Category Archives: Romance

At the Mountain’s Edge by Genevieve Graham

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 is Ms. Graham’s most adventuresome story to date.

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.

Climbing the Chilkoot Pass

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.

NWMP outpost in the Yukon

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

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Being Mary Ro by Ida Linehan Young

One might be forgiven if, after seeing the book’s cover, they think Being Mary Ro (2018, Flanker Press) is another stereotypical Victorian-era romance novel. In some ways it is, but Being Mary Ro is more historical fiction than it is romance, similar to Genevieve Graham’s Promises to Keep. Like that book, it is based on a historical incident and broadened to include fictional characters and other historical references.

What had she done? She was alone in the house with a possible killer. “Get hold of yourself girl” she whispered. “Don’t let your imagination get the better of your common sense.”

Here, the basis of Being Mary Ro is a diphtheria outbreak that is unwittingly spread when a stricken person is rescued from a foundering ship off the shore of John’s Pond, Newfoundland. Mary Ro’s mother Dot is a nurse, and after correctly diagnosing the patient, attempts to effect a quarantine but ends up forfeiting her life, her husband’s and others with the eventuality that Mary Ro (Mary Rourke) is orphaned (she has a brother and two older sisters who have already left home). To complicate matters, a few years later she is jilted by Peter Nolan, who promised to marry her. So, by the beginning of the story, Mary Ro, twenty-eight years old, lives alone in the house she inherited from her parents and has withdrawn into herself believing that she has somehow failed, not only in love but also in her efforts to have saved more of the townspeople from the epidemic.

It hurt terribly at first, and people in town avoided her gaze for awhile when rumours spread of his return with his betrothed. In a small town, rumours were easy. It was the pity she saw in their faces that was hard.

Then, another ship appears on the horizon, smoke billowing from it and the injured are brought ashore for medical aid, stirring up flashbacks for Mary to the diphtheria tragedy that haunts her still. Added to that is a severely injured passenger (Danol Cooper) that she finds unconscious in one of her outbuildings. Against her better judgement, she secretly brings him into the house and gives him first aid. This event also stirs up the medical training that she inherited by assisting her late mother, and she rather finds she enjoys it.

“How do you know what to do Mary?” Meg asked.
“I don’t know. It comes natural to me. Mom said I had a knack for healing. I was always around her when she was tending to people. I wanted to know everything. She taught me so many things. Da brought me books on medicine and remedies, and I was interested enough to keep it in my head. I like it.”

The drama and excitement of this mysterious stranger and the fact that there was a murderer aboard the ship turns Mary’s life around, and when Peter once again shows up in John’s Pond, her emotions are given a reawakening as well. Now there are two men in Mary’s life and a murderer on the loose. Then two young girls go missing and the quiet little outport town is suddenly terrorized.

Conclusion

Boston, early 20th century.

At Goodreads, I rated Being Mary Ro four stars out of five, largely due to fact that I felt this book could have ended sooner (around chapters 12 and 13). There’s enough material for a good sequel, since the sorting out of the love triangle of Danol, Mary and Peter could have been left for another book, or simply left in the reader’s mind as Mary leaves tiny John’s Pond for the bustling city of Boston. For as soon as Mary Ro lands in Boston, the pace of the book picks up and things appear to fall into place a little too hastily (not to mention easily) for Mary. So for those that like everything wrapped up by the final page, this is the story for you!

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All in all, I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying Being Mary Ro. The material is suitable for mature young readers, contains small sketches (by Melissa Ashley Cromarty) and is an excellent first novel for Ms. Linehan Young.

Being Mary Ro by Ida Linehan Young
Flanker Press

*Please note this post contains affiliate links, and if you choose to purchase the book through Amazon I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This article has been Digiproved © 2018-2020 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Ida Linehan Young
Some Rights Reserved