As the war with Napoleon draws to a close, Geoffrey Charles returns to Cornwall on leave with his new Spanish wife, Amadora, and reclaims Trenwith which has fallen into decline over the years. Faced with the monumental task of renovating the place, Geoffrey Charles persuades his old friend Drake Carne to help him manage it but Trenwith holds dark memories for Morwenna Carne.
Jeremy Poldark, feeling guilty over his part in the stagecoach robbery in The Miller’s Dance has yet to spend his share of the loot and is feeling despondent about the direction his life is taking. Despairing of ever winning Cuby’s heart and losing interest in his steam projects, Jeremy decides to follow his cousin Geoffrey Charles’s example by joining the army.
Jeremy’s partners in crime, Stephen Carrington and Paul Kellow, have had no such regrets and have used the loot to boost their businesses. Stephen returns as the head of a new fledgling shipping business which he claims was financed with an inheritance he received from a deceased relative, and he throws Clowance’s world into chaos when she realises she still loves him. When Stephen becomes dangerously ill, Clowance nurses him back to health and eventually accepts his marriage proposal. Although Ross and Demelza remain dubious about the match, they do not interfere and the pair marry.
Elsewhere Selina Pope is finally freed from her loveless marriage when her much older husband dies unexpectedly, however things get complicated when it is evident his death was a result of catching his wife in a comprising situation with another man. The identity of the young man is kept quiet, but it isn’t long before news of a secret marriage between Selina and Valentine Warleggan becomes common knowledge.
The Loving Cup is the tenth book in The Poldark Saga following the adventures of the Poldark family and their neighbours in Cornwall, and its title is derived from a small silver cup which is hidden in a cave along with the rest of the stagecoach loot. The cup is inscribed with the words Amor gignit amorem which means love produces love, so it is hardly surprising love is a major feature of this book as the younger generation begins to settle down.
The first few chapters are largely taken up with the long overdue return of Geoffrey Charles to Trenwith and it is no accident his arrival mirrors that of his older cousin, Ross, in the first book. Like Ross, Geoffrey Charles finds his childhood home in a sad state of neglect since Trenwith has lain empty for a long time, however, unlike Ross, Geoffrey Charles has the means to renovate the place thanks to his wife’s wealthy family. While work is being carried out at Trenwith, Geoffrey Charles spends most of his time catching up with old friends and invites Drake Carne to work for him. Although Drake is happy running Ross’s boating business, he wants to accept Geoffrey Charles’s offer but Trenwith was not a particularly happy place for Morwenna and he has to consider her feelings.
Once Geoffrey Charles returns to the army, this part of the story peters out and our attention is then drawn to the fate of the Poldark children. The topsy-turvy romance between Clowance and Stephen takes another twist when he returns after having invested his share of the stagecoach loot in a small shipping business which he hopes to expand with a loan from the Warleggan bank. However, Stephen doesn’t realise George Warleggan has set a trap for the stagecoach robbers by printing misleading information about the serial numbers on the stolen bank notes and he has already traced one to Stephen. Despite this, George decides to give Stephen his loan but there is a definite impression Stephen may have just done a deal with the devil which he will have cause to regret.
While Clowance and Stephen finally marry, poor old Jeremy is still pining for Cuby Trevanion who seems to spurn his attentions at every opportunity. Jeremy is shocked when he learns a marriage has been arranged between Cuby and Valentine, and despairs there is nothing left for him but to join the army. Jeremy is urged to forget Cuby so he befriends the lonely Selina Pope but this proves to be a misdirection as we are supposed to suspect the pair become lovers. When Selina’s husband dies, we learn his final collapse was caused by discovering his wife in bed with another man. While Katie Carter was a witness to the whole sorry scene, her vow to keep her mistress’s indiscretion a secret is moot as the story is already circulating amongst the other servants, although they don’t know the identity of the man in question.
When Valentine’s secret marriage to Selina is finally revealed, George reacts furiously, however an elated Jeremy is eager to take advantage of the situation by persuading Cuby to elope with him. By this time, Demelza has worked out Jeremy’s involvement in the stagecoach robbery and has retrieved the loving cup from its hiding place. When Jeremy sees the cup in plain sight at Nampara, he panics when he realises his mother knows the truth but then he begins to think the cup may be an omen. Reading the inscription, Jeremy makes his mind up to approach Cuby once again and he succeeds in persuading her to elope.
While everyone seems to be happy for once, there are plenty of alarm bells ringing and there is a sense of doom hanging over more than one couple. Poor Selina’s hopes of finally being happy are cruelly shattered when Valentine reveals he only married her for her land and this is one of the most devastating scenes in the whole book. For Clowance, while her marriage seems happy enough, Stephen’s scheming may have disastrous consequences as George Warleggan has them both in his sights. There are also big changes ahead for Ross and Demelza as Ross has been offered a baronetcy and the Prime Minister wants to send him to Paris as an observer. So, there seems to be plenty of heartache to come.