The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall
Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …
Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she has been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.
Brought together by unknown circumstances, and fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?
Reading historical romance can be a bit of a minefield for an historian. My research spans the 17th to 19th centuries, but I spend my time predominantly in the 19th century. With novels there must be a level of give and take; I’m not one to insistent on stringent historical accuracy, but there is a line in the sand however, that when crossed makes reading some historical novels impossible. Daughter of River Valley has such an intriguing plot that I couldn’t resist, and it was with hope and a little trepidation that I started to read. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, slow-burning romance, with enough twists and turns to make it a bit of a roller-coaster ride – albeit of the gentle sort.
In general terms, while the 19th century was one of innovation, industrialisation, and progress on many fronts, a great many rural and cottage industries were lost or mechanised. Cornish mining was at once point a leading, cutting edge industry, but copper mining was petering out by the 1840s, and while tin mining boomed, it too was dying by the 1870s. It was a case of bust following boom. Cornish mining was also at the mercy of globalisation as other countries started mining tin and copper less expensively, and we started importing it. (Sound like our recent history?) Arguably, the greatest exports Cornwall gave the world were its miners and their expertise. Our tale is set against this sad background.
Beth is an amazing young woman, proud and self-reliant. Having found an intruder in her cottage and rendered him unconscious, she hilariously tries to move him out before he comes around. Her worry about being arrested is all too real, as is her concern over being watched, and her ownership of the cottage. She wants this man gone, but her guilt coupled with a compassionate nature, makes her get help and nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, he has no idea who he is, and no clues about his person. Although strong and independent, Beth has insecurities from her childhood that make trusting new people difficult, and a vulnerability that has her questioning herself. She has suspicions she can’t prove, and a stubborn self-reliance that won’t let her take things at face value.
Luke/Joss is equally proud and equally vulnerable, and not just because of his loss of memory. His nightmares allude to a dark period of his life; demons that he is half convinced make him either a criminal or a ‘bad man’. At the same time there is a gentleness that hovers beneath his scowling, sullen demeanour. Like Beth, he is stubborn as a mule, and just as fiercely independent, even though he needs her help. He displays skills that belie Beth’s original notion of his social class. Joss is an honourable man, as keen to protect her as well as her reputation. As he works at repairing the shed, Beth can say he is a labourer in her employment.
As soon as you think you have a handle on where the author is taking you, she takes a quick turn, and you head off in a different direction. She does this all through the book, and readers will be wondering by the last few chapters, what on earth is happening with Beth and Joss. It’s a bit nerve-wracking. Both have the shadow of their pasts hanging over them. It informs their behaviour, their reactions to people, and to events. It can be a chain to hamper them, as well as an armour to protect them. Beth does not want to make the same mistake as her mother for example.
All the while we are travelling with these two characters, we are given glorious and vibrant descriptions that bring the Cornish coast and countryside beautifully to life. Altogether Victoria Cornwall has given us an atmospheric and fascinating novel. The captivating romance combined with elements of Cornish history, both fascinating and heart-breaking, raises this from a standard historical novel, to excellent.
Full five stars. Go, read, and enjoy.
Victoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.
Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and her debut novel reached the final for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.
Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
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