I had to give in and get the DVD of North and South. I had been hearing so much about this series and especially its hero. I have to confess I didn't know much about this particular actor or watched anything that he had appeared in. I'd heard of Richard Armitage, of course. Sarah Kennedy would wax lyrical about him during her Radio 2 early morning show, and many of my Facebook and Twitter friends would chat and sigh about him. And having watched North and South with my eldest daughter I now know why all my female friends and acquaintances are half-way in love with him. He is very handsome and I would say he's giving Colin Firth a run for his money as a romantic hero.
As Mr Thornton in North and South I could appreciate his dark brooding handsomeness but as a character and a romantic hero Mr Thornton really had to work hard to convince me and my daughter that he was worthy of Margaret Hale's love. Miss Hale's and our first introduction to him was shockingly of him beating an employee for smoking in the factory. Later his violent action was explained, it made a kind of sense, but like Margaret Hale I wasn't yet ready to like him, even though I'd softened ever so slightly. Margaret Hale stayed strong and true to her convictions and I admired her for that. Her change in attitude towards the hero was a slow awakening and very convincing.
North and South is set during the time of the Great Exhibition and what came to be known as the Industrial Revolution, a time when machinery was being used more and more in manufacturing and farming. Life was pretty grim in the industrialised towns and the contrast between the life and people that Margaret Hale was used to could not have been more sharply defined. From a seemingly idyllic sun drenched life in Helstone and London, the heroine's father uprooted his wife and daughter bringing them to the north where there seemed to be little sun, lots of smoke and a grey monochrome existence as opposed to vivid colour. The darkness reflected the harsh existence of the factory workers and the attitudes of the masters towards the workers and vice versa.
Despite Mr Thornton's harsh exterior he has integrity and honour and is one of the better masters in the industry. Yet he still had to learn humility and to listen. This came at a huge cost: loss of life, love and almost everything he'd worked hard to raise from the ashes of his father's failure.
Margaret Hale is a quietly strong heroine and deals with her change in circumstance admirably and copes with the many tragedies that suddenly crowd into her young life. But she too is not without her flaws. Her ability to put the needs of others before herself and her strong sense of loyalty almost costs her a deep and abiding love.
I really enjoyed watching this four part series and by the last episode I was rooting for the hero and heroine's happy ever after, convinced at last of Mr Thornton's character and suitability to be a romantic hero worthy of his heroine's love.