The Daughters of England books, nineteen in all, trace the history of one fictional English family down through the female line, from the year 1522 to the World War II years. They are both historical gothic novels and family sagas; each book centers on a woman whose family gets caught up in the tumultuous historical events of her time. Most take place in England specifically, though some of the later books cross the Channel to France.
These books saw me through high school and college and after. The cover at left is taken from my 1978 Popular Library paperback, which I got used from a local paperback exchange. Apparently I wrote my name in books back then. After I took it off my bookshelf last week to summarize it and write this post, I opened the cover and saw my signature on the first page in a childish hand, dated 3-12-84.
Damask Farland, born in 1523, is the long-awaited child of a prosperous London lawyer whose lands adjoin those of St. Bruno's Abbey. Damask is raised in a loving household, cherished by her parents and her saucy but devoted nurse, Keziah. A year before her birth, the abbey next door had experienced a miracle: a newborn boy had been found in its Christmas crib on Christmas Day. Taken in and raised by the monks, the child named Bruno grows up fully cognizant of his special status. And as news about the miracle at St. Bruno's travels far and wide, the formerly declining abbey attracts numerous pilgrims, gifts, and bequests which make it one of the wealthiest in the south of England.
This is a time of political and religious turmoil, however, and the changing fortunes of Damask and her family closely intertwine with Henry VIII's break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries. She and her cousin Kate become rivals for Bruno, who has turned into a haughty but charismatic young man. When the mystery at the heart of the abbey's miracle eventually comes to light, it has an immediate effect not just on Bruno himself but on everyone surrounding him.
The Miracle at St. Bruno's is an involving tale recommended to anyone who likes reading about the impact of major historical events on average citizens, and those who appreciate a nice balance of domestic atmosphere and accurately rendered historical intrigue. The Philippa Carr books never seemed to have as many readers as those of the author's Jean Plaidy or Victoria Holt novels; the cover of this one shows this clearly! Unlike the others, they haven't been reprinted since their original publication. They don't contain the sweeping gothic romance of the Holt books or the close-up glimpses of royalty as most of the Plaidy novels do. I think this is my favorite of all of her series, though, because of their emphasis on common people's experiences, particularly women's lives, and how they and their country are transformed over a period of five centuries. The Jean Plaidy Page has detailed summaries of each of the books (the uninitiated should be on guard for spoilers, though) as well as a family tree. The last book she wrote under the Carr name, Daughters of England, is actually unrelated to the rest of the series.