Anyone who picked up the book Flambards Divided has already read the first three. If you read this without paying attention to the title, then, well, I can't have sympathy if you are disappointed with the events.
I loved this book.
It was very true to the characters and the times. Yes, I was rooting for Christina and Dick, too, and maybe if they'd gotten together--maybe run away together--before her marriage to Will, it would have worked out. As quiet and gentle as he was, though, Dick wanted to be the leader. Think about it. When did they REALLY get along? When Dick had the upper hand and was teaching Christina to ride, or saving her horse from a horrible death.
OK, the book was sad. Well, they were all sad, just this one had sad things happening to the main character, and "on stage." In the previous books, characters get beaten to near death, a woman gets impregnated by her employer thus ruining her life, a man dies of alcoholism, another is crippled in a fall...oh yeah, and have you really paid attention to the story arc? Every book so far has ended with the feeling that it is all solved, phew. And then the next one brings it crashing down. Yay! Christina marries Will!....but has no job. Yay! Will and Christina make a life that works...then he gets killed. Yay! Christina marries Dick!...who is totally unsuited to her apart from being cute.
If there is a next book, I vote that it be called "Flambards Remaining," because--guess what--Mark is still an alcoholic and since Peyton seems to know quite a lot about that disease, Mark is realistically doomed. The only way for Christina and Mark to have made a success of their union would be if Mark stopped drinking, but since with no guts left he drank til he vomited anyway, (which is true to life) he's not going to get any better.
It's OK, though, Christina seems to be able to take care of herself. But in that time period one was expected to find a husband.
She is VERY strong, though. When she finds out about Dick's infidelity, she will not tolerate it and will not keep the woman involved employed. Period. And Peyton makes Dick's betrayal very real, without making him a monster. As hurting as Dick is, he is still compassionate enough to give comfort to shell-shocked Mark, and still asks forgiveness from Christina when all is revealed.
I can't write this review without praising the character of Dorothy, certainly the best woman character, and maybe the best character, I have seen in a long time. Totally true to herself, completely self-aware, she is hardworking, selfish, hedonistic, unfaithful to her husband but honest in her self-assessment, and a loyal friend when it counts. The whole series is worth it just for Dorothy.
Flambards Divided makes me want to re read the whole series.