s Horse covers a period of about ten years. In this installment in the series, we see a number of developments in England, starting with a lot of discussion over facory reform (especially prevalent in the minds of the Morlands and Habsbawms considering their involvement in it). Sophie `s life is floating on a cloud, while Rosamund¿s life is a little more complicated; she¿s carrying on an affair with Jesmond Farraline, even as she¿s married to Marcus. She forges a pact with her husband that has unexpected consequences. Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, Nicholas and Benedict are coming of age¿one, as the heir to Morland Place, eager to gain his inheritance; and the other, a supporter of the new railways.This is another strong addition to the series, although the author does have a tendency to jump from one thing to another in order to get everything in. It has the same kind of feel as some of the very early books in the series, which covered long time periods. Thus, you¿ll have two characters married in one scene, and then next thing you know, they¿re parents of four children. But we¿re introduced to some new characters as well ¿Fanny, who both terrorizes and charms everyone at Morland Place, and Charlotte, Rosomond¿s unfortunate daughter¿who promise to have a larger role in further books in the series.Nonetheless, we see a lot of character development, especially with Benedict, who promises to be the hero of subsequent books in the series. Nicholas sometimes comes across as a stock villain, but he¿s a very crafty, clever villain, willing to do anything to get what he wants (or sometimes he does mean things just for the sake of bringing other people down, which makes him especially unlikeable). We¿ll see how his character develops as the series continues. I think there¿s a lot of potential to develop the rivalry between Benedict and Nicholas, though I hope that Bendy will learn to stand up to his older brother!