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  1. The first in a trilogy all about the Mallens. The men are distinguished by their blacker than black hair which has a white streak through it. That and the so called Mallen Curse, where no male Mallen has ever died in his bed or of old age. We start our story with Thomas Mallen, who has been married three times but has countless illegitimate children all over the surrounding area, the boys distinctive because of the white streak, the girls are not so afflicted. He is owner of Highbanks Hall and notorious not just for his womanising but for all of his other vices (the usual drinking, gambling, wild parties and general debauchery). Then, in 1850 Thomas Mallen is ruined and is turfed out of Highbanks Hall and into a comparatively small cottage with his two wards (nieces), their governess and a servant. This is easily read but it's well written; the characters ring true and three dimensional as does the descriptions of farming life in the 1800's. There are two rapes but although clear what is happening it's not described in a salacious manner. This first one was the first novel of Cookson's that sold a million copies and led to the next two. It's been such along time since I last read them I had no idea what was coming next. I love these novels and they will always have a place on my shelf. Recommended.
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