As part of the blog tour for the first two titles in the series written by Winston Graham, I began with Ross Poldark which was originally published in 1945. There, we met our leading man on his way home to Cornwall after serving a stint in the British army, fighting in the American Revolutionary war.
What awaits him back home is just as difficult to safely maneuver as any of the battlefield he left behind. His father is dead, leaving an estate loaded with debt and a house falling into disrepair, thanks to the two remaining servants Jud and Prudie who take less than attentive care of the place. Reuniting with family and friends(who thought he had died) seems to be a promising start but there are startling new developments there as well:
The biggest shock to Ross is learning that the woman he loves, Elizabeth, is about to marry another man. What's worse, that man is his cousin Francis. While both Elizabeth and Francis did believe that Ross was dead, neither of them are completely thrilled to see him back home again.
The wedding does take place and Ross does his best to bear it with a good grace. Yet, there is still a romantic tension between him and Elizabeth with Francis being too quick to fall into jealous snits at times. Personally, I think that whole love triangle could've been avoided if Elizabeth had been bold enough to commit to Ross. Yes, Ross might have tried harder to win her back but he chose to be a gentleman by not coming between his cousin and his now former love, a hard yet mature decision.
Elizabeth didn't want to make such a hard choice, being very much like Maria Bertram of Mansfield Park, who only married her dull suitor after Henry Crawford backed away from their illicit romance. I suspect that the diminished fortunes of Ross played a big part in Elizabeth's decision to stick with Francis, a decision that caused them all much regret and remorse:
After a good amount of brooding, Ross decides to take charge of his life starting with rebuilding his family home and farm. Along the way, he takes in Demelza, a ragged girl with only a equally ragged dog as company, as a much needed kitchen maid.
Over time, Ross is able to improve his situation and even takes on the daunting challenge of reopening one of his family's old copper mines. Demelza also benefits from her improved circumstances, away from her abusive father and impoverished home overcrowded with siblings, yet her lively energy and straightforward way of talking isn't fully blunted by these changes in her life.
Between Ross and Demelza, an attraction grows slowly but surely. Gossip about the two of them grows just as quickly, catching both of them off guard at times and leading to a decision of the heart that will change their lives forever:
While the world of Ross Poldark is set within the time frame of Jane Austen's works, this realm is a bit more rough and tumble than hers was. She would recognize a great deal of it as class distinctions and prejudices do abound, along with cock fights, the perils of copper mining and financial wheeling-dealing.
Ross is an engaging lead, whose faults share a bit of haughtiness with a certain Mr. Darcy but he's much more a man of the people than that gentleman could or would be. Nevertheless, I think that those two fictional fellows would find plenty of common ground as will their many fans.
One of the charms of the book is it's rich portrayals of supporting characters such as the crude yet loyal Jud, Jim and Jinny Carter, a young couple whose struggles are championed by Ross and Verity, Francis' sister who is forced out of a possible romance due to her family's desire to keep her a spinster more so than any concerns about her intended's background. Verity is an out and out favorite of mine, along with Demelza, a strong willed girl who is nervous about the social advancements she's making in life.
I will be seeing much more of her, as the second volume in the series, Demelza, promises to highlight her considerably.
My review of that book will appear later this month. In the meanwhile, I highly recommend reading Ross Poldark(along with watching the new PBS series). It's an old fashioned treat that offers readers a taste of love and life that blends the bitter with the sweet exceptionally well.
*UPDATE: The deadline for the Poldark blog tour giveaway has been extended to August 10, with the addition of a Season One Poldark DVD in the Grand Prize Pack! Just leave a comment at either one of my Poldark book review posts or any other stop on the blog tour for a chance to win: