Fidelis Morgan

It always seems like a good idea to stay up late and finish a good book. (Although last night, there was a little voice suggesting that I might regret it in the morning… this either means I am getting old, or just conchy).

Anyway, I read all of The Rival Queens, by Fidelis Morgan, last night. It’s the second of the stories about Anastasia, Lady Ashby de la Zouche, Countess of… Baroness of…. It’s a great time to be writing about, because she gets to say nasty things about Pepys, and have him do silly things (based pretty closely on the sort of man he actually was, I think); it’s a time of rising morality about the theatre, and since this one is centred on the theatre, she has Cibber rewriting Shakespeare to make him better and the Countess herself calling him “an Elizabethan hack”. It’s also a time when medicine and technology are getting more recognisably modern, which I think helps to make it easier for a modern audience… although at the same time, it is still a superstitious (to modern eyes) time, which serves to shock the reader into realising just how foreign this time actually is (the ideas of Passions and Humours, for example).

It is a good story. The Countess and Alpiew are gloriously well described, and entertaining as ever – although I really do wonder when we will finally get Alpiew’s background completely described… possibly never I suspect. The twists and turns are subtle – in that they are acceptable, given the rest of the story, and not just an author’s out. I think Morgan must have done a lot of research on the geography of London at the time (late 17th? ), or else she is brazening out and, since I don’t know anything about, I’m just willing to go along with it. Which is fine. The story is great – which should be obvious from my 2am-er to finish it.

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