Despite being written twenty-five years after Warleggan, The Black Moon picks up the lives of the Poldarks a few months after Elizabeth’s marriage to George Warleggan. In the opening chapter, Elizabeth gives birth to her son, Valentine, during an eclipse, hence the title of the book, but it isn’t long before strong hints are dropped the child may have been fathered by Ross, although the characters seem to have come to a mutual agreement never to mention it.
As well as the birth of new children to both families, Demelza’s brothers, Sam and Drake Carne, arrive at Nampara looking for work and a reluctant Ross agrees to let them stay. Both brothers are staunch Methodists, with Sam intent on spreading the word around the locals, however his actions cause problems with Reverend Odgers who isn’t pleased his flock are deserting him.
The Black Moon is another transitional book, in that a lot of new characters and scenarios are introduced which I presume will be a running theme throughout the rest of the series. The most significant of the new characters are the introduction of Demelza’s brothers, Sam and Drake, who cause all sorts of issues. The younger brother, Drake, falls in love with Morwenna Chynoweth, Elizabeth’s cousin, who has come to Trenwith as governess to Geoffrey Charles. While the romance is sweet, it is frankly no different to the other unsuitable relationships we have witnessed so far. As expected, Ross isn’t happy when he learns about the romance but he is more concerned about it fuelling the feud with the Warleggans more than anything else. Drake is definitely the more likeable of the Carne brothers, probably due to his similarities with Demelza, and I also enjoyed his friendship with Geoffrey Charles.
Despite the problems caused by the brothers, Ross and Demelza seem to have put their own troubles behind them and they have never been closer. The success of the latest mining venture means they are no longer struggling financially and Ross is able to begin refurbishing Nampara for his expanding family. However, not everything is rosy, as Ross soon learns his close friend, Dwight Enys, now a navy surgeon, has been captured by the French. As expected, Ross wastes no time in trying to discover the whereabouts of Dwight and eventually mounts his own rescue operation which endangers his life, as well as the men he takes along. But Ross wouldn’t be Ross unless he behaved a little recklessly.
Because of Dwight’s capture, the war with France has a prominent role which is a shame because Cornwall also faces one of its harshest ever winters and Ross fears for the lives of his tenants who are battling with starvation and disease. In Ross Poldark, Ross was set up as a champion of the lower classes and that was one character trait I really grew to admire in him but I feel this has been pushed into the background since. Don’t get me wrong, Ross makes every effort to ensure his tenants are cared for, but it is only mentioned in passing before we move back to the rescue of Dwight. Ross also passes up the chance to become a magistrate of the district which is a great pity as there would’ve been room here for him to question the treatment of those less fortunate.
The Black Moon mirrors Demelza in that it starts with a birth and ends with a death, though not in the same way, however revelations are made that will probably have consequences on all their futures. New plots are woven in seamlessly with the characters as familiar as always, so much so it is hard to believe there has been a twenty-five year gap at all.