BOOK CLUB: Dark Tides

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Dark Tides is the second in the Fairmile series from best-selling author Philippa Gregory.  The author is well known and respected worldwide for her historical novels which are always professionally researched.  

Dark Tides opens in 1670, in Restoration London.  A London still recovering from the Civil War, Cromwell’s rule and the great plague and fires of the 1660s.  In addition to London the novel travels to New England and Venice – all places dominated by the weather and tides.  

The story opens at the shabby warehouse on the Thames in London run by Alinor Reekie and her daughter Alys Stoney, they live a tough existence, on the edge of poverty.   

On this Midsummer Eve in 1670 they have two unexpected visitors: Sir James Avery (once Alinor’s lover) and Livia from Venice, the beautiful widow of Alinor’s son Robert. Sir James is not welcomed but Livia is invited to stay as Robert’s widow and the mother of his baby son. Alinor however does not believe her son is dead and does not trust Livia.  

Alinor’s brother Ned is making a new life in New England as a ferryman and the novel switches between London and New England. In New England Ned is struggling between friendships with the English settlers and the native Indians, he can see that war is not far away and battles with his loyalties and friendships as well as the day-to-day hardships of life in such a harsh environment.  

As the novel progresses we meet Johnnie and Sarah, Alys’ twins who are learning their trades and return to the warehouse at weekends and holidays.  Alinor takes Sarah into her confidence and sends her to Venice to find Robert.  Its here that Sarah discovers the truth of what happened to her uncle.  

I’ve read and enjoyed many of Philippa Gregory’s novels but have to admit I struggled a little to get into this one.  I had read Tidelands so knew the history of some of the characters but at the beginning, I did get a bit confused and had to remind myself of their stories and how everyone fitted in.  Once I got into the story though I enjoyed it.  I felt the novel came alive once Johnnie and Sarah entered the story and Sarah headed off to Venice.  

I did not though connect so well with Ned’s story in New England, but it was interesting to learn of the clashes between cultures, a story that was repeated all over the globe as the world was colonised. 

Not surprisingly with a title like Dark Tides waterways play a large role in this novel, whether it’s the River Thames, the canals and lagoons of Venice or the rivers and lakes in New England – they impact onto the lives and feelings of the characters.  

The novel portrays the harshness of life in the 17th century and the importance of family.  The Reekie family will always stand by each other and James Avery is desperate for a family of his own and that leads him to make some poor decisions. 

As this is the second in the Fairmile series it will be interesting to see where the series goes from here, which characters will feature in future novels and where they will be based.  Will it be London or will it be New England or even Venice? I look forward to finding out.  

Many thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read Dark Tides.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

19 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Dark Tides

  1. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory.

    I read Tidelands the first in this series, then followed with Dark Tides, which starts 21 years later.

    I throughly enjoy Dark Tides.
    Set in the 1600’s this is a story of love and hope with rich people and people in poverty.

    It’s a story of a poor, proud family and a rich family of high standing.

    I couldn’t put it down. It keep me turning the pages with the twists and turns.

    With very different characters, that take you into the heart of story.

    I can only hope the there is a next in this series because I will be first in line for it.


  2. Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory is the second book in the Fairmile series. To be fair I hadn’t read the first book, Tidelands, and when I started reading Dark Tides I immediately thought I wasn’t going to enjoy the book. How wrong was I. The first few pages were a bit of a struggle, but again I think that was because I hadn’t read the first in the series and didn’t have any context, and because it took me a little while to get into the era and the story to start to unfold. From there on however I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down. The setting, characters and storyline were fabulous and came to life for me as I read. While the focus of the story revolves around members of one family, there are numerous back-stories of different characters in various settings – the daily struggle to survive in an unforgiving early London, Venice and the rough frontier of early America -which only added to the richness and appeal for me. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait for the next novel in the series to be released.
    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Dark Tides.

  3. What a wonderful read. I enjoyed this story so very much and even though it is the second book in a series there is no need to have read the previous book as it works well as a stand alone.
    I loved the mystery and how you were kept guessing right up until the end and all while learning little snippets of history.
    A wonderful holiday read.

  4. ‘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 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 she navigates a hostile world. Dark Tides is another intriguing tale from the number one bestselling author.

    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 atmosphere and 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 living day to day 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.

    * I wish to thank Beauty & Lace/Simon & Schuster for a copy of this book for review purposes.

  5. A Historical Novel that has factual events.
    I hadn’t read Tidelands, the first book in this series but in saying this,
    Dark Tides can be called a stand alone novel with references to the charachter’s past.
    The begining of the book was a bit hard to get into but the more I read,
    the easier it was to follow and became very interesting.
    Gregory has woven factual events into her story like the master writer she is.
    I do recommend this book, but maybe be prepared to persevere and do not sit it aside!

  6. Wow, what an awesome story. I am always a little nervous about reading a second book in a series as often you miss the subtle relationships which are developed in the first book or miss the back story of the characters. Alternatively, some books spend way to much time detailing what has occurred that if you had read the first book, you feel jaded by the rerun.

    I am excited to say that this was an easy book to pick up, jump into the story and know what has happened in a very quick amount of time. A beautifully woven story which mixes history into the story made for an exciting adventure which kept you guessing ‘what is going to happen next’ right up the the very end.

    Definitately a book that once you pick up is so very hard to put down!

  7. I have recently completed reading ‘Dark Tides” by Philippa Gregory. I was totally unaware that it was part of a series of writings by this particular author, however, the book can be read as a stand alone novel adequately.

    I must admit that I took quite awhile to get involved in the story as I originally found it somewhat disjointed with the two storylines running parallel. I found the path of Ned a little bit of a disruption as I was more interested in the goings on in the London wharf area. However, once, I actually became engrossed in the novel it seemed to flow much better for me.

    I was grateful to be able to read this book and look forward to be able to read any further works of Philippa Gregory.

  8. Sorry I just couldn’t get into this book . First book in a long time I still haven’t finished

  9. Can I just point out your sentence “In addition to London the novel travels to New England and Venice – all places dominated by the weather and tides. ” is mistaken. Venice is in the Mediterranean, and so is not tidal.

    In the book, Philippa Gregory never claims Venice is tidal.

    I’m nearly at the end of the third book in the series, DawnLands, and they are superb. I kind of agree with Vikki James’ comment about the New England story line. In the first book I found it a distraction. But in the second, Dark Tides, it was fine, as the story really started coming together.

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