Exmoor, 1800. When farmer’s daughter Peggy Shawe meets the charismatic Ralph Duggan, son of a so-called ‘free trader’, it’s love at first sight. Determined to prevent the match, Peggy’s widowed mother sends her daughter to live with the Duggans for six weeks, believing she will be put off marriage to Ralph when she discovers what life is like among a smuggling family.
Matters take a dramatic turn however when Ralph’s brother Philip is suspected of murder, and Ralph and Philip are despatched to distant relatives across the Atlantic. Heartbroken, Peggy vows to be reunited with her lover one day. But it will be several years before she and Ralph are destined to meet again – and in very different circumstances . . .
Rating: 3 Stars
This book has a beautiful cover, evocative of the time period. I love historical stories that tell of a different life – everything from the lords and ladies of the regency period to the working class in Iris Gower’s Swansea, to tales of the tudors or knights and their swords or Scottish Lairds and their remote clans and castles, so this cover conjured up the idea of hours of happy reading for me.
And it was, but the story mostly plodded along. I didn’t like the characters very much, although I did find their way of life interesting. I think I always felt at arms’ length from the characters because the book was written more in a memoir style, with the main character recounting the story of her life, so the narration style was very much more telling than showing. Possibly this is why I never felt a great deal of empathy for Peggy and couldn’t really sympathise with her. Nor did I experience any of her passion for Ralph.
I enjoyed the English setting, and a time period/social class that I don’t often see explored. I think the brutality of history is often overlooked in novels – the harsh weather and living hand to mouth, or the true danger of disease and animal death. I would have liked even more detail about their lives at times, to be shown how Peggy felt about things and what was going on in her head, but this is more difficult within the structure of the memoir.
A good, believable read. A solid three stars from me.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.