By Madeline Iva
I’ve seen Richard Amitrage’s nose, and I cannot go back.
The other day while finishing up my Netflix’s binge I watched NORTH AND SOUTH and just about swooned over Richard Armitage every time he went into profile.
NORTH AND SOUTH is based on a fabulous book by Elizabeth Gaskell, one of Charlotte Bronte’s friends, and I highly recommend it. But the plot always made me shudder a little. What woman who lived in such soft rural splendor of the South of England would want to voluntarily stay up in a grim northern mill town of Milton, in–I kid you not–Darkshire–when it was painted generously in shades of coal, poverty, and dim rooms?
A woman who met Armitage playing Mr. Thornton that’s who!
The mini-series filled in the lines of Margaret’s attraction. It’s a pretty faithful treatment of the book, yet still somehow remains a visual feast, and I include Richard Armitage’s face as a part of that feast, but also his whole alpha vibe.
He’s like an interesting mix of Darcy and Heathcliff. Part stiff pride, part wild violence—and overall contained in a man who wants to be better educated. (Who knew continuing education could give one such a thrill?) Underneath it all, Thornton is a man who is extremely sensitive, even if his harsh words come out a bit before his softer feelings.
Meanwhile, I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. (Doing massive edits perhaps) But I’m all about lowering stormy skies, and loving all dark Victorian interiors. Darkshire? Bring it.
The moment Richard Amritage showed up on screen he was as North as it gets. Buttoned up, with a voice you could file nails on, he’s looking down his nose at Margaret–cause it’s such a magnificent nose to look down, so how could he not? He was a perfect fit with dark rooms and the grinding of a man who wants to do the right thing, but must carefully look about him to keep his mill going and keep his workers earning a wage. The book gets into strikes and strike busting, the mini-series saves us much of it, keeping only the bits we need to forward the romance, i.e. the misunderstandings and connections between the two.
Margaret is a soft southern British woman with a sensitive heart, good common sense, and having been raised a clergyman’s daughter, doing good works is in her blood. She has a desire to understand the suffering of the mill workers, even when she doesn’t quite grasp the politics at play between the workers and the owners in their town. At first Thornton is repugnant to her as he beats his workers, and seems to lash out with total confidence at their efforts to unionize.
The book presents a man of complex character—along with his mother—and tells us how they had to claw themselves back up by the nails after his father made a fiasco of their finances. The scars from that time still throb, and the mini-series goes light on the severe sacrifice the mother made for her son. From the book, I remembered the mother, Mrs. Thornton very well. In this mini-series both actors were magnificent and it’s a little unfair because you don’t quite get to explore all the events that made Mrs. Thornton the thorny woman she is. However Sinead Cusack is just amazing in the role despite this. If you loved Les Miserables at all, you’ll feast on this mini-series like a vampire on the neck of a hemophiliac.
I was talking with Wendy LaCapra, historical author and friend, about Richard Armitage the other day. She said that he’s narrated a few abridged versions of Georgette Heyer books. I asked her if they were good, and she said that normally she would never recommend abridged anything, but she keeps his audio on her phone, if only because “It takes me to my happy place,” she laughed.
He’s narrated Venetia, and also narrated Heyer’s Sylvester—one of my very favorite books of hers, along with A Convenient Marriage. Check it out readers! And check out NORTH AND SOUTH if you haven’t already. It’s on Netflix and the book is probably in your local library.
And hey – If you live in Virginia or near Virginia, the VA Festival of the Book is this weekend. Free panels –a documentary on romance no less– and Eloisa James will be there! Also a lot of other smashing authors including two of my faves – Kimberly Kincaid and Avery Flynn. Here’s a link. : )
And follow us on Lady Smut — where we’ll lead you around by the nose.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out Spring, 2016.