Rachel Cobleigh (reveilles) wrote,
Rachel Cobleigh

Book Recommendation: A Heart For Milton

After I fell in love with the 2004 BBC miniseries North & South and read Elizabeth Gaskell's excellent novel, I went looking through the world of fan-written sequels. There are some excellent works out there (for example, Lucy Stone's Pack Clouds Away is fantastic, continuing in Gaskell's writing style so seamlessly that it feels as if Gaskell herself is writing the prose. It's accessible only to C19 members, though, so you'll have to register there if you want to read it.)

Perhaps the most prominent of the sequels is Trudy Brasure's A Heart For Milton, which is based entirely on Gaskell's novel and does not reference the miniseries' content at all. Here's the blurb:

When Margaret Hale hastily rejected the wealthy industrialist's fervent marriage proposal, she could not have foreseen the events that would lead her to change her mind and open her heart. But was it too late now to let the handsome, brooding mill owner know? Based on the novel North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, this book weaves a change near the end of the original plot to create a romantic continuation of an enduring love story. A Heart for Milton brings to life all of Gaskell's rich characters: Nicholas Higgins, Hannah Thornton, Henry Lennox, Mr. Bell, and others. But at its core, this tale unfolds the joy, hope, passion, and fulfillment of the love forged between John Thornton and Margaret Hale as the reader follows their journey through the uncertainties of their engagement to the trials encountered in their first year of marriage ...and beyond.

This was a really fun and satisfying read!

Why I couldn't give it a 5/5: There were some stylistic choices that didn't always work for me (e.g., the phrases "soulful eyes" and "piercing blue eyes" were a bit overused, and there was a certain love of sumptuous adjectives, which gives the prose an air of being a bit over-the-top at times) and some minor errata. But none of these issues were so great as to seriously diminish my enjoyment of this lovely novel.

Now, on to the stuff I loved: the structure, which consisted of UST, plot, UST, sex, bit of plot, sex, sex, brief character development, sex, plot, sex, character, sex, plot, sex, sex, sex, plot, character, sex, plot, plot, character, and then whoosh into one of the most satisfying and moving epilogues that I have ever read, which beautifully ended right where the whole story began. Masterful! I absolutely loved the magnifying glass on our beloved characters' most intimate thoughts and actions, followed by zooming out to get a glimpse of the vast landscape of place and time and people within which their private drama existed.

I also have to say that I was thoroughly delighted to read a sequel that honors Gaskell's original characters so completely, particularly their faith and thoughtful references to God. That aspect seems left out of so many other stories, but it's an enriching essential in both John's and Margaret's characters. I loved how the author wove references to Scripture seamlessly alongside descriptions of joyful sex.
Tags: book recommendation, fanfic, richard armitage, romance

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