I reviewed ‘Last Child’ for Rosie Amber’s book review team.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Kings and Queens’ so was really looking forward to the sequel and ‘Last Child’ does not disappoint.
Harry Lanchester is dead, leaving behind three very different children – young Jasper, who just wants to be a teenager and, although the youngest, the heir to the Lanchester business; bitter, unhappy Isabella, still reeling from her father’s deception and abandonment of her mother; and Erin, beautiful, strong and somewhat spoilt. These three carry with them the traits of their respective mothers, and the lasting legacy of the tragedies, upheavals and dramas so well-portrayed in ‘Kings and Queens’.
Add to the mix rivalry between those taking care of the business until Jasper comes of age – Ned Seymour and Jim Dudley – and you have a wonderful, modern take on the politics, intrigues and battles for power that dominated the English court after the death of Henry VIII.
Lanchester Estates is split down the middle – Ned Seymour is supported by Isabella, while Dudley is favoured by Erin, so much so that she sells him some of her shares in the company. Jasper is trying to cope with the difficulties of growing up, aware of the responsibility that awaits him, but more interested in girls and drinking. Former nanny Hannah, still very much a part of the family, tries to help, offering some stability to the fractured family, but then tragedy strikes and Isabella takes over the company.
Unpopular and unhappy, Isabella thinks she’s turned a corner when she meets Phillip Castillo. But Phillip isn’t all he seems. I couldn’t decide if I hated Isabella or felt terribly sorry for her – she acts selfishly and horribly, but deep down she’s so sad, and the writing conveys this so well; people behave as they do for a reason, and Isabella is a complex character whose flaws are well-explained.
Erin, meanwhile, is involved in an on-off relationship with Robert Dudley, which causes its own tragedies and unhappiness. Out of all the characters, I felt that Erin was the one who developed the most, who really ‘grew up’ as the story unfolded. Although she was far from perfect and still had her flaws, she became less the selfish, spoilt teenager and more the accomplished, capable intelligent woman that Lanchester Estates needed to keep the company going.
It’s great fun to link all these characters to their historical counterparts, and Terry Tyler does a great job of showing those links without making them obtrusive or restricting the characters or the story. Raine, for example, while ‘standing in’ for tragic Lady Jane Grey has a very different, albeit potentially heart-breaking, fate to the original.
The characters draw you in, and the writing is clever, entertaining, at times funny and always compelling. Each has his or her own story and their motivations are clear and believable. It’s one of those books that leaves you disappointed at the end – not because of the story but because you want to carry on, to see what happens next to the Lanchesters and, when you reach that last page, you’re left feeling slightly bereft. There aren’t many books that make me feel like that, so ‘Last Child’ definitely deserves five stars.
Find a copy here