Cornwall attracts romantic novelists; strong passions amid dramatic scenery and wild weather. Cornish historical romances tend to be set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when the young Industrial Revolution was hungry for Cornish tin, copper and china clay and had yet to find more abundant sources further afield. This was briefly England’s Wild West.
Pengelly’s Daughter is everything you might expect from a Cornish historical romance: a beautiful ‘spirited’ heroine, a handsome hero with a mysterious past, family feuds, violence, smuggling, sailing ships and gorgeous clothes, all set in 1793. We are plunged straight away into a fast-moving adventure which reaches a dramatic climax in chapter 22, with the wrongs righted and the villains brought to justice. But there are still another 34 chapters to go!
At this point the pace flags and we seem to be heading into a slow-moving love affair struggling against social conventions. Then a new set of villains arrives, the romance becomes multi-sided and we reach a second violent climax in chapter 51, after which comes the happy ending.
I did not find the plot very credible, but this was a remarkable place in remarkable times, so perhaps anything goes. It is good romance, and those lovely clothes (Pengelly’s wife is a seamstress) would make good television.