From the desk of Pamela Mingle:
If you’re like me, you are spending your Sundays killing time until Poldark lights up the TV screen. When I learned that Season One would be based on Winston Graham’s first two books in the series, Ross Poldark and Demelza, I was determined to read them before viewing the adaptation. Although the episodes I’ve seen so far can stand on their own merit, reading the books has given me a richer understanding of the two protagonists. If Ross’s character functions as the moral compass of the story, Demelza’s represents the emotional heart of the books. Her struggle to be accepted as Ross’s wife makes us empathize with her, root for her, right from the start.
Demelza opens with the birth of Ross and Demelza’s baby girl. The new mother plans two christening parties, one for the country folk and another for the gentry. Trouble arises when her father, now a Methodist and wearing his religion like a cloak of righteousness, shows up on the wrong day and promptly insults some of the guests. Put in the uncomfortable position of defending his father-in-law, Ross must intervene. Demelza flees to the house, mortified. “…I thought I would show ’em I was a fit wife for you, that I could wear fine clothes and behave genteel an’ not disgrace you. An’ instead they will all ride home snickering behind their hands…” (51)
Much of Demelza centers on Ross’s efforts to break the monopoly held by the copper smelters, who are keeping copper prices artificially low. Through the new Carnmore Copper Company, Ross and his investors are buying up copper from the mines and smelting it themselves. The profits from the company will benefit not only Ross and the other investors, but the miners themselves, for whom he genuinely cares. Ross’s struggle to keep the greedy and heartless Warleggan family out of this venture is one of the central themes of the story.
Demelza is intent on reuniting Verity with Captain Andrew Blamey, whom Verity had renounced after the disastrous meeting between him and Francis Poldark in the first book. Demelza’s motives spring from her desire to see Verity happy, but because Ross disapproves, she keeps her involvement a secret from him. Meanwhile, Ross is again caught up in the sad affair of Jim Carter, the young man sent to prison for poaching. When Ross pursues a dramatic course of action to save Jim, the result is enmity between him and several county leaders.
At a party given by the Warleggans, the men single out Demelza as the reigning beauty of the evening. Ross, in a dark mood, doesn’t notice, and Demelza is bewildered by the experience. The only man whose attention she craves is her husband’s, and he is involved in a card game, the outcome of which serves as a catalyst for all that happens in the remainder of the book.
One of the subplots in Demelza left me scratching my head. Mark Daniel, a lifelong friend of Ross’s, falls in love with a girl from a traveling company of players. The tragic story of their romance and marriage is given in some detail, and while it has its appeal, it appears unconnected to the primary storyline. But it was one of only a few flaws in this otherwise well-plotted continuation of the Poldark saga.
No matter. Demelza is a book to love and to savor. After her shaky start as a hostess at the christening party, Demelza proves herself many times over, not only to eighteenth century Cornwall society, but more importantly to her beloved Ross. And when an unforeseen crisis strikes, Demelza steps in and shows her loyalty to the Poldark family at considerable risk to herself.
The many plot threads involving Ross and Demelza and their separate pursuits help define the character of each, but the love story between them is at the core of this book. In the opening chapter, when Demelza is in labor, she begs Ross to tell her he loves her, and not Elizabeth. He does, but thinks, “What else was he to say when he did not know the truth himself?” (6) By the end of the book, neither Ross nor the reader doubts his love for Demelza. Ross, who takes a dark view of the nature of man, realizes a truth about himself, that his character is fundamentally pessimistic. Demelza is the opposite, and he loves her for it. He thinks, “Whatever she suffered, whatever loss came to her, she would throw it off, for it was not in her nature to go under.” (518)
Ross may be the man of action and moral certitude, but it is Demelza’s deepening wisdom that carries the story. At the beginning of the book, she says, “I shall never be wise, Ross…I don’t think I wish to be wise.” (28) But in the end, it is Ross’s words to her that capture her transformation. “I believe yours is the only wisdom, Demelza…” (521)
Discovering these books was a little bit like discovering Georgette Heyer. Both authors keep their books well-grounded in their respective eras, both use secondary characters to add humor, and both make the love story the focal point around which all the action revolves. As with Heyer, reading one book creates a hunger to devour them all.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 (Poldark Saga Book 2), by Winston Graham
Sourcebooks Landmark (2015) reprint
Trade paperback & eBook (432) pages
Grand Giveaway Contest
Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes
In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.
Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:
- (1) DVD of season one of Poldark
- (2 ) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
- (1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothers
- (1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
- (1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
- (1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
- (2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee’s Garden Heirloom
- (1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham
To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!
GUEST REVIEWER BIO
Pamela Mingle is the author of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, A Pride and Prejudice Novel, and Kissing Shakespeare, winner of the 2013 Colorado Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, and The Jane Austen Society of North America, where she will begin a term as Regional Coordinator for the Denver/Boulder Chapter beginning in January.
A former teacher and librarian, Pamela lives and writes in Lakewood, Colorado. She and her husband enjoy walking in England, which has proved to be a wonderful way to discover new settings for her books.
Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2015; text Pamela Mingle © 2015, Austenprose.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”