The Poldark Perusal - Book 10, The Loving Cup
“Resentment and bitterness and old grudges were dead things, which rotted the hands that grasped them.”
-WINSTON GRAHAM, Poldark
Welcome back to The Poldark Perusal, a series here on the blog documenting my journey through Winston Graham's 12-book Poldark saga. If you're new here, you might as well know that over the last few years, I've come to practically live and breathe Poldark—it's something of a lifestyle at this point! Having first watched the absolutely marvelous BBC / PBS Masterpiece series several times over, I then began my trek through the books—which are every bit as compelling and addictive as the series, I can attest! Documenting that experience through these Perusals has been a real treat—and if you've just finished reading one of the books and need a bit of confirmation that yes, someone else felt that way, too!—then I hope you find that here. :)
Last time, I unpacked Book 9, The Miller's Dance, which was nothing short of a superb 5-star read, as I've come to expect with Winston Graham. It's been such a joy to converse about this series with other readers, and I've heard that the final three books of the saga are marvelous—particularly Book 11: The Twisted Sword, which I keep hearing is one of the greatest of the saga. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's unpack Book 10!
Book 10: The Loving Cup
DISCLAIMER: This review contains in-depth spoilers!
Last time, we left off in a bit of turmoil with Clowance and Stephen's engagement (thankfully) broken, and Jeremy was left broken-hearted at the news of Valentine Warleggan's upcoming marriage to the cold, mercenary Cuby Trevanion. Jeremy and Stephen (rather recklessly) take part in a daring stage-coach robbery against Warleggan Bank—but will there be consequences? Book 10 sees the aftermath of the robbery unfold as Jeremy enlists as a soldier and Stephen, following a short but serious illness, wins Clowance over and they marry. Geoffrey Charles returns to his home of Trenwith, newly married to a Spanish bride, and we see a few old beloved characters return. Demelza discovers the truth about Jeremy's involvement in the robbery, much to her grief. Valentine makes a shocking announcement, and Jeremy uses an opportunity to pledge his heart once again to Cuby.
I think this has been the most shocking book in the series yet, for me personally. Having come as far as Book 10, I've come to expect the nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat turn of events which Graham does so masterfully with these books—but honestly, so much happened in this one that was directly the opposite of what I expected. Repeatedly! I found myself trying to piece together the way things would be, what dramatic events would unfold, and every time Graham counter-acted me. It wasn't dissimilar to reading an Agatha Christie and realizing at the end of the mystery how stupidly wrong you were.
Now, an initial confession. Clowance and Jeremy have aggravated me endlessly—and all the more for their far more aggravating love interests. Stephen Carrington is the "Gaston" of Poldark, and Cuby Trevanion is extremely cold, distant, and unreal. Jeremy lost me completely when he down-spiraled so far that he actually robbed a Warleggan stage-coach, and Clowance, who is so naive and open-hearted that's it's a bad thing, doesn't really serve a part in the story except for her frustrating involvement with Stephen Carrington. Surprisingly, Geoffrey Charles was the real standout character of the book for me, even though he's really only in the first half. He, despite his dubious, over-mothered upbringing, has turned out splendidly. Demelza, I'm happy to say, had a much bigger part in this book than she's had in the last three. Valentine is even fun to read about in spite of his lascivious mischief, but oh, Clowance and Jeremy are just exasperating.
A Trenwith Reunion
Book 10 opens with Captain Geoffrey Charles bringing his Spanish bride, Amadora, home to Trenwith, and we see the opening of their lives together, the reformation of the old house, and the return of a few beloved characters. Surprise, surprise!! Drake and Morwenna return with their daughter, Loveday! That in itself was the most wonderful, unexpected event, as I absolutely had no idea they would ever return to the books again—and they've been two of my very favorite characters of the saga.
Trenwith finally starts to feel...like Trenwith again. The house that held so much tension, drama, secrets and suspicion, alive again. It certainly didn't feel alive back in Book 8 when George discovered Clowance there, and especially not in Book 9, where Clowance and Stephen chose to hold their trysts. It was a dead house, and it's death made the books feel...flatter. In the same way that Elizabeth's loss was felt so keenly like a gaping hole missing from the book that followed her death. But finally, Trenwith has been resurrected, bringing with its revival some of the tense scenes and dramatic confrontations that it used to see...
Geoffrey Charles holds a party to celebrate his return...but things go rather awry. To be honest, this was the greatest part of the entire book. (Our beloved) Morwenna flees to a quiet room to gather her thoughts, interrupted by the memories this house holds for her, of the marriage to Ossie Whitworth that George forced on her...and she thinks again of Ossie. In a terrible, riveting moment, she hears behind her a footstep just like his...the odious smell of him...and she hears the words: "Good evening, mama." John Conan Whitworth, her lost son, grown-up to be just like his father. Oh, Morwenna!! :(
Just afterward, Geoffrey Charles and Valentine (his half-brother, I keep forgetting) exchange harsh words, interrupted by Sir George...and Ross. At last. After all these years, Ross and George have a clash as bitter as they did back in the days of Francis, or of Elizabeth. In one awful moment, George spits out, "It upsets me to think that you ever touched [Elizabeth]!" It's an edge-of-your-seat moment, as he realizes that what he's just said could be taken to mean something entirely different...and his old suspicions have hit daylight. The confrontation is incredibly written, the dialogue is full of tension, as Valentine tries to egg George on to actually fight Ross—who is, perversely after all these years, the calmer one who tries to quiet things down, and actually manages to.
Ross actually is quite rational and clear-sighted in this book! I found myself agreeing with him throughout, which really hasn't much happened before. I was amused that he found Cuby, on his first meeting, to be a "scheming, arrogant, mercenary creature." Ha! Finally, someone who sees her for what she is! In the last two books, we've had to see Cuby through Jeremy's eyes, and because he adored her, I was frustrated to think I might be the only one who actually dislikes her. But lo, and behold! Ross agrees with me!
Demelza Has a Secret...
Meanwhile, the after-math of the stage-coach robbery hasn't quite cooled off. George Warleggan is using all his means to discover who was involved, and I actually believed he would. It's a huge turn of events when the one person who could actually identify Jeremy and Stephen is invited to a party hosted by George for this sole purpose...and dies just before he arrives. Well, that was unexpected. And a bit disappointing. I was fully prepared for Stephen's comeuppance to draw nigh, and the law come down on his shoulders. A failed chance to be rid of the nuisance!
So, there's no way anybody could connect them to the crime now. Or is there? Actually, there is, and it's Demelza. Upon searching for a document in Jeremy's room to give to a friend of his while he's away, she chances upon a newspaper clipping about a certain stage-coach robbery... And the next day, Ben Carter explores Kellow's Ladder, where Jeremy and Stephen and Paul hid the treasure-hoard, and he tells Demelza of his findings there. A bag marked 'J' and a bag marked 'S.' Well, that's suspicious.
Demelza puts two-and-two together fairly quickly, and goes a bit off the edge when she realizes her son has done this terrible thing. But she needs evidence...and in true Demelza fashion, she goes down Kellow's Ladder herself and nearly gets killed in the process! She discovered the bags...and she burns every bit of cash, every incriminating document, and she throws the stolen coins into the sea. That's our Mistress of Nampara. :) She decides to keep the silver 'loving cup' and put it on a shelf in the house for...reasons?
I really, really like Demelza's bit of action here. It seems like we've gone back to seeing her true nature...the same nature of Book 3, when she goes out fishing whilst going into labor. Ha! Our beloved Demelza who won't stop at anything to protect the people she loves... I adore her for throwing all the remaining treasure into the sea. And she has quite a dance with death trying to get out of the cave and climb the broken ladder...though happily, of course she gets out without more than a few bruises and scratches.
These Dratted Kids and Their Dratted Lovers
Now, back to the kids. I don't know why in the world Clowance and Jeremy had to go and pick such aggravating love interests. I genuinely believed Clowance and Stephen had ended things for good back in Book 9...but my hopes were dashed completely when they re-pledged their love after Stephen's illness. Honestly, I thought even then, there's no way they'll actually get married. Alas, I was shocked to be wrong again! They marry...and there's nothing left to be done to stop it.
As for Jeremy, he seems like a lost cause at this point...all because Cuby Trevanion couldn't be his! But just wait...things are about to change all that. Early in the book we're aware that the recently widowed Selina Pope has been "friendly" with Jeremy...but how far that friendliness extended, we were left to guess. And we did guess. Winston Graham arranges this so perfectly—he actually gets the reader to fully believe that Jeremy was having an affair with Selina. But lo, he wasn't! And who was? Why, Valentine Warleggan himself.
George speaks to Valentine about his upcoming marriage to Cuby...but Valentine makes quite a shocking announcement as to why he won't and can't marry Cuby. ...He's already married! To Selina Pope! I've got to admit, I didn't see that coming. So it wasn't Jeremy after all...and Cuby is free now! Meanwhile, Valentine and George's relationship is absolutely broken. As Valentine tells his father...
"...I shall enjoy the freedom of seeing nothing of you. You poisoned my mother's life with your insane suspicions and jealousies; and I am only happy and relieved that you will have no further opportunity to poison mine!"
So Valentine and George are cut off, but eventually Selina Pope comes to realize that her new husband isn't quite the faithful swain she imagined he would be... Meanwhile, Jeremy is left with an opportunity now that his lost love is free. He takes Ross's advice, seeks Cuby, and convinces her to run away with him and elope...and she says yes! Again, I absolutely didn't see this coming. That Clowance and Jeremy both actually end up with their aggravating love interests was the last thing I expected. But, here Book 10 ends, it looks like they'll all be happy for the way things have turned out. At least...we can only hope. But this is Poldark, after all, and the drama is always about to unfold in the next book! :)
There is another couple I haven't mentioned so far... Music and Katie. Music has been an absolutely lovely character to read about, and I adore the way Winston Graham uses him as a character with autism who surprises everyone by falling in love. His story is so touching and heartwarming, and I look forward to seeing how his so-far failed attempts at wooing Katie turn out in the end. By all means, give him a happy ending!
A Happy Ending???
Yes, there is a happy ending, actually. I think this is one of the first times Graham has actually allowed things to end smoothly. Well, smoothly enough, as Demelza still carries the weight of the secret of the stage-coach and the truth about the loving cup. When Jeremy spots the cup when he comes home, it's a bit of an unsettling shock, and he doesn't quite know what his mother knows. But he gets Cuby, the woman he's loved for three years; Clowance is (so far) happily married to Stephen, and Ross and Demelza make plans for Paris after Ross receives a commission to spy for the Crown again. Happy, happy, happy...for now! ;)
I think this really has been the most shocking book of the saga...really because everything I expected was disproven...ha! Book 10 was a wonderful, gripping installment, and I can't quite believe that after all I've been through with the Poldarks, there are only two books left of the saga. Winston Graham's writing is a marvel—I genuinely don't know how he did it, keeping up with so many characters, inventing so much drama, and keeping his readers invested in a series that was written over a 60-year period!
I hope you've enjoyed this edition of The Poldark Perusal! Next time we get to dive into the penultimate book of the saga... Book 11, The Twisted Sword! I've heard from several readers that this one is one of the best, if not the best, of the entire saga. I can't wait! :)
As always, I would love to hear what you thought of The Loving Cup and whether you felt as surprised at the twists and turns as I did!! Do leave a comment below if you fancy; I'd love to hear from you!
If you're anywhere near as fond of Demelza Poldark as I am, do take a look at the above 4x6" art print, which is available for purchase on my shop! :)
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Until next time!