Genevieve Graham is a bestselling Nova Scotian author. Her most recent books include Tides of Honour, Promises to Keep and Come from Away. Firmly anchored in the historical-fiction-romance category, the historical backdrops she uses are always thoroughly researched, which makes them of greater interest, particularly to this reviewer.
At the Mountain’s Edge (2019, Simon & Schuster Canada*), is a divergence from Ms. Graham’s three above-mentioned novels, for she leaves the East Coast settings of her recent books and heads north-west to the Yukon’s frontier gold fields of the late 19th century. She has found a winning formula that works for her and she’s sticking with it for this, her most adventuresome story to date.
Her protagonists are Liza Peterson and Ben Turner, two young adults with very different pasts whose paths cross “at the mountain’s edge” as Liza and her family prepare to climb the Chilkoot Pass and reach Dawson City where Liza’s father intends to set up his mercantile business. I’m intentionally going to avoid any type of plot spoiler, but suffice it to say that climbing the Pass loaded down with provisions (and women climbed in skirts, remember) in terrible weather conditions was no easy feat for young or old. Many found they had to jettison numerous personal items along the way to lighten the load. As well, many ascents and descents of the Pass were required to bring the number of necessary goods for survival to the top. The North West Mounted Police were there to “…supply the medicine by maintaining sanity in the middle of madness,” the Inspector had informed them.
Constable Ben Turner comes from a turbulent home and has the scars, physical and emotional, to prove it. Short-tempered, he needs to control his anger at all times. He joins the North West Mounted Police because, as a young boy, he was rescued by a Mountie after running away from home. He soon gets assigned to set up a makeshift post at “Happy Camp” at the top of the Chilkoot Pass to control what people are bringing into the area and ensuring they are abiding by the “one-tonne rule.” It was determined that people needed one ton of supplies to survive in the Yukon for one year, and that is why so many repeat trips were needed. This how the initial meeting of Liza and Ben occurs, but it is not all happy times, as Liza struggles as a woman amongst men who are not always respectful, times being what they were. Some may think that Ms. Graham subjects her characters to too many setbacks, but times being what they were, and the geographical obstacles to be overcome, it could not be all wine and roses. The Mounties had their difficulties maintaining the peace in a frontier settlement, and settlers like Liza had businesses to run and keep solvent in hard economic times. Fire, crime and transient masses were constant threats to businesspeople like Liza.
Hopefully, the brief synopsis above has helped you to appreciate the amount of research Ms. Graham need to achieve before writing what I believe is her best story yet (although my favourite book remains Promises to Keep). She manages to maintain a fine balance of fact, fiction and romance, with the emphasis on the trials, hardships and the occasional well-earned successes of northern frontier life rather than on any romance, which there is little time for anyway, since both Ben and Liza are quite preoccupied with their respective obligations in getting established in a city that has sprung up overnight, as it were. As such, At the Mountain’s Edge is over 300 pages of practically non-stop adventure, and is suitable for young readers as well as adults. Ms. Graham’s longtime fans will not be disappointed by this book, and readers new to her will likely feel compelled to read her previous bestsellers. I’m adding At the Mountain’s Edge to the 2019 longlist for “The Very Best!” Book Awards in the Fiction category.
At the Mountain’s Edge by Genevieve Graham
Simon & Schuster Canada
*This review was based on an Advance Reading Copy supplied by the author in exchange for a fair review. Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You may order it from Amazon.ca (in either paperback or Kindle format) using the link below, or by clicking here if you cannot see the image: https://amzn.to/2GmucTI