When the widowed Alexander came to live with his small daughter in turreted Glanrhyd Castle, the Welsh poverty shocked him. But a greater jolt came from meeting Sian and the kiss he took before she could draw away. He asked her to be his daughter's governess. But neither pretended that was all he wanted. Even if Sian fought the desire between them, she could not stop the love that was drawing them together... or the passions that ignited beyond denial....
Longing is unlike most Mary Balogh books. In fact there's only one other book that I would compare to it - Truly - which I read last year and loved. Like Truly, this one is set in Wales and it deals with the living conditions of the working class. The men and women who worked on the mines for the big land owners who, not only paid them low wages, but also owned the taverns and the shops where that money would later be spent.
In this story we have on one side the workers who are trying to create unions and a charter of rights to defend themselves against unjust employers. On the other we have the Marquess of Craille, one of the land owners. And in the middle we have Sian, the illegitimate daughter of one of the landowners with a welsh woman. Sian doesn't feel at home in either worlds but, revolted by her mother's fate, decided to live with her welsh grandparents and try to fit in their world.
When Craille and Sian meet she is spying on a secret meeting of the chartists and he is doing much the same. Craille is actually worried about his workers and about giving them a better life but no one seems to believe in his good will at first. He had always been represented by his agent who has acted much in the same way as the other mine owners thus not inspiring any trust in the workers. Craille and Sian are attracted to each other from the beginning but they only get to spend more time with each other after he hires her to be a governess to his young daughter. Still Sian is engaged to be married to a local worker and leader of the chartist movement and distrusts him.
I really enjoyed reading about Sian and Craille, they are not perfect characters, far from it, they are flawed and make mistakes. And they are surrounded by a group of secondary characters who are as interesting as they are. The story has a lot of social concerns, besides the worker's conditions there's also a lot of attention paid to the female status, or lack thereof, in society. There's the cultural differences between the Welsh and the English not to mention the different stations in life between a Marquess and an illegitimate daughter. Unlike many other historical romances being published today this book is high on history, the chartist movement plays a big part in the story and details like welsh music and landscape contribute to create a fascinating and engaging story. I wish Mary Balogh would write more stories set in Wales!