Ashes on the Moor Summary
When Evangeline is sent to live in a small mill town in Northern England as a schoolteacher in 1871, she finds herself struggling to fit in with an unfamiliar culture. Raised with the high-class Victorian values and ideals of a sophisticated upbringing, she is unprepared for the poverty she finds in the gritty factory town of Smeatley, where the locals speak with a hard-to-understand Yorkshire accent and struggle to thrive with few resources or opportunities.
Though she has no training as a teacher, she must prove herself successful before her grandfather will release her substantial inheritance to her and allow her to be reunited with her younger sister, the last remaining member of her family after a fever claimed the lives of her parents and brothers.
Evangeline’s sudden change in circumstances is complicated when her aunt — a woman who values class distinctions more than her family relationships — forbids her from acknowledging any connection to her or to her grandfather, Mr. Farr — the man who owns nearly the entire town. For the first time in her life, Evangeline is truly alone. Having been raised to be a “lady” she knows nothing of housework, cooking, sewing and other daily chores.
Heartbroken, she turns to the one person in town who has shown her kindness — an Irish brick mason, Dermot, and his son, Ronan. Despite the difference in their classes and backgrounds, Evangeline and Dermot become friends, due in part to her ability to connect with Ronan, whose behavior requires special attention. The boy is uncomfortable around strangers and rarely speaks even to the other children in town. He often fixates on details other people ignore, and he adheres to specific, self-made rules that give his life order and structure; for example, Dermot’s coat must be hung on a specific peg next to the door.
Evangeline attempts to prove herself a worthy teacher and earn the respect of her hard-to-understand students. Determined to find a way to introduce them to ”proper English” while still honoring their unique language and culture, she enlists the help of a local family to write down familiar stories in the Yorkshire vernacular. Because of her efforts, the students and their families warm to Evangeline and she continues to look for ways to give the children a chance to become more than factory workers in the local cotton mill.
When the townspeople discover her family connection, Evangeline must work even harder to regain their trust — especially Dermot’s. In the end, Evangeline and Dermot discover that, though they come from different social spheres, they can overcome social prejudices, make a positive difference in the lives of others, and enjoy the strength that comes when two hearts find each other.
Ashes on the Moor is the inspiring love story of one Victorian woman’s courage to fight against all odds, and the man whose quiet strength gives her the confidence to keep trying.
Ashes on the Moor Review
Ashes on the Moor is another winner from Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance author Sarah M. Eden.
The story opens just following the funeral of Evangeline and Lucy Blake’s entire family, who has succumbed to an illness. Evangeline and Lucy must leave the only home they have ever known, with only their personal possessions. Their Aunt Barton has come to collect them on behalf of their grandfather. Aunt Barton is neither sympathetic nor comforting, and so sets the tension from the very first page.
Ashes on the Moor is a well-written story. I felt I knew the main characters before I reached the end of the book. I always enjoy Sarah Eden’s skillful weaving of secondary story lines through her novels, making it feel like I am getting to know real people with real histories. Not only are Ms. Eden’s main characters well developed, but many of the supporting characters in the story are written with enough detail to make them come to life, and not merely act as a backdrop for the main story line.
As a Proper Romance, there are, of course, no objectionable scenes or questionable content. As such, this book really focuses on telling the story, and I think that really helps create a stronger story and characters. We are able to see the relationship between Dermot and Evangeline grow and develop in a natural way.
One of the other things I really enjoy about Sarah Eden’s books is that her writing style helps you to know even more secondary characters, and to feel for their situations and lives. Though it was a work of fiction, I felt empathy for the the living and working conditions of the time. Ms. Eden researched well to create a historical picture of life in a late 19th-century English factory town.
If you are a fan of Sarah M. Eden, of historical fiction, or of Proper Romance, you will enjoy this book, which I would recommend for teens and up.