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February's Classic is a tragic romance with a touch of revolution


With love hearts strewn around every corner, romance in February can be a toe-curling month for a cynical reader like myself. Here Are Lovers, by Hilda Vaughan offered the perfect compromise with a tragic love story woven around revolution, politics and the Welsh countryside.

Hilda Vaughan, similar to Jane Austen, writes about people and Here Are Lovers is very much a social dissection of Welsh life in the 19th Century. By slicing into the lives of rich and poor, the reader gets to experience an all encompassing narrative on Welsh culture, tackling issues of women’s rights and political ideology that is largely overlooked by better known classics.

Laetitia Wingfield is the independently-minded, book-loving, squire’s daughter who sparks a romance with Gronwy Griffiths an impoverished would-be scholar. Their relationship is doomed from the start as both suffer at the result of their station; Laetitia because she is a woman and Gronwy because he is both poor and intelligent. And yet their mutual love of books continually draws them together despite warnings from their respective families.

In the surrounding farmlands, Peter Griffiths, Gronwy’s brother, offers a witty and world-weary narrative. He, like the rest of Gronwy’s family, have identified Gronwy’s chance at a better life and work themselves hard to try and give him the income he needs to move up the social ladder. All the while his neighbour Elizabeth is waiting for Peter to seize something for himself and marry her. In the squire’s house, Laetitia’s brother Charles is embarking on a long courting dance with his cousin Lucy. This dance has to be carefully navigated around his aunt and father and is threatened when Laetitia shames their family name. Each romance is uniquely different and pitted with dramatic twists as the story continues.

What readers might find most interesting however, is the undercurrent of revolution that rattles through the narrative from several of the characters. The squire, a man rooted in traditional English politics, spends much of the book concerned about a new wave of political reform that poses to ruin him, while his son—much to his frustration—seems more open to embracing change. In the farmhouses there is talk about fairness and righteousness that challenges their situation. In Gronwy is there is an activism that sees him getting arrested. And in Laetitia there is an ideology of female freedom that, at least in this story, seems wild and distant.

Here Are Lovers is February’s pick for Honno’s Classic Reading challenge. This is a deeply complex novel that will inspire classic enthusiasts and history buffs. Definitely a book to read again and again.

Lynzie Fitzpatrick – February 2024

[Lynzie Fitzpatrick, Honno’s Business Manager, is one of the team embarking on the Classics Reading Challenge this year. Keep an eye on our website and social media for more updates and reviews of our Welsh Women’s Classics]

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