This book was first published in the 1990s and has been brought back now in trade paperback format. The story takes place in Cwmbran in a coal-mining valley in South Wales in 1839. It is a time of unrest as the coalminers and ironworkers protest low wages and poor living conditions and the wealthy owners and their agents reject all their pleas. Matters are coming to a head with the growth of Chartism, which was a political movement throughout Britain to gather signatures on a Charter to be presented to Parliament, demanding reforms such as the vote for all men, secret ballots, and annual Parliaments. But the government and the upper classes saw the Chartist movement as revolutionary and seditious.
Chartism has arrived in Cwbran. So has Alexander Hyatt, Marquess of Craille, who inherited the land and the industries from an uncle two years ago but is only now coming with his young daughter for some peace and quiet following a broken engagement. On his first night there he stumbles inadvertently upon a Chartist meeting up in the hills. He also sees Siân (pronounced Shah-n) Jones spying on it. She is the illegitimate daughter of another owner and the widow of a coalminer. Now she is engaged to the leader of the Chartist movement in Cwmbran, the man who is leading the meeting.
Alex soon has enemies everywhere. His workers distrust him even when he expresses sympathy with their cause, and his fellow owners are hostile to any suggestions he makes for reform. And when he takes Siân away from her job in the mine to be his daughter's governess, matters only get worse. For he begins to fall in love with her, and she is caught between her love for two very different men.
The story of unrest and conflict, culminating in an ill-fated march of the Chartists upon the town of Newport, is told against the background of the rich Welsh culture of the workers, particularly their music. And incidentally, the title Longing is a translation of the Welsh HIRAETH—the sort of longing or yearning one feels for one's fatherland especially when away from it, or the yearning one feels for what is beyond oneself—the divine, perhaps. Alex's growing love for his new home and its people and their country enriches the deep passion he feels for Siân.
Signet Trade Paperback, March 3, 2015