Ross and Demelza are facing dark times in this third instalment of the Poldark series, not only are they still mourning the loss of their daughter, but Ross is also facing a trial at the Bodmin Assizes for inciting a riot and looting two ships that ran aground during a storm at the end of the previous book. Most of the evidence against Ross has been concocted by his business rival, George Warleggan, who wants to rid himself of the Poldark family once and for all.
Ross is also facing bankruptcy due to the failure of his business venture and it seems like there is no way out for the Poldarks. However, Ross discovers he still has influential allies and a reconciliation with his cousin, Francis, just may be the answer to his problems. While Ross’s enemies bay for his blood, the man himself seems resigned to his fate but no one reckons on the resilience of Demelza who barges her way into the highest echelons of society to fight for her husband. Steadfast and loyal, Demelza remains a source of strength to Ross, despite the coming trial and financial woes which place a great deal of strain on their marriage.
Jeremy Poldark is more like a transitional journey for the Poldarks as old scores are laid to rest and new alliances built. The brittle relationship between Ross and his cousin, Francis, who was partly responsible for the failure of Ross’s business, is finally resolved and the Poldarks put on a united front to save their family from ruin. Unfortunately, the peace also reminds Ross of how much he once loved Elizabeth and he is fully aware her marriage to Francis is an unhappy one. As she watches Ross and Elizabeth renew their acquaintance, Demelza’s insecurities rise to the surface once more much to my annoyance because it is getting tedious. After more than two years of marriage, Demelza should be more secure in her place as Ross’s wife but this failure is more down to Ross’s lack of understanding than anything else. Ross is still at the stage where he can’t fully appreciate Demelza and it makes me want to slap him sometimes.
Much of the first part of the novel is taken up by Ross’s trial and Demelza’s actions to secure his freedom. The trial itself was a curious affair as Ross, the accused, did most of the cross-examination himself which seems very strange compared to modern trials. No one thinks this is strange at all so I’m guessing it was how things were done back then. Naturally, the majority of the witnesses called have a grudge to bear against Ross but there are some unexpected twists as testimonies are changed and loyalties tested.
Since this is only the third instalment of a lengthy series, I suppose it is not really spoiling anything to reveal the outcome of the trial is favourable for Ross and he returns to Nampara with a renewed sense of purpose. However, just as Ross is building bridges with his estranged family, he inadvertently upsets Demelza by declaring he is in no rush to have more children, fearing he cannot endure the pain of further loss. Unbeknownst to Ross, Demelza is already pregnant and she withdraws into herself, leading to all sorts of misunderstandings.
Since the Poldarks take centre stage in this instalment, there is less focus on the working class tenants but they remain as loyal to Ross as they have always been when they appear. The idealistic young doctor, Dwight Enys, is given a larger role to play as he continues to battle against the diseases that plague the poor due to inadequate nourishment. He has an unexpected ally in the shape of Caroline Penvenen, a wealthy young woman who seems to be attracted to him, however she is betrothed to another and Enys can’t afford to be in the middle of another romantic entanglement.
Ross and Demelza’s son, Jeremy, is born towards the end of the novel which leads me to wonder why the book was named after him since he doesn’t have much of a part to play just yet. So, a bleak start gives way to a new sense of hope for the Poldarks, however there are also plenty of dark clouds looming to keep the drama going.