After falling in love with the mysterious Stephen Carrington in The Stranger from the Sea, Clowance finally makes her mind up about her future and the couple get engaged. Although neither Ross nor Demelza are particularly pleased with her choice, they choose not to interfere and Ross helps Stephen to get a job with the local miller. Despite her happiness, Clowance still feels troubled by Stephen’s association with other women, particularly with the ailing Violet Kellow, and his growing resentment towards her family.
For Jeremy, the installation of the new steam engine at Wheal Leisure is an exciting time and a chance for him to prove himself to his father, however the mine is slow to yield any results and the finances are becoming tighter. Preoccupied with the mine, Jeremy has been doing his best to forget Cuby Trevanion, but it he finds it nearly impossible when he keeps bumping into her socially and realises he is still in love with her. However, if Jeremy wants to maintain a friendship with Cuby, he’s going to have to accept the fact she is determined to marry a wealthy man to help her family out of their financial problems.
While the eldest children are busy sorting out their futures, Ross is shocked when Demelza announces she is pregnant again and is convinced it will be a boy. Although Ross is excited by the prospect of another son, he can’t help worrying about Demelza’s health as the pregnancy seems to be taking a lot out of her.
The Miller’s Dance is the ninth book in The Poldark Saga following the adventures of the Poldark family and their neighbours in Cornwall, however not much happens and it is spoiled somewhat by the lack of interesting characters.
Much of the attention is on Stephen Carrington and his blossoming relationship with Clowance, however he is no romantic brooding hero. Graham is still keeping us in the dark about Stephen’s secrets but his true colours are definitely beginning to show since we are privy to the characters innermost thoughts to ensure there can be no mistake. As Stephen is whispering sweet nothings into Clowance’s ear, he is actually thinking more about what lies beneath her dress and exactly what he’d like to do to her. I actually don’t like this form of storytelling, and while Graham has done this throughout the series, he seems to be relying on it rather too much in the later books. Stephen’s true motives should be obvious from his actions, and there should be no need for the author to clarify anything. While there is nothing wrong in desiring your future wife, his whole manner is disrespectful and his thoughts are highly unsavoury. Yet, this is also the same man who behaves so tenderly towards a dying young woman and sleeps with her (at her request) so she can experience sex before she dies.
As for Jeremy, his fascination with steam is very repetitive and while the installation of the new engine at the mine is an important plot point, the endless descriptions of it are not and had me skipping passages. Graham also introduces Richard Trevithick, a real life Cornish engineer, to dampen Jeremy’s enthusiasm for his steam powered carriage which Trevithick claims will need an engine no one is yet capable of inventing. Jeremy’s lack of success at the mine, coupled with his heartache over Cuby, leads him into doing something I feel is entirely out of character.
Elsewhere, Ross and Demelza are somewhat pushed into the background as their children make some big decisions about their lives, however they are more preoccupied with an unexpected pregnancy which puts a lot of strain on Demelza’s health. The relationship between Ross and Demelza is very tender in this novel and quite humorous at times, but it is laced with anxiety as Ross fears for Demelza’s wellbeing. On more than once occasion, Ross alludes to how Elizabeth died in childbirth, worrying the same thing will happen to Demelza, however he is still unaware of the potion Elizabeth took and Dwight Enys continues to keep her secret.
Although not much seemed to happen in this book, I get the feeling things are slowly building plot wise and several characters are on a collision course to disaster.