In honor of last year's 150 celebration of the Canadian Confederation, BWL Publishing has produced a series of novels, each set in a different province. One of my favourites was written by Anita Davison who lovingly incorporated one of Canada's most cherished authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery in a novel set in Prince Edward Island.
When I read the novel, I was overjoyed at the way Lucy Maud was portrayed - a lovely woman who longed to write, and who battled sadness. The places Grace and Lucy visited were beautifully described and I could visualize the quaintness of the lovely island.
Anita Davison is a multi-published author who has gained international acclaim! This is a lovely read not only for Canadians, but for everyone who wants to learn more about this beautiful province that was home to one of the world's most beloved authors.
I've invited Anita to tell us a bit about her novel.
Envy The Wind
When I was asked to write a novel as part of the Canadian Historical Brides series, I was flattered but somewhat bemused. For one thing although I have visited Canada several times, I have never been to Prince Edward Island, the province I was asked to write about. The books are being released as part of the 150 year celebration of the Confederation of Canada by BWL Publishing, and are being distributed in Canadian schools in English and French. I had no idea how to approach writing about the island, so my first task was to read everything I could find about PEI and what sort of place it was in the year 1905.
As with all my novels, once I began the research, I became completely hooked and when I discovered there was a near collision of an Atlantic steamship in Halifax Harbour at just the right time, I was handed my beginning. Trawling through old photographs and some fascinating online articles written at the time, including the Easton’s catalogue, the 1906 copy is available online – gave me a picture of life there I had gleaned as a child when reading Anne of Green Gables. This led me to discovering all I could about the author of that book, one of Canada’s heroines, and during 1905, Lucy Maud Montgomery, or Maud as she preferred to be called, was living at the MacNeill farm in Cavendish, looking after her widowed grandmother and running the Cavendish post office. At this stage in her career she had gained some success writing short stories, and had embarked on a novel – Anne of Green Gables which was published three years after my novel is set.
I couldn’t ignore Maud, so my character, Grace, finding herself in new surroundings wondering what to do with her life, has a chance encounter with Maud and they embark on a friendship. In 1905, there was a railway on the island but it ran from one end to the other, so the rural countryside was still a challenge to cross. Isolated in Cavendish, Maud and Grace keep in touch by an exchange of letters, although I have included a visit Grace makes to the village Maud loved and was homesick for whenever she left.
From nerves that I couldn’t possibly get this right, I came to know PEI through my research, reading and magazine articles, and hope I was able to give an partly accurate picture of what it was like living in this island paradise at a time just before the seven motor cars on the island were banned for upsetting the horses and alcohol was forbidden so was driven underground into ‘blind pigs’ or for medicinal purposes only.
One day I am determined to visit Prince Edward Island, and walk the streets where Grace did with a view of the past in my mind’s eye.
Grace Aitken's life changed forever when she was twelve and her parents were killed in a carriage accident in a London street. She then became the ward of her father’s business partner, Angus MacKinnon. In this Victorian household, Grace was continually upbraided for her ‘wicked ways’, which were no more outrageous than going for walks in the village without a maid, or reading a Women’s Suffrage pamphlet.
At seventeen, Angus MacKinnon convinced Grace she owed him a debt of gratitude which could be expunged by marrying his son, Frederick, a quiet, shy boy dominated by his father. Surprisingly, Grace discovered a brotherly friendship with her husband, whose delicate health after five years of marriage culminated in his contracting pneumonia, although their childlessness was a fault placed squarely at Grace’s door.
At twenty-three and a widow, her in-laws assumed Grace would take on the role of dependent housekeeper and nurse, especially to her semi-invalid mother-in-law; a condition Grace suspects she has chosen.
Several weeks after her husband's death, Grace finds a solicitor's letter hidden amongst Frederick's belongings which details the inheritance her parents left in trust for her until her 21st Birthday.
Beneath the guise of running an errand, Grace visits the solicitor’s office where she discovers she is not poor and dependent upon her in-laws after all. Her rebellious side emerges and she makes a bid for freedom by booking passage for Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada on the SS Parisian and a new life far away from England and everything she knows.
On board she meets Aoife, a chirpy Irish girl from Liverpool on her way to become a mail order bride with whom she strikes up an unusual friendship. On their arrival in Canada, Grace is faced with a dilemma when the ship is in a near collision with another vessel in the harbour, creating panic as the captain makes a frantic dash for the quayside. In the ensuing chaos, Grace encounters a handsome stranger who comes to Grace and Aoife’s assistance and offers Grace a way out of her problems.
Will Grace have the courage to accept the help of a stranger, or will she take the easy way out and go back to a comfortable, if restrictive life?
Anita’s Website – https://www.anitadavison.co.uk
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