By Jacqueline Reiter
novel, Earl of Shadows, stops short
of John's military disgrace, spanning the years 1778 to 1806. It focuses on
John's difficult relationship with his brilliant younger brother William and
his (rather more satisfactory) marriage to Mary Townshend. John's wife is even
less well-known than he is; I could compile everything I've ever seen written
about her on the back of a postcard and have room to spare. Not, perhaps, the
most obvious pair to write about, but once I started researching them it became
clear that they were fascinating personalities with turbulent, often tragic, life-stories
– and that they wanted me to tell their tale.
|Mary, Countess of Chatham.|
Townshend, John's wife, might be unknown in the history books, but I soon
realised just how unjustly she has been overlooked. Born in 1762, she was the
second daughter of Thomas Townshend, later first Viscount Sydney (as Home
Secretary, he presided over the founding of the Australian penal colony that
bears his name). The Townshends and Pitts were close, and John and Mary more or
less grew up together. Theirs was clearly a love match; in an age full of
disaster stories like the Duchess of Devonshire and George IV and Caroline of
Brunswick, John and Mary's closeness was like a breath of fresh air.
John and William are the elder and younger sons of 18th century political giant William Pitt. The father is a man of great principle and a great orator. Twice Prime Minister, he accepts the title Earl of Chatham in recognition of his services to the British nation. But his death on the floor of the House of Lords deals a devastating blow to the family.
Forced to forego his military career, John inherits the title and a debt-ridden estate. William inherits the gilded tongue that will make him the brilliant rising star. John sees the problem looming, but the little brother cannot succeed without the big brother’s support. At the most critical moment John runs away from his responsibilities and his brother. It proves to be a fatal mistake.
Can John ever make amends and find forgiveness? Or will he continue to hold onto a pain that has almost become part of himself? Can he escape the long shadow of destiny?
Earl of Shadows is a meticulously researched and moving account of sibling rivalry in a world of duty and honour at the heart of one of Britain’s most iconic political families. It brilliantly underlines the notion that history is about more than just the winners – that there is another, more human, story to tell.
'Absorbing, historically accurate portrayal of family conflict, soaring ambition, and redeeming love. An impressive fiction debut by a highly talented author.' -- Margaret Porter, bestselling author of 'A Pledge of Better Times'