A Countess from Canada by Bessie Marchant

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Word PressAh, that wonderful feeling when you serendipitously stumble across a book by an author you’ve not encountered before, thoroughly enjoy it, and then find out that the same author’s written many more!   This is really good stuff, if you like old-fashioned stories (and are willing to overlook a few things of a less-than-politically-correct nature).  Think a fair bit of GA Henty but without the military bits, a bit of Elinor M Brent-Dyer but without anyone taking months to recover from their daring escapades, a bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a touch of Jane Austen … if it’s not too unfair to talk about a very good author in terms of a list of others.

It’s a classic Victorian adventure story, set in a dramatic location (a backwoods/fishing community on a remote part of the Hudson Bay), with plenty of action and derring-do and few well-placed reminders of the need for honourable behaviour at all times.  However, where it stands out is that the main character is female.  The wonderful Katherine, never stopping and never complaining trudges through the snow, rows her boat through storms and ice floes, deals with all manner of people and does all manner of back-breaking labour as she keeps her family’s store going in order to support herself, her ailing father and her siblings and young nieces.  And, of course, there are the daring rescues.  She first meets the man she will eventually marry when she rescues him from a watery grave.  How cool (no pun intended) is that – she rescues him :-).  Then, later on, she rescues him again, and rescues someone else into the bargain!  Not to mention the time she catches two men trying to steal her provisions, and ends up rescuing them from wolves.   However, she never comes across as being too perfect, or at all annoying: she’s a character whom you find yourself genuinely liking.

The romance is interesting too, involving a lot of misunderstandings about exactly who’s interested in whom – not quite Jane Austen, but still quite well done.  Then there’s a sub-plot about her father and the wrong he imagined he’d done one of their neighbours, and there are various minor sub-plots involving other neighbours.  It’s all set against the backdrop of a hard-working and sometimes difficult existence, which comes across very well.

One gripe, though – how utterly daft to give the ending away in the title!  Whilst it was fairly obvious that Our Hero was not destined to spend his life being a subsistence fisherman, and also fairly obvious that he wouldn’t find out about his inheritance until after Our Heroine had already agreed to marry him and made a romantic speech about love being more important than money, there were no actual hints in the text about a title until almost the end.  So why give the game away in the book’s name?!

Oh well!  Lovely book even so, especially considering that it was free.  Sadly, only a few of Bessie Marchant’s books are available for free download from either Amazon or Project Gutenberg, and I really can’t justify spending any more money on books until my TBR pile is a bit less Everest-like, but I look forward to discovering more of them in the future.  Smiley faces – 🙂 🙂 🙂 !

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