Someone smarter than me needs to review this book. Like, STAT. This would make an incredible book club selection, the conversations and discussions would be great.
Ok, so like a Rose Lerner and Courtney Milan book, this is impossible for me to write a coherent review because of thoughts and feelings. The gist is Geraint grew up in Wales with people thinking he was a bastard but at age 12 he is whisked away because his mother didn't lie, she was married to an Earl's heir and Geraint is now the heir. His grandfather forbids him any contact with his mother and past friends, Marged and Aled, from Wales. After a little over a decade away, he returns and is pretty much shunned by everyone because of how awful the economic system has been running, poor getting taxed to death. The author uses the real historical Rebecca Riots as a plot point and to help Geraint integrate himself with the people.
But oh my dearies, this book is so much more, the economic and class issues are the main theme with sexism also being touched on. To be honest, the romance took a definite back seat for me and I actually liked the secondary couple better than the main. The first three chapters or so give this a really slow beginning but stick with it, the author weaves an incredible tale. It is emotional, thought provoking, and intelligent; I don't find books like this too often. This has been in my garage sale book box for many years and I'm actually glad it took me so long to get to, I don't think I could have appreciated this when I was younger; I think this would be better for a mature audience. I would call this a mash-up of Rose Lerner (class/economic issues) and The Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss (main couple's relationship).
This is a book to help you get it, why and how people's fear and helplessness create anger because they have nowhere to turn to or recourse and the courageous and dangerous acts this produces. I am disappointed this doesn't have a re-issue in ebook format. I also want to start the battle cry for Idris to get his own book.
If I was a part of book club discussion:
But the challenge of journalism is to try to separate truth from prejudice and hysteria and report accurately what is fair to both sides.
I don't think the relevance of this book will ever die out but this line hit me extra hard. The importance journalism plays in this story, well, it will remind you why we need to keep fighting for a free media system.
But Geraint had always felt disliked. Not that he had ever been self-pitying about it. But he had built defenses, of which Aled, as his one close friend apart from Marged Llwyd, had been aware. The defense of not caring a fig for anyone as a child. The added defense of aloofness as an eighteen-year-old and the firm hiding behind his newly acquired Englishness and his gentleman's manners.
We don't get heroes like Geraint very often; he was the epitome of still a hurt, lonely child inside mixed with strength, compassion, and courage. The author did an amazing job showing how people create defense mechanisms to help them survive and how this can help and hinder them in their personal relationships.
"Goddammit," Geraint said, "we were friends, Aled. You and Marged and I. Marged told me to get away from Ty-Gwyn. She told me I could shove my sympathy for her down my throat---I believe she was itching to suggest a different location. She told me I was not welcome. And you tell me I have a vivid imagination. Don't make this lonelier for me than it has to be, many. What have I done?"
When Geraint finally returns to Wales, he finds he can't just waltz in and be accepted. He's rich and part of the system destroying the people's lives, like his old friend's Aled and Marged. Aled was such a great character, shy but bold in his strength. Aled was the friend who tells it like it is, without anger or hate towards Geraint but with a calm open your eyes and educate yourself.
"Ignorance is no plea, is it?" he said.
Not then and especially not in 2017.
Most were enthusiastically in favor of showing their displeasure and their frustration---and their fear---in some active manner.
Fear was a dreadful emotion when it was accompanied by utter helplessness.
Something was wrong. It would have been farcical if it were not also deadly serious.
Using the Rebecca Riots was brilliant and helped educate me (I had to immediately go and research it further) on a personal little known historical occurrence. It beautifully showcased all the angles people take when injustice is massively tipped to one side.
And yet he saw now more than ever before that people of his class could not act as individuals for all their privileges. If they did not act as a class, as a unit, they might all crumble.
Again, the author was brilliant in showing all sides and directions of classism and how that can create injustice and as Geraint discovers, there is no easy fix because it is a system and not an individual person to easily attack.
The necessity for rebelling in order to draw attention would be past.
"I am fighting against a system, Marged," he said, "against an injustice that is larger than one person. I do not hate anyone."
"It shows," she said. "You are so very careful that no one if hurt during the smashing of gates, either on our side or on the other side. And somehow you arrange it that those who suffer material loss are compensated. You are a compassionate man. Is that why you are doing this, then? You are fighting against a system rather than against people?"
"Yes," he said.
"It is better than hatred," she said. "Hatred---hurts."
People as a whole don't want to constantly be at odds, they want to be a part of society and contribute. They want the system fixed or the first step at bare minimum to be taken, acknowledgement that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.
She was still angry. Perhaps angrier with him than she might have been because she was angry with herself.
Oh, Marged. I can see some great discussions happening about this heroine. The quickest and easiest assessment to make of her is bitter and hateful. Our heroines have to be kind, softhearted, and forgiving at all times, don’t they? Marged burns that thought to the ground. Marged is angry, she's angry that Geraint left her when she loved him as a child, she's angry at the system that killed her husband, and instead of crying on the inside, she flings her anger at Geraint.
Hatred, she was discovering, was too powerful an emotion. Too like love. Sometimes the two were indistinguishable. Perhaps if she had not loved him, she would never have hated him. She would merely have disliked and despised him.
Marged's anger and helplessness finds a convenient and pretty undeserved target of Geraint. Her warring of emotions gave their relationship passion. For every review I see that says they hated the heroine, I want thesis after thesis discussing the complexity of burdens of womanhood, their rights and privileges during this time period, how women are “allowed” to behave, and how individuals deal with convoluted emotions.
She also helped to provide the story with some romance angst ;)
"I am glad you were so stubborn," she said. "I am glad we never married, Aled."
He swallowed awkwardly. "I love you, cariad," he said.
"No," she said. "It is something other than love that rules your life, Aled. It is hatred and the desire for revenge. It is the desire for destruction and violence."
"It is the desire for a better life," he said, "and the conviction that we have a right to it. It is the belief that I owe it to myself and to my neighbors and to my unborn children---if I ever have any---to do something I cannot allow others to do for me, cariad."
"Neither could Eurwyn," she said bitterly. "But he died and left Marged and his mam and gran to manage without him. And no one has a better life as a result of what he did."
He lifted one hand to cup the back of her head. "It is what you are afraid of?" he asked softly. "That I will die and leave you alone? It is better, you think, not to marry me and not to have my little ones if I recklessly court death?"
She was crying then and trying to pull away from him. But his arms closed about he like iron bands. And he kissed the top of her head, the wet cheek that was exposed to him, and finally the wet face she lifted to him. He kissed her mouth with hunger, parting his lips with his own.
"Tell me you love me," he whispered against her lips. "It has been so long since I heard you say the words. Tell me I am your cariad."
But she struggled then and freed herself and turned back to face the gate, his coat held about her shoulders with both her hands. "No," she said. "You are not my love, Aled. And I do not believe Marged is my friend any longer. I am sorry for it. Marged is causing mischief and you are talking of breaking down tollgates with perhaps hundreds of men to make a mob. Someone will get hurt. It may be you or it may be Marged. But worse, it may be someone else, hurt because of you or Marged. I cannot love you any longer. No, let me put it differently. I will not love you any longer. But you knew that. We have argued it out before. Let there be an end now. No more scenes like this. It is over."
"And yet," he said, "you still love me."
"You were not listening." She released her hold on his coat and let it slide to the ground.
"Ah, yes," he said sadly, "I was, cariad."
She said nothing more. And he could think of nothing more to say either. She would not give up her conviction that protest and violence were never justified, and he would not give up his conviction that they were and that if he wanted to see change and thought someone should do something about effecting it, then he must be willing to do his part. He could no longer stand back and let the Eurwyns of this world do his fighting for him. He must fight for himself. Even if it meant giving up the one good thing in his life that had given it meaning and direction for the past six years. For four of those years he had worked long , hard hours in his forge, making himself worthy of her, making for her a secure future and preparing a comfortable home. And now for two he had taken the course best calculated to drive her away forever. But there was nothing he could do to change that. For if he could not offer her his integrity, then he had nothing worth offering at all.
Aled and Ceris were the secondary romance and I ate them up with a spoon. Talk about two sides of a coin and a wonderful showcase of how society needs both ways of thinking in order to challenge and change the system and keep societal civility. If Aled and Marged were the hundred reasons to passionately act out, Ceris was the hundred reasons to intellectually not to. Aled and Ceris' relationship, gah, their quiet love for each other just killed me.
This is a little slow at times and to ensure a happy ending, two very serendipitous moments had to occur but it was all so worth it for me.
If you're looking for more romance, this probably wouldn't be for you. If you're looking for a quick and easy story, this probably wouldn't be for you. If you're looking for complexity in thought and emotion, this is definitely for you.
This whole story felt like a very intimate peek into people's lives, they weren't just characters to me.