‘Flambards Divided’ – Book Review

**NOTE: This review contains spoilers.**

When K.M Peyton wrote a fourth novel for her successful Flambards series, the book caused some controversy among fans of the original trilogy, as the end of the third book, Flambards in Summer (1969), was essentially turned on its head in Flambards Divided (1981). Some reviewers claimed that Peyton seemed merely to be “cashing in” on the success of the 1978 television series based on the trilogy. Others thought that as Mark is apparently Peyton’s favourite character from the series, she wanted to give him his chance at a happy ending with the heroine, Christina.

I grew up reading and watching the Flambards series, and was happy with the ending of the trilogy. Thus I was rather reluctant to read Flambards Divided. However, after finding a second-hand copy recently, I decided to give it a try and make up my own mind about it.

I’ll admit, at first I hated it. It didn’t ‘feel’ the same as the first three books. After being madly in love with Dick Wright at the end of book 3, at the beginning of Divided, Christina “reckoned” that she loved him. Anyone else sense some doubt?! It irritated me when Peyton claimed that Mark was one of Christina’s “great childhood loves”. That was never the impression I got from the other books: it was clear that Christina was attracted to him, but as she refused to marry him twice, I don’t believe she was ever really in love with him. Will was her first love, and Dick her second. She never took Mark’s proposals seriously, especially as they bickered more than anything else.

Whilst I never thought Christina and Mark would be a good couple in the first three book, with Mark coming back from WWI newly vulnerable and (slightly more) mature, I started to see how it could work. I do think, however, that the integrity of Dick’s character was lost in the process. He became cantankerous and utterly unsociable, making Mark look, for the first time, like the better of the two. However, I still think it’s fair to say that Dick was always capable of violence – he did, after all, beat Mark to a pulp in the first book for getting his sister, Violet, pregnant. But, generally he had always seemed to be the sweet, uncomplicated one.

I think this book did give a fairly realistic view of marrying out of your class in that era: the local landowners couldn’t accept Dick as master of Flambards, and instead saw him as a jumped-up servant taking advantage of Christina’s generosity and wealth. Christine found, to her dismay, that her new marriage was far from idyllic: she hoped to enjoy the social scene that matched her status, but Dick seemed to detest anything but hard work. Mark’s presence and Christina’s growing feelings for him was the main cause of strain in their relationship. Mark and Dorothy’s marriage was also doomed to failure. Dorothy was, a heart, an urban girl – a lover of London’s glittering parties and fashionable shops. She could never be truly happy in the countryside, just as Mark would always be a country boy who could never be separated from horses and hounds.

I think in the end, Mark and Christina were well-suited. They understood each other perfectly – both knowing they could never change the other. They both loved Flambards dearly – more than Dorothy or Dick could ever really appreciate – and their chemistry was intense, particularly when they made the mutual decision to keep their relationship chaste until it could be made official. This was big step for Mark, who had always prided himself before on his sexual conquests, yet for Christina he was willing to wait until they could be married. Thankfully, they wouldn’t have had to wait long as the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act was passed in 1921.

In conclusion, although I expected to detest Flambards Divided (and did at first), I found myself enjoying it and was surprisingly satisfied with the outcomes of each of the characters: they all got the endings that best suited them. I recommend reading the whole of the Flambards series – it is brilliantly written with some wonderful characters and lots of interesting plot twists! I also highly recommend Blind Beauty and Blue Skies and Gunfire, also by K.M. Peyton. Blind Beauty especially is wonderful – I borrowed it dozens of times from my local library before I finally bought my own copy.

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