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Tough, independent and fiercely loyal to their own, the lead miners of Weardale are bitterly opposed to the Established Church, in the person of the Bishop of Durham, who owns the land and takes the profits from their dangerous labours. So when new curate Edward Selby takes up his duties in the dale, he is shown little kindness.
But to Jenny Emerson, handsome, adoring Edward is a vision from another world, far from the tragedy and hardship of her daily life. When, unexpectedly, he proposes to her, she can hardly believe her good fortune.
But the gulf between Weardale and Regency drawing rooms is not so easily bridged. Shunned by her friends – even her own brothers – patronised by Edward’s haughty family, Jenny no longer has a place in either world. When the long hot summer of 1818 brings unemployment, hunger and unrest among the lead miners, the fuse is lit for a violent confrontation, and Jenny must decide between her feelings for Edward and loyalty to her own.
Part of Chapter 2:
Later, making her way, clogs slithering, through the churned up mud of the market place, her shopping done, Jenny thought of the man from Billy’s past who had returned so unexpectedly. What had he found, out there beyond the hills that sheltered the dale? To her the outside world was a remote and dream-like place, hard to imagine yet infinitely desirable; a place where men did not toil in the earth for lead until they died of it, where children were not left fatherless and women could hope to see their husbands grow old, to share a lifetime with them, a long lifetime. Why should anyone, once away, want to come back to this place of heartbreak? She looked around her, at the grey sky and the grey houses and the squalid streets, and the endless miserable rain that blotted out all sight of the hills, and could see nothing remotely enticing in any of it.
‘Stranger in the Land’ is a sequel to this story.