The story begins with the birth of Julia, Ross and Demelza’s first child, whose very presence brings her parents closer together but also highlights the social differences between them as two christenings have to be arranged to accommodate their family and friends. While taking on the struggles of motherhood, Demelza is also continuing her self-improvement project so she won’t embarrass Ross at social gatherings, however it is no coincidence she seems to be winning over the men more than their wives. As if this wasn’t enough to be going on with, Demelza takes it upon herself to rescue Ross’s cousin, Verity, from a life of solitude after having her heart broken.
In Ross Poldark, Verity fell in love with Captain Andrew Blamey and her family seemed happy about the match until they learned Blamey was responsible for the death of his pregnant wife while in a drunken rage. Although Verity was willing to forgive and forget, her brother drove Blamey away, leaving his sister with a broken heart. Months later, Verity has resigned herself to a solitary life but she hasn’t reckoned on Demelza’s interference. Caught up in the romance of the story, Demelza is determined to bring Verity and Blamey back to each other, however she doesn’t think things through and sets in motion a disastrous chain of events.
Demelza is the second volume in the Poldark series and as you might expect, the book expands on the character of Demelza as she continues to transform herself into a lady. The characters of Ross and Demelza continue to be the backbone and heart of this series, I would’ve said Ross was ahead of his time in regard to how he rails against social injustice but the French revolution is underway during this novel so maybe he’s more a man of his time than you would think.
Although Ross will probably always harbour feelings for Elizabeth, you can’t help but feel he has made the perfect match in the wild and unpredictable Demelza who follows her heart regardless of the consequences. Demelza does a lot of naive things but she reacts mainly on instinct and genuinely believes she is doing what is best for her loved ones even if they do not agree.
Curiously enough, while everyone is condemning Blamey for murdering his wife for which he claims to be making reparations, the plot is mirrored in the story of Mark Daniel, a local miner, who marries Keren, an actress in a travelling company. Mark falls in love with Keren, eventually persuading her to marry him, but Keren is a selfish creature who never seems content with her lot and it isn’t long before she is having an affair. When Mark discovers the betrayal, he flies into a rage, choking her to death, but everyone takes his side and even Ross helps him evade the law. It seems a little hypocritical for everyone to look the other way for Mark, although Blamey’s situation is a little more complicated in that Ross doesn’t want to cause problems with his family.
While Demelza is playing cupid, Ross has started a company with a number of influential mine owners who are working in secret to drive up the prices of copper to ensure everyone gets a fair deal. The established businesses don’t like the competition and it isn’t long before the identity of the investors is revealed and their livelihoods threatened by the Warleggan family who have their fingers in many pies. The feud between the Poldarks and the Warleggans begins to take shape as Ross is facing financial ruin and is desperate to claw his way out from under them. Ross’s hatred for society continues to grow and matters are made worse with the death of Jim Carter, the young man Ross was trying to save from prison.
Times are harsh, and Ross struggles to watch as his tenants fight starvation and illness on a daily basis which just increases his resentment for the upper classes. No longer able to contain his disdain, Ross becomes more and more alienated to the point he is picking fights at social gatherings and generally making himself unpopular. Ross seems to be burning a lot of bridges in this book, and I have a feeling it may backfire on him spectacularly soon.
While some storylines carried over from Ross Poldark are resolved, the seeds for new plots are sown at a regular basis which means this saga still has plenty of adventures to explore.