What’s it all about? The story runs from 1794 to 1855. This is the “Wild West” of Regency Wales, where all classes have to cope with corruption, poverty, murder and mayhem. So it’s rough and it’s tough. Martha, the heroine, is young, pregnant and suicidal after a shotgun marriage to David Morgan of Plas Ingli. She finds herself on a small estate on on the slopes of the sacred mountain called Carningli — the mount of angels. It’s not much consolation to her that there is rumoured to be divine protection for the place and its people.
Then, with the estate reduced to ruins after an inferno which destroys the mansion and kills five members of David’s family, Martha is plunged even more deeply into despair. Her predatory neighbours want the estate bankrupted and dismembered, and they want her dead. Then David himself is murdered. Martha swears to bring to villains responsible to justice, and she does just that, but at great personal cost. Legally, she cannot own the estate, but she runs it nonetheless, with great success. She has several lovers, and outlives all of them. Because she interferes in everything, she’s always in trouble, and over and again has to be rescued by the disreputable “angels” within her own household, aided by the mysterious wizard Joseph Harries.
The mountain is a key story character in its own right. Martha has a strong emotional bond with it, and it’s the source of her power. She has a black raven as her guardian angel. As a psychic, she sees things that others do not, and she has unconventional ways of defending herself.
But this is not “Celtic Noir” — and the mood is ultimately positive, based on humanity and the love within the Plas. This is also a universal and allegorical story of female empowerment. Martha has to settle into a new family, manage the estate, win respect, and bring up her 5 children as a widow, in a male dominated world where property has more value than human life. She refuses to conform or submit, and as predicted by the Wizard she survives all the snarling wolves who covet her estate.
The story is packed with exotic and colourful characters, and added spice comes from Martha’s encounters with drunken French soldiers (during the 1797 French Invasion), smugglers, petty criminals, and the Rebecca rioters of 1839-1844 in which gangs of men dressed in female garb destroy the hated tollgates. Many other bizarre traditions current in West Wales in the early 19thC also feature in the storyline.
The narrative has an emotional scope that is Shakespearean, a fabulous setting, a cast of eccentric characters that Dickens would have been proud of, and more humour than one might expect in a drama which revolves around a string of highly traumatic events.