Y'all, I can't go more than two pages without marking passages that I want to talk about. This book, published in 1996, is still so relevant. This is a conversation between the secondary romance characters but, gah, I had to post it. I think my review is going to be 10pgs of quotes.
If you like Rose Lerner books, this definitely has the feel of one with its economic themes.
"I am glad you were so stubborn," she said. "I am glad we never married, Aled."
He swallowed awkwardly. "I love you, cariad," he said.
"No," she said. "It is something other than love that rules your life, Aled. It is hatred and the desire for revenge. It is the desire for destruction and violence."
"It is the desire for a better life," he said, "and the conviction that we have a right to it. It is the belief that I owe it to myself and to my neighbors and to my unborn children—if ever I have any—to do something to bring about that better life. It is something I cannot allow others to do for me, cariad."
"Neither could Eurwyn," she said bitterly. "But he died and left Marged and his mam and gran to manage without him. And no one has a better life as a result of what he did."
He lifted one hand to cup the back of her head. "It is what you are afraid of?" he asked softly. "That I will die and leave you alone? It is better, you think, not to marry me and not to have my little ones if I recklessly court death?"
She was crying then and trying to pull away from him. But his arms closed about her like iron bands. And he kissed the top of her head, the wet cheek that was exposed to him, and finally the wet face she lifted to him. He kissed her mouth with hunger, parting her lips with his own. "Tell me you love me," he whispered against her lips. "It has been so long since I heard you say the words. Tell me I am your cariad."
But she struggled then and freed herself and turned back to face the gate, his coat held about her shoulders with both her hands. "No," she said. "You are not my love, Aled. And I do not believe Marged is my friend any longer. I am sorry for it. Marged is causing mischief and you are talking of breaking down tollgates with perhaps hundreds of men to make a mob. Someone will get hurt. It may be you or it may be Marged. But worse, it may be someone else, hurt because of you or Marged. I cannot love you any longer. No, let me put it differently. I will not love you any longer. But you knew that. We have argued it out before. Let there be an end now. No more scenes like this. It is over."
"And yet," he said, "you still love me."
"You were not listening." She released her hold on his coat and let it slide to the ground.
"Ah, yes," he said sadly, "I was, cariad."
She said nothing more. And he could think of nothing more to say either. She would not give up her conviction that protest and violence were never justified, and he would not give up his conviction that they were and that if he wanted to see change and thought someone should do something about effecting it, then he must be willing to do his part. He could no longer stand back and let the Eurwyns of this world do his fighting for him. He must fight for himself. Even if it meant giving up the one good thing in his life that had given it meaning and direction for the past six years. For four of those years he had worked long, hard hours in his forge, making himself worthy of her, making for her a secure future and preparing a comfortable home. And now for two he had taken the course best calculated to drive her away forever. But there was nothing he could do to change that. For if he could not offer her his integrity, then he had nothing worth offering at all.