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.

18 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Dark Tides

  1. Set in 17th century London, New England and Venice, Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory and published by Simon & Schuster, is a fantastic read! Full of drama, social upheaval and all kinds of emotional dilemmas, I loved it!

    The author is an exceptional story teller cleverly weaving historical facts and fiction together, which really makes this novel come alive. Philippa Gregory’s passion for history(and particularly the plight of women)and her commitment to authentic detail really shines through and I felt immersed in the time period from chapter one.

    Dark Tides is the second book in The Fairmile Series. And while it can be read as a stand alone novel, the richness of the characters’ stories and the significance of the settings and historical background is considerably enhanced by reading Tidelands the first book,(which I also loved).

    Dark Tides is set 21 years after Tidelands, a passage of time that highlights both the consequences of decisions made (politically and personally)as well as the strength and determination of the main characters to remain true to themselves. This is as true of Alinor and her immediate family (Alys and Rob) as it is of her brother Ned pioneering in New England.

    Dark Tides is a richly detailed and thoroughly enjoyable read which will effortlessly transport you to another time. I highly recommend it.

  2. This new book in the Fairmile series starts about 20 years after the previous book ‘Tidelands’. I love Phillip Gregory’s writing and I do love a good intergenerational family saga.
    This book continues the life of Alinor and her family. Alinor and Alys have moved from their beloved Tidelands and are now in London running an import export warehouse on the river. Two people turn up at the warehouse – James Avery and Livia.
    Livia claims to be Alinor’s daughter in law and relays the sad news that her husband and Alinor’s son Rob is dead and she needs help. Alinor doesn’t want to believe it is true and is very suspicious of Livia.
    James Avery wants to reignite his relationship with Alinor but she isn’t willing. James is now wealthy and he wants a family to leave his estate to.
    There are a number of chapters detailing Alinor’s bother Ned, who has a new life in New England (America) . I didn’t find these chapters and line of story as interesting as Alinor’s.
    I enjoyed the read but I didn’t think this second part to the series was as gripping as the first .

  3. Dark Tides was a great book to read. I understood from the beginning that it was the second in a series but in reading this, it in no way made it hard to understand once I got into the flow of the story or wonder about what happened in the first book (but I would like to know)

    I loved the tale of Sarah and her family as well as the almost separate story of her Uncle Ned. Im sure they will weave together somehow in a future book.

    Sarah is a most forward young person for her age and the time frame and I eagerly awaited her journey and I was not disappointed. It was a fascinating turn of events and I enjoyed everything that unfolded. Phillipa has a wonderful way to writing her characters so that they are characters that we want to get to know.

    I laughed at poor tragic Sir James Avery and the mess he got himself into and I am sure we will hear more about Johnnie in a following novel.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read Dark Tides, you wont be disappointed.

  4. After the cliff-hanger ending of Philippa Gregory’s ‘Tidelands’, I was very keen to continue Alinor, Rob and Alys’ story, and see how the pathetic James ended up with his feet of clay. I was a bit surprised we didn’t get to immediately follow up the first book. Instead we flipped forward 20 odd years into 17th century London, to the docks on the ‘wrong side of the river’ where the women run a small but honest warehouse for import and export. The babies from the previous book have been born and are grown: Sarah and Johnnie. They make quite an impact. Alinor isn’t brilliantly well after her almost-drowning episode, and Alys is quite hardened and distrustful of men after everything that’s happened, but determined and driven to succeed in business. Alinor’s brother Ned has departed England for New England overseas, and he has a parallel story in the New World. I confess I didn’t find this as enticing as the London/Venice Story, but it was still fascinating for the heart-breaking and complex cultural clashes it outlines. Two things happen at the beginning of this story to compel the reader forward: James (now Sir James) comes to visit Alinor because he wants to claim his son (rather too little, too late, IMHO), and Alinor’s doctor son Rob is missing presumed drowned dead in Venice – and his fairly unusual widow and child unexpectedly show up in London. Everything goes topsy turvy after that. The book was a little slow in the beginning, especially regarding the complicated politics of the New World, but I have to say the last two hundred pages were absolutely thrilling, it was a race to the end to see what was going to happen. Loved it. Thankyou to Beauty & Lace Bookclub and Simone & Schuster Australia for the chance to read the book. I also loved the sumptuous red and gold cover, just gorgeous.

  5. 21 years later we have Dark Tide Tidelands was the first book,
    Alinor and Alys are now living in London running a warehouse on the river where freight comes in by ships, they are terribly poor but happy with their life the two children Sarah and Johnnie are both finding their own way in life,
    Ned is living in The New World a ferryman which is a hard life he is friends with the native indians and the local towns people,
    Alinor receives sad news in regards to her other son Rob she does not believe for one minute that he has died and is mis trusting of her daughter in law Livia
    Sir James Avery is also in this book,
    Loved the character Sarah she is so much like Alinor
    The books chapters go between the Reekie family in London and Ned but very easy to follow this book is a great follow on from Tidelands

  6. I like this book a lot I didn’t read the first one but I’m go to .this book got everything I recommend everyone to read it thank you beautyandlace for the chance to read

  7. I had read Tidelands but have the memory of a fish and could only remember bits and pieces. Saying this I think you would be able to read Dark Tides without reading the prequel and not miss out on anything
    I loved this lovely thick book. Philippa Gregory writes with such a richness that you can just picture the settings. The novel alternates between 17th century London and New England, and later also Venice. It is set 2 decades after the first book in the series.
    Strong women abound in this book. Of course you have Alinor and Alys, but also one of the twins: Sarah and Livia.
    This is a tale of being true to yourself: some characters are and others definitely aren’t. It does start off rather slowly but after maybe the first third of the book, I knew there may be a long night reading
    Like the tides that feature so much in this series, nothing stays the same. Two visitors to London threaten to change things: Livia (Rob’s widow) and James (someone from Alinor’s past). Strength of character prevails and the book ends with a rather surprising ending. I look forward to reading the third book in the series
    Many thanks to Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to devour and read this book

  8. I enjoyed Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory. Although this book is the second in the Fairfield Series, it was not necessary to have read the first one (although I have since read Tidelands and now have the full background).

    I found the characters believable, and you could not always predict which way the story was heading. It was sometimes a bit confusing jumping between London and New England, but eventually it all tied in. A good read. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  9. “Dark Tides” is a sequel to “Tidelands” (which I reviewed on my blog, . When I read “Tidelands”, it wasn’t clear whether it needed a sequel; but “Dark Tides” ends in such a way that there is clearly at least one more book to come.

    I enjoyed this more than “Tidelands”, which I found a little bleak and lacking in hope. “Dark Tides” is indeed bitter and hopeless in places, but there is a greater sense of optimism for the future for at least some of the characters.

    In 1670 we meet Alinor and her daughter Alys, now living in London. When we left them 21 years ago, both were pregnant, penniless, and exiled. Now they are making a small but sufficient living from a warehouse and dock that they own. Alinor is physically ailing but mentally acute. Alys is somewhat bitter but a good mother to Johnnie and Sarah, and an effective businesswoman.

    Now James Avery, who abandoned pregnant Alinor, comes looking for his child. He has convinced himself that Alinor had a son, a boy who would now be 21 and legally an adult. James wishes to swoop in and name that son his heir. But Alinor tells him she lost the child, and she wants nothing from him.

    Their household is soon upended anyway; Livia, a beautiful young widow, arrives on their doorstep. She announces that Alinor’s son Rob is dead, and she his widow and mother of his son. Soon she has the house topsy turvy, not least because Alinor steadfastly refuses to believe that Rob is dead.

    On the other side of the world, Alinor’s brother Ned is working to establish a new life in the New World. Ned, amiable but stubborn, is making friends with the Native Americans as well as the English settlers. Increasingly he’s finding it hard to straddle both worlds, and it looks more and more as if he will be forced to make a choice.

    It’s Ned’s story that makes it most clear that there’s another novel to follow this. The women’s story could perhaps rest where Gregory leaves them at the end of this novel, but Ned’s could not. That’s interesting, because this story is quite disconnected from events in London, and is quite a departure from the concerns of the first novel too. It’s an interesting enough story – although I didn’t find it compelling – but it suggests that perhaps Alinor and Alys will not be of such importance in the third novel.

    Back in London, Alinor and Alys’ household presents a much more complex and emotionally tangled story. It perhaps stretches credibility a little, as it depends on a number of people being quite credulous – but that’s not impossible to believe. There’s a strong vein of bitterness here, as there was in Alinor’s story in “Tidelands”, and for me the most hope was found in Sarah, Alys’ daughter. I think the reason I found this story quite difficult in places was the bleakness of many characters: they don’t see any reason to hope that their circumstances will change or their future improve.

    As with all Gregory’s novels, this is impeccably researched and has a strong sense of time and place. Gregory conveys this more through detail than through elaborate descriptions, and I find that works well, not impeding the story while conveying necessary information.

    Many readers will find the complex story of Alinor and Alys’ household involving and absorbing. Others, like me, may find it a novel they appreciate rather than love: this is an outstanding piece of writing, but I didn’t truly warm to any of the characters.

    Still, if you’re looking for well written and accurate historical fiction, you’d be hard pressed to go wrong with this. It’s interesting, and looks at the lives of (relatively) ordinary folk during a period when life was not particularly easy. Many readers will enjoy it.

    In the end, I think how much you enjoy this novel will depend largely on how strongly you engage with Alys and Alinor, and whether you see hope or bleakness in their future.

  10. Dark Tides is the sequel to Tidelands by renowned historical fiction author Philippa Gregory. I was very excited to receive this copy of Dark Tides and to continue on from Tidelands. I do think reading the first book in this series will make this a richer read as it provides some background to the characters. It also continues some stories from the first book.

    I was really looking forward to following Alinor and Alys, however there is a time jump in this story and it continues some 20 years later. Alinor has aged and while still very much the matriarch of the family, she is no longer the main character. Rob’s widow Livia arrives with her newborn baby and the devastating news that Rob has drowned. The story centres around Alinor’s daughters Alys and Sarah, and Livia this widow.

    Ned, Alinor’s brother also features in Dark Tides even though he is a world away, the New World in fact. However I found this section of the book less engaging and a bit seperate from the rest of the novel. It has the feel of being connected back within a third novel. So we will just have to wait and see.

    I do love the strong female characters, particularly during a time when females had very few choices in life, a trait of Philippa’s books.

    I want to thank Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read this book.

  11. 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.


  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. ‘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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

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

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