In a bid to thin out some of my TBR (*laughs hysterically* yeahright, like that will happen), I've resorted to reading some of the older titles that I've had for years. Yeah, we're talking books written back in the early 90s, and some even in the late 80s. I've reviewed two of them here on Ye Olde Blog. Now, since I am a child of the 80s and graduated high school back in '90, I never thought that I'd classify some of these books as old, or even older. But, hey...whatever, they're showing some age, and I've missed out on some winners with my hoarding tendencies. Some of Mary Balogh's older romances top that list.
For my February Year of the Historical challenge, hosted by Kmont, I chose LONGING by Mary Balogh. (and yeah, I'm still playing with how I want to type out book titles in the blog)
Sian Jones had been to Briain's finest schools, but manners and French lessons did not erase the stigma of being a lord's illegitimate daughter. Perhaps she would have been content among Welsh ironworkers, her mother's people, had not Alexander, Marquess of Craille, arrived to run the mine he inherited.
When the widowed Alexander came to live with his small daughter in turreted Glanrhyd Castle, the welsh poverty shocked him. But a greater jolt came from meeting Sian and the kiss he took before she could draw away. He asked her to be his daughter's governess. But neither pretended that was all he wanted. Even if Sian fought the desire between them, she could not stops the love that was drawing them together...or the passions that ignited beyond denial...
My first thoughts when I got through the beginning chapters of LONGING was that it was going to be a slow, dismal read, that maybe I should choose another historical romance for this month's read. I'm just being honest. But even back then, Mary Balogh had a knack for just making things work; it wasn't long before I was over half way through the book, eager to finish the book. The poor Welsh people under Alex's care may not have had wealth or possessions, but they truly had what was important -- family, strength, verve, and an innate talent for music. He comes to Wales as an obvious outsider, and it's not until he spends time with them that he realizes what he has been missing for years in England -- a sense of belonging. When he meets Sian - or actually, catches her spying on a Chartist meeting in the mountains -- he's at odds as to how to deal with her and is sure he'll never see her again. Erego the kiss...
And just like it usually happens in romance books, she turns up when he least expects it.
The title LONGING not only describes the Alex's physical pull for Sian, or the attraction she quickly denies for him. It's an apt description of what they have both done all of their lives -- longed to be part of something, community, family, love, whatever -- and never realized it until they spend time together. Sian has tried to carve a niche in the Welsh town of Cwmbran, always thinking she was an outsider due to her illegitimacy. It's not until it's almost too late when she realizes that most of her neighbors have always considered her as one of them.
LONGING is both raw and beautifully written, and once I was done with it I realized that I've done myself a serious disservice by not reading it sooner. Is it a keeper? Not sure since I'm not much into holding onto books when I'm finished these days. It's definitely a book that hallmarks the qualities in Balogh's writing that stand out today.
There is a smidge of violence in the book, although I'm sure it is nothing that will shock anyone's sensibilities these days. According to this version of Chartism (link provided above for just what that is), people would do a lot to force workers to join the Chartism movement -- even beatings and whippings. Scotch Cattle was one such group, and no, they're not the cute, furry bovines that I decorate my house with. I really truly wanted to believe that at first. And when I continued reading of the lengths they'd go to, my PC feminist hackles were all up. But it's a story, and one that depicts the desperation of coal workers in Europe back then for fair treatment, higher wages, and better provisions. Think 19th century Welsh Teamsters...yeah, Jimmy Hoffa would've been proud.
(I'm totally digging the links today...)