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Literature / The Charlotte Years

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Charlotte Tucker
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A Prequel Spinoff series to Little House on the Prairie about Laura Ingall's grandmother Charlotte Tucker.

The four books, written by Melissa Wiley, are Little House by Boston Bay, On Tide Mill Lane, The Road from Roxbury and Across the Puddingstone Dam chronicle Charlotte's childhood growing up in the town of Roxbury near Boston in the early 19th Century.

HarperCollins was behind the publishing of this series; years after the original series was published, they hired several people to write three prequel series, each focusing on one of Laura's relatives. The Caroline Years told the story of Laura's mother, The Charlotte Years featured Caroline's mother, and The Martha Years followed Charlotte's mother.

The original idea was for the series to take Charlotte all the way to adulthood, but for various reasons, this never happened and the books ended when Charlotte was eleven.

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Tropes relating to The Charlotte Years:

  • Amazon Chaser: Lew's comments make it clear Martha's gutsy nature is a big reason he fell for her, even mentioning their footraces from the previous series.
    Mama snorted. "Ancient I may be, but I could still beat you in a footrace, Lew Tucker."
    "I dinna doubt that." Papa said earnestly. His voice was so grave it made Charlotte laugh.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Mary can be this as the youngest child in the house.
  • Beware of the Nice Ones: Charlotte is generally sweet and kind, but she feels things very deeply and you do not want to be around when she breaks.
  • The Blacksmith: Lew is a very successful one, and the Tucker's oldest son (also named Lewis) trains with him and is ready to set up a forge of his own in the final book.
  • Blonde Brunette Red Head: The three Tucker girls, Lydia, Charlotte and Mary. (In age order no less). They even fit the stereotypes as Lydia is rather ditzy, Charlotte is a Brainy Brunette and Mary is a Fiery Red Head.
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  • Book Worm: Martha carrying over from the previous series, Charlotte and Tom take after her.
  • Brainy Brunette: Brunette Charlotte does well at school (better than her fair-haired and red-headed sisters), is very perceptive and an accomplished seamstress.
  • Brutal Honesty: Charlotte observes that you always know where her mother stands even if you disagree with her. Martha's also not afraid to call out anyone she thinks is being foolish, including random customers at Lew's forge.
  • Call-Back: Many to the previous series. Martha is now a wonderful cook, storyteller and herbalist/healer - all skills she learned from Cook, her mother and Auld Mary. There are also plenty of allusions to past events and characters including her parents, Grisie, Alistair, Duncan and Robbie, Miss Crow and even Miss Norrie.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Was intended to be this for Charlotte but Executive Meddling cut the series short when she was only 11.
  • The Confidant: Charlotte's sensitive and tactful nature encourages this role, including Martha confiding in her about a neighbour's attempted suicide and act of vandalism.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lew and Martha (usually directed at teasing each other or the children). Lewis, the oldest boy, develops into one too.
  • The Ditz: Lydia is always day dreaming and the family joke it's a miracle she ever gets her chores done.
  • Fiery Red Head: Martha is just as much of a spitfire as she was growing up. Her youngest daughter Mary takes after her.
  • Foreshadowing: When Martha comforts Charlotte over George's death she tells her that grief will always be part of her life but she can't let it break her. In The Caroline Years Charlotte loses her husband Henry but remains strong enough to hold together all her children and establish their own homestead.
    Martha: "I canna promise you a life free from pain Charlotte. You are sufferin' now and you shall suffer again. 'Tis as certain as breathin'."
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Discussed trope in the fourth book, when Charlotte hopes the new baby with be a boy so the Tucker children will be three girls and three boys. The baby is a boy, but the trope is horribly averted when he dies in less than a year.
  • Good Parents: Lew and Martha have a very happy home, manage to make time for Charlotte and all her many siblings individually, teach solid values while still being understanding and sympathetic to the children's perspectives and struggles.
    • Some standout examples are them defending the children against the school master, understanding that Tom doesn't want to be a blacksmith like his father and enabling him to pursue other options and Martha helping Charlotte recover from losing George.
  • Happily Married: Martha and Lew big time. Charlotte notices that she's never seen them fight, her father only laughs at Martha's outspoken nature, they're constantly teasing each other like children and aren't shy about voicing how wonderful they think the other one is. (Of course it makes sense given the previous series and what they must have risked to be together).
    Papa only laughed; he was never cross with Mama.
  • Healing Herb: Martha is known throughout the town as a skilled healer and grows all sorts of herbs and plants to cure various ailments. (Clearly all the learning she did with Auld Mary in the previous series paid off).
  • Hot-Blooded: Martha and Mary. The schoolmaster in the third book is a more bad-tempered example.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Lydia makes a comment about handsome Will, who works in the forge, and his sweetheart Lucy, the latter who has been scarred by an illness and isn't otherwise beautiful. Lydia's siblings and mother don't take kindly to this comment.
  • I Can't Believe A Girl Like You Would Notice Me: Lew's view of Martha when they were growing up, since she was so far above him socially. Martha clearly thought this was ridiculous and hinted that she was the one who initiated their relationship.
    Lew: "Us lads in the village used to jump at any chance to run errands for our fathers on her side o' the loch. Not a one of us ivver dreamt o' marryin' her though."
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in an heartbreaking example for a children's series, when beloved baby George dies in the fourth book. Then Martha reveals she had three other babies who also passed away. Truth in Television, as child mortality below the age of 5 was close to 50% at the time, and records show Martha Morse did lose four of her children in infancy.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Martha has grown up a lot like her cheerful, talkative mother and married a quiet, practical man like her father. (Although she and Lew are less conventional in how accepting he is of such a spirited wife, compared to Martha's parents more traditional lifestyle).
  • Long-Lost Relative: In the final book a friendly stranger known as "Mack" turns out to be Uncle Duncan, Martha's favourite brother and Lew's best friend from the previous series. He only meets the Tuckers through a series of coincidences but is overjoyed to see Martha and Lew having lost touch with them years before. .
  • Marry for Love: Charlotte discovers that her mother left behind her wealthy upbringing to marry her father (a common blacksmith) instead of a landowner as expected. Although Charlotte initially pities her mother, Martha is very quick to tell her she couldn't be happier and doesn't for a second regret marrying Lew.
    Mama grew serious. "Dinna you dare pity me," she said. "'Tis an insult to your father. And to me, for that matter. There's naught to pity me for. I'd not trade places wi' Lady Rowena for all the sea-green silk in China."
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Tucker family is pretty big with Lewis, Lydia, Tom, Charlotte, Mary and in the final book baby George. After George dies, Charlotte discovers she actually had three other deceased siblings that she didn't know about, so she's technically one of nine children.
  • Meaningful Name: It's never commented on but Lydia is clearly named after Lydia Crow, Martha's governess from the previous series.
  • Mysterious Past: Martha's past is a mystery to the Tucker children at least. Although Martha admits she was happy growing up, she rarely talks about her childhood and only Lew can coax any stories out of her. It takes Charlotte years to piece together the fact that she used to be a "very important person" and grew up as the daughter of a wealthy laird/lord but abandoned that life to marry Lew. She later becomes more open about her past, and it's implied she was hesitant because she didn't want to be self-important.
  • Nice Girl: Charlotte is incredibly sensitive and thoughtful, while Lydia and Mary are also good-natured.
  • Nice Guy: All of Charlotte's brothers and Will, Lew's striker.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Inverted. Martha hints that she initiated her and Lew's courtship - as he was hesitant due of their difference in station - and Lew clearly appreciated it.
    Colour rushed into Mama's cheeks and her eyes sparkled. "You ought to have dreamed o' it [marrying her], Lew Tucker," she said boldly. "I did, when I came back from school."
  • Out of Focus: Lew's striker Will and his sweetheart/wife Lucy are prominent in earlier books, especially as they move in with the Tuckers but only appear in a few scenes in the final book as they've set up a home of their own.
  • Parents as People: Martha is still pretty hot-tempered, a flaw she openly acknowledges. The final book also gives some insight into how she deals with the grief of losing four children.
  • Plucky Girl: Charlotte, keeping with all of Laura's female line.
  • The Pollyanna: Martha is a more nuanced version of this trope. Charlotte observes that she's always merry, cheerful and enjoys her life to the fullest, even though she's lost many children in infancy and still carries the grief with her. In response Martha tells her she's still got a wonderful life to celebrate and can't let the tragedies break her.
  • Quirky Curls: Charlotte and Mary have inherited their mother's thick mane.
  • Riches to Rags: Well Riches to Commoner in Martha's case, as between series she's gone from the daughter of a wealthy landowner to the wife of a common blacksmith. (Albeit a successful one, as the Tuckers are fairly comfortable and don't live through the poverty later Little House Girls do). But Martha still has to run a household, do chores and look after the family on her own, instead of having servants as she did growing up. However Martha makes it abundantly clear she wanted this life and had no interest in living like as a gentlewoman.
    Charlotte clutched her mother's hands. "You weren't born to this life."
    "Lottie." Mama's laughter had quieted but it was still there brimming in her eyes. "Not born to this life! Why I'm the most fortunate woman ever lived! Do you ken where I spent my childhood? In the kitchen with my mother's servants."
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Calm, snarky Lew and passionate, lively Martha.
  • School Marm: The local school has several, most of whom are very kind and capable. The schoolmaster is rather less popular however.
  • Shipper on Deck: A retroactive example. When Duncan reunites with Martha - after years of losing touch with each other - he's delighted and amused to discover she married Lew, his best friend from the previous series.
    Mack looked at Papa, his eyes warm and full of wonder. "Lew Tucker. When I asked you to look after my sister, I'd no idea you'd take it so seriously."
    • His support stands out because - as confirmed by Word of God - the rest of Martha's family did not approve of her marrying Lew due to his lower status, and there were serious obstacles to the couple marrying. Of course the fact that Duncan has spent the last twenty years wandering around America instead of settling in the more traditional Scotland probably influenced his attitude.
    • Meanwhile the whole Tucker family are shippers on deck for Will and Lucy, and later Lewis and his possible-sweetheart Emma.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Martha makes it clear she married Lew for his kind, hard-working nature and appreciates that he treats her as an equal, while Charlotte views him as the dearest, most wonderful man in the world.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Tom who is the most scholarly of the children is learning Latin and teases Charlotte with the new words he learns.
  • The Storyteller: Martha who regularly cheers up and entertains the children with her stories. Lydia and Charlotte are fast taking after her.
  • Supreme Chef: Martha is now an excellent cook and her food is a favourite at town events. In a reference to the previous series she credits her cooking to spending her childhood in the kitchen with the household cook.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Lew, who is described as strong and dark-haired. Lewis also becomes this by the end.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Charlotte is the sole Little House protagonist who actually enjoys sewing and is more girly than her tomboyish mother.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: An unusual mother-daughter example with the fiery, outspoken Martha who is still disinterested in dresses and ladylike accomplishments, and the gentler, sensitive Charlotte who likes sewing and making clothes. They're still very close however, and are equally intelligent and practical.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Melissa Wiley only had a rough overview of Charlotte's life to work from: The birthdates and names of her siblings, when she grew up in Roxbury and that she later worked as a seamstress. (And there was certainly more to go on than Martha's life). But she mostly drew on the wider historical context of the time and made up the personal details.
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