Saw the blurb and was compelled to pick this up with little investigation on my part. I saw the romance of a yeoman farmer and a daughter of a gentleman during the mid-Georgian period in Lanchashire and had a feeling about it. And it wasn’t long before I realized that I’d probably picked something up that would rival Poldark in its sweeping settings, atmosphere, deftly drawn characters, and the beginning of a family saga set in interesting times of a market town emerging as a manufacturing center on the cusp of the industrial revolution. In the end, it was all that and delightfully it was only the beginning to the saga. I definitely want more of the Howarths of Kit’s Hill.
The story opens with yeoman farmer, Ned Howarth, proud owner of Kit’s Hill farm tucked in the rugged land within sight of the Pennines, setting out to do something amazing in the eyes of his people. He is a freeman, of a very little education, and situated well financially. Instead of courting a woman from his class, he sends his letter to the refined, well-educated, and genteel Miss Dorcas Wylde. Ned sets in motion something that will engulf his whole life and bring change to a place and people who have remained much the same for long time past.
Dorcas lost both her parents and her home in the south of England and now lives as poor companion to her aunt, a long time spinster. Miss Wylde is adamant that Dorcas refuse the upstart farmer who dared lift his eyes to a well-bred lady while he stunk of the muck of the farm. Dorcas hesitates. Ned’s honesty, his sincerity, and his feelings for her move her in a way that factor against his circumstances. And truly, what can she really look forward to with no real income and life with a crotchety spinster aunt. Dorcas wants to be doing. So against her better judgment, her aunt, and her friends at the vicarage, she finally agrees to Ned Howarth’s proposal.
Ned knows that he cares for Dorcas more than she, him, but he can be patient. Meanwhile, he’ll let her set up as mistress of Kit’s Hill. He is determined that his wife will retain her refinements. But even Ned doesn’t realize how hard it really is for Dorcas to be shunned by all her friends, be looked on with suspicion and animosity by his acquaintance, and struggle with finding her place in his world. However, Dorcas has a spine made of steel and the people of the village and Kit’s Hill soon learn the nature of the woman who has joined them in their hardy world. Dorcas stands beside Ned as his partner and together make a life even as the world is on the move around them.
Over many years, life brings hope, love, heartbreak, sorrow, and growth for the people of Kit’s Hill and beyond.
Alright, so I got a bit of a surprise once I started reading this story. I thought I was getting a good class-difference romance in an uncommon setting. I blame myself for not paying close attention because once I looked more closely at the details I saw that it was clear and it was me who missed it. Yes, I got my romance though it wasn’t the forefront, but it was only part of a larger picture. Dorcas and Ned are the foundation of the story, but it encompasses the history of the place and people as well as a saga that expands into the next generations. The Howarth story takes place over many years. There is lots of description, history, side stories, and a broad cast of characters that are all woven together into one story.
I truly enjoyed this one and I think the comparison to Poldark worthy. The style of writing feels authentic and has the flavor of the classical writers. It can be ponderous and I felt the length of it at times. I’m convinced the page count isn’t accurate on the listing, but I don’t know for sure because my e-reader version only tracked by location. Not that I wasn’t engaged or was bored, but I a few times I thought it was drawing to an end. Of course, when it didn’t and other events came, I realized that the author was right. There were still things that needed to be said. The crisis point for Ned and Dorcas was so well-written. It was beautiful in its fury and feeling. I liked all the historical details and the life of those times. The author made the people come to life for me. There was no glossing over or romanticism. Life was hard and raw back then and thus so were the stories of these folk.
All in all, I was fascinated and loved this historical saga that built from the romance of an unlikely pair. I will definitely be picking up the next book to continue on with the Howarth story. I would recommend this for historical fiction and lovers of sweeter long- building historical romance.
I received this book to read in exchange for an honest review.