The Viscount's Bride tells a story of social unrest in England. A time when workers were trying to get better working conditions in the mills, fewer hours and limiting child labor. Hannah Whitmore is the vicarís eldest daughter, her hearts desire is to teach the children in her village. At 26 she feels she is firmly on the shelf and should be allowed to lead her own life not just look for a husband. The idea of teaching children of the working class is still quite controversial in this time period. Many of the local mill owners hate the idea of educating the workers children and Hannah makes a few enemies because of her zeal for education.
Theo Ruskin is the son of one of the mill owners. He has just returned from the war, so his father enlists him to try and see just what is happening in the mills. His father is concerned about how the workers are feeling and if things are really as bad as they say they are. Theo goes undercover to work in a mill, and sees things are really as bad as the workers say, maybe worse. The mill his family owns is as bad as the rest. Once his cover is blown, he goes to work to make things better at least for the workers at his familyís mill. Trying to improve things at the mill brings him and Hannah together on many different occasions and they donít always see eye to eye on how things should be done.
The romance in this story takes a back seat to the historical events, but it makes for a good and rather unique story. The Viscount's Bride tells of the plight of the working classes very well. The long working hours and only being able to feed your family if everyone in the family down to the very youngest child works in the mills and cruel overseers. It also tells of the concerns of the owners. They feared a revolution like the one in France years before. The book also does a great job of showing what happens when people care about the workers and making improvements
Deborah Olson, October 2003
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