Actress Joanne Froggatt Goes to the Dark Side as Murderess Mary Ann Cotton in Dark Angel on Masterpiece Classic PBS

After reading the advance press on Dark Angel – the new period drama starring Joanne Froggatt as Victorian-era serial killer Mary Ann Cotton – I was seriously considering skipping my weekly MASTERPIECE appointment with my television. Multiple murders by a woman who successively kills her husbands and children by poison for their life insurance sounded like nails on a chalkboard to me – something way beyond my comfort zone. The fact that it featured Froggatt, an awarding winning actress who I adored as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey, Emmy award winning director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) and acclaimed screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes (Miss Austen Regrets) softened the blow a bit, but I was still not convinced.

My tipping point was my love of English history and my curiosity. Life in lower-class Victorian England was harsh and bleak, however, many wives and mothers did not become serial killers. What was Mary Ann Cotton’s story? What pushed her beyond despair and made her a mass murderer?

“Why don’t you let me make you a nice cup of tea?” – Mary Ann Cotton

Screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes had an extraordinary true-life story to draw from. It is estimated that Cotton poisoned with arsenic up to 21 people including: three of her four husbands, fifteen children, a lover, a friend, and her mother – collecting life insurance for many of them. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Ross Poldark and Demelza Books

Ross Poldark A Novel of Cornwall, 1783 to1787 2015 x 200        Demelza A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 by Winston Graham 2015 x 200

It’s time to announce the giveaway winners of the first two novels in the Poldark Saga: Ross Poldark and Demelza. The lucky winners drawn at random are:

1.) Eight (8) trade paperback copies of Ross Poldark

  • lex6819, who left a comment on June 22, 2015
  • Bookfool, aka Nancy, who left a comment on July 13, 2015
  • Ladycrumpet, who left a comment on August 05, 2015
  • Trudystattle, who left a comment on June 9, 2015
  • Veronica Sweet, who left a comment on June 7, 2015
  • Patricia Barraclough, who left a comment on July 19, 2015
  • Elizabeth, who left a comment on August 3, 2015
  • BeckyC, who left a comment on June 10, 2015

2.) Eight (8) trade paperback copies of Demelza

  • Debraemarvin, who left a comment on June 9, 2015
  • grace2302, who left a comment on July 7, 2015
  • SeldomKate, who left a comment on August 3, 2015
  • Sofia Guerra, who left a comment on June 22, 2015
  • Missyisms, who left a comment on June 11, 2015
  • Greta, who left a comment on June 9, 2015
  • monicap79, who left a comment on June 11, 2015
  • Maureen M., who left a comment on August 5, 2015

Congratulations  winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 12, 2015 or you will forfeit your prize! Mail shipment to US addresses only.

Many thanks to all who left comments, and the good folks at Sourcebooks Landmark who contributed the giveaway copies of Ross Poldark and Demelza.

Cover images courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com

Poldark Season One Episode Seven on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner). Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS

Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner). Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS

Last week in episode 6 of Poldark, we had the “Pride and Prejudice Poldark Edition,” in which talk of frocks, balls and beaus resounded with snappy repartees and witty retorts, in true Jane Austen style.

This week in episode 7 of Poldark, it’s just another day in Cornwall when an epidemic strikes the community, tragedy befalls the Poldark family and a rip roaring shipwreck sends more than a ship to the bottom of the sea, in the thrilling and heartbreaking 2 hour season 1 finale.

Side Note: Masterpiece Classic chose to combine episodes 7 and 8 of the UK broadcast into one episode. This will be confusing to some. Do not be alarmed. Both episodes are included.

(Fair warning. There be spoilers ahead)

RECAP (longish)

Where’s Verity?”—Elizabeth Poldark

While George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) reminds Ross Poldark’s (Aidan Turner) business partner Sir Jonathan Tressider (Mark Seaman) where his true interests lie in light of the debt that he owes to Warleggan Bank, Verity (Ruby Bentall) makes her move (finally) and elopes with Captain Blamey (Richard Harrington). Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller), the narcissistic cad that he is, does not take the news well. He is convinced that Ross aided them in their plans. His wife Elizabeth (Heida Reed) questions his rash accusations, defending Ross proclaiming, “I stand up for no one, but it’s the merest justice not to condemn people unheard.

Jud (Phil Davis) and Prudie (Beatie Edney) leave Nampara in Poldark. Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS

Jud (Phil Davis) and Prudie (Beatie Edney) leave Nampara in Poldark. Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS

Don’t bend ye brows at me girl. You ain’t nothin’ but a trull from Illugin.”—Jud Paynter

Continue reading

Poldark Season One Episode Six on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Image of Demelza Poldark (Eleanor Tomlinson) at the Warleggan ball in Poldark (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd for Masterpiece PBS

Image of Demelza Poldark (Eleanor Tomlinson) at the Warleggan ball in Poldark (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd for Masterpiece PBS

Last week in episode 5 of Poldark everyone was reckless and bold—gambling on their future and love. Miner Mark Daniel married a questionable woman, Ross began a copper smelting company, Demelza played defiant matchmaker and Francis had a meltdown after losing his mine in a card game.

This week: The Pride and Prejudice Poldark edition. In which talk of frocks, balls and beaus resounds with sparkling repartees and retorts, echoing Jane Austen’s prose.

(there be spoilers ahead)

RECAP

Francis (Kyle Soller) scythes. Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS

Francis (Kyle Soller) scythes. Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS

You’ll never get it Ross.”—Francis Poldark

What?”—Ross Poldark

Justice for all.”—Francis Poldark

Fair wages would be a start.”—Ross Poldark

With the image of the shirtless and buff Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) scything his field in episode three still fresh in our minds, the scene of his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller) attempting the same sends an entirely different message. Moral fortitude vs. weakness has won the day. Taking the initiative and rebuilding your life has paid off for Ross. Will his cousin rise to the challenge? The omen that Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) foretold of the dark and fair Poldark, “The stronger rises as the weaker falls,” has flipped in the five years since Ross’s return. The only ammunition that Francis has left to wound his cousin is sarcasm and doubt. Continue reading

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, by Winston Graham – A Review

Demelza A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 by Winston Graham 2015 x 200From 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) Continue reading

Poldark Season One Episode Five on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (2015)

Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner), new dad, bad-ass miner and wavering lover.

Last week in episode 4 of Poldark the scandal mongers were in high dudgeon after the marriage of Ross to his kitchen maid Demelza, Uncle Charles’ death forced his son Francis to become more than a lawn ornament, Demelza Doolittle discovered that becoming a lady is hard work and Ross had an epiphany–he loves his wife!

This week everyone is RECKLESS AND BOLD—gambling on their future and love: Mark Daniel in his choice of bride, Keren; Ross in his new business venture, Demelza in her defiance, and Francis with his livelihood. The only person who is nonplussed is George Warleggan.

(there be spoilers ahead)

RECAP

Sabrina Bartlett as Keren Smith in Poldark (2015 )

Keren Smith (Sabrina Bartlett), a player on more than just the stage, one suspects.

I am undone: there is no living, none,

If Bertram be away. ‘Twere all one

That I should love a bright particular star

And think to wed it, he is so above me.” — Keren Smith as Helena in All’s Well That Ends Well 

Two new important characters have entered the Poldark sphere: Dr. Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) and Keren Smith (Sabrina Bartlett). While Dr. Enys (in this screen version) is Ross Poldark’s (Aidan Turner) amiable army buddy arriving in Cornwall to study miners lung ailments, Keren is a seductive siren, an actress performing in a traveling troop who captures the heart of miner Mark Daniel (Matthew Wilson). Did any other Shakespeare fans recognize her soliloquy during the stage production? It is Helena’s lament for her love Bertram from All’s Well That Ends Well  by Shakespeare—a very interesting selection for the screenwriter to choose. I will not say more, lest I spoil it for everyone. Mark agrees to Keren’s demanding terms for a marriage. He has four days to prepare a home for her or she leaves. Anyone read Why Men Love Bitches? She might have ghost written it. Just sayin’. Continue reading

Poldark Season One Episode Four on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza in Episode 4 of Poldark (2015)

“They like you.” proclaims Demelza to Ross. No kidding, sweetie!

Last week, episode three of Poldark began with Ross re-opening his family copper mine, Demelza catching his eye while dancing at a local villager’s wedding, Jim’s trial for poaching ending badly, and Ross, after a hellish day arguing with Demelza while trying to resist the temptations of the flesh, succumbing to said temptations, ending in their surprise nuptials. Whoa!

This week, as the scandal of their wedding rocks the community and sours Ross’s business venture, Uncle Charles joins the blessed above (or below), and Verity instructs Demelza on becoming a lady. A first Christmas together for Romelza is shared with the dreaded Poldark family at Trenwith, resulting in a revelation for Ross.

(there be spoilers ahead)

RECAP

Beatie Edney as Prudie and Philip Davis as Jud in Poldark (2015)

Prudie (Beatie Edney) and Jud (Philip Davis), servants of Nampara

One minute she is skiverly scullery kitchen maid, the next she be Mistress High and Mighty.” — Jud

Do you think it not as strange to me as it is to you? Do you imagine I ever looked for or expected it? Come to think of it, it is more your fault than mine.” — Demelza

How be that then?” — Jud

Tis you that raised me up and taught me all I know. So If I am fit for better than I hoped, blame yourselves for educating me.” — Demelza

The whole community is shocked by the news of Demelza and Ross’s marriage, including his caustic family, the scheming Warleggans (who smell a profit to be made from society’s prejudice), and the two Nampara servants, Jud and Prudie, who finally confront her. I just love how Demelza (clever girl) turns the sword around and points it firmly back at her former fellow servants while complimenting them at the same time. Touché! Continue reading

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, by Winston Graham – A Review

Ross Poldark A Novel of Cornwall, 1783 to1787 2015 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Never having watched the original series on Masterpiece Theatre in the 1970s, I was unfamiliar with Ross Poldark and a little curious about the buzz surrounding the new BBC/PBS series starring Aidan Turner. I wondered whether there was more to Ross Poldark than his good looks. When Laurel Ann Nattress assured Austenprose readers that Ross was a hero every bit as worthy of their warm regard as Mr. Darcy, John Thornton or Mr. Rochester, I decided to read the first novel in Winston Graham’s saga and decide for myself.

Ross Poldark is subtitled “A Novel of Cornwall 1783-1787” and is strongly rooted in the geography, people, and events of the Cornish countryside. The wind and the sea figure as characters in their own right. In the book’s prologue, six months before Ross returns from fighting in America, his father Joshua is close to death.

He felt he would like one more look at the sea, which even now was licking at the rocks behind the house. He had no sentimental notions about the sea; he had no regard for its dangers or its beauties; to him it was a close acquaintance whose every virtue and failing, every smile and tantrum he had come to understand. (10)

Continue reading

Talking Frocks and Breeches with Poldark Costume Designer Marianne Agertoft

Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner in Poldark (2015)

One of the things I look forward to in period dramas is the costuming. For years we have been treated to fashionable Regency-era finery in Jane Austen adaptations, but the new Masterpiece Classic series Poldark takes us into an earlier era in British history. Set in 1780’s provincial Cornwall, the main plot line revolves around the Poldark family, their neighbors and their tenants—supplying an array of characters from different social classes. Curious about the late Georgian clothing in Poldark, I asked costume designer Marianne Agertoft to joins us today for a Q & A.

LAN: Welcome Marianne.

MA: Hi Laurel Ann. Thank you so much for your interest in the costumes for Poldark.

It was a great and passionate journey for all of us in the costume team and it is wonderful that the work is being appreciated.

Captain George K. H. Coussmaker by Joshua Reynolds (1782)

Portrait of Captain George K. H. Coussmaker by Joshua Reynolds (1782)

LAN: From a layman’s point of view, being a costume designer looks like a very glamorous job. You get to spend your day being creative, researching history, playing with fabric, and working with celebrities! Can you share with us what your typical day was like while working on the costumes for Poldark Continue reading

Poldark Season One Episode Three on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson in Episode 3 of Poldark (2015)

Ross! Just say yes to the dress, already!

Last week in episode two of Poldark we saw Ross and Elizabeth’s sexually charged dance at the assembly ball reveal their continued attraction, the wile Warleggans planting seeds of destruction and Demelza, cleaned up and earning admiration from her employer.

This week in episode three we witness two weddings and a scything.

Fair warning. This episode is packed with so many plotlines that even this most astute fan needed to take extensive notes. In addition (if you did not blink) we witnessed a mine opening, scurrilous gossip, two births, a near fatal heart attack, more scurrilous gossip, a court trial, accusations of sin, said sin actualized, and of course, more slithering on the sidelines by those dastardly Warleggans.

(there be spoilers ahead)

RECAP

Are the rumors true do you think? — Dr. Choake

Well, he’s a damn fool if they are not.” — Horace Treneglos

Rumors are afoot in Cornwall. Captain Poldark may have employed the13 year-old Demelza with honorable intensions to save her from beatings and starvation, but society can only see the scandal in it. Are these comments telescoping what will come now that she is 17 and a beautiful young woman?

Jason Squibb and Aidan Turner in Episode 3 of Poldark (2015)

Rev. Odger (Jason Squibb) lays on the implied guilt to Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner)

Continue reading

Poldark Season One Episode Two on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Poldark Season One Aidan Turner and Heida Reed

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark and Heida Reed as Elizabeth Poldark

We were mesmerized by last week’s premiere of Poldark on Masterpiece. Even though it was a front loading fest—to get us up to speed on the characters and lay of the land—the energy and tension really propelled our interest (and admiring gaze) toward what promises to be a swash and buckle summer.

This week in episode two, Ross dances, George wiles and Demelza washes her hair!

BRIEF RECAP (there be spoilers ahead)

A scandalous suicide and closure of another mine shocks the community, bringing the dangers of running a mine close to home. Undaunted, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) is determined to reopen Wheal Leisure, his father’s derelict copper mine. After discussions with friendly banker Mr. Pascoe (Richard Hope), they are hopeful to acquire investors in the scheme. Ross asks his cousin Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller) to join him as a partner in his venture, but he is reluctant, surprised by Ross’s altruistic reasons for resurrecting the mine to help his tenants. In a rare moment of doubt, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) expresses concern to his Uncle Cary (Pip Torrens) of their culpability in the death of mine owner Lord Basset after not extending his loans. Continue reading

Poldark Season One Episode One on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Poldark Season One opening title x 800

We wonder why tricorn hats went out of style. They were so commanding. In the 18th century all the important men wore them: General George Washington, King George III, Catherine the Great, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Captain Ross Poldark. POLDARK? Who is Ross Poldark you ask? Well period drama fans, if you don’t know who that is by now, let me tell you. After viewing the first episode of the new reboot of the eponymous BBC/PBS period drama Poldark you will never be puzzled by who this gentleman is again—only why you waited so long to make his acquaintance. He’s handsome. He’s brooding. He’s rebellious. He’s right there on your television screens for seven Sundays in a row this summer on PBS.

The Tricorn Hat Hall of Fame x 500

Masterpiece Theatre (now Masterpiece Classic) first introduced us to Cap’n Poldark in  their landmark 1975 screen adaptation of author Winston Graham’s best-selling novels. The two season, 29 episode series was a huge hit on both sides of the pond. Forty years ago English actor Robin Ellis filled those big, black boots. Teenage fan girls mobbed him like he was one of the Beatles. The show made him a star.

This time around the iconic romantic hero nonpareil is played by Irish actor Aidan Turner. Up until this point he has played the trifecta of on-screen para-normal beings: a vampire (Being Human), a hobbit (The Hobbit) and a werewolf (Mortal Instruments). Could this strikingly handsome actor play the most complex romantic hero to grace our screens since Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester or Mr. Thornton? We shall see. Continue reading