O Canada! Musings and an Excerpt, from Riana Everly

O Canada! Musings and an Excerpt, from Riana Everly

Today, July 1st, is Canada Day, the celebration of Canadian federation in 1867. And so, I thought I’d talk a bit about this country and its place in my writing.

I’m not from Canada, although I’ve lived here since I was a child. I grew up in a prairie city out west, moved to Montreal to study music, and then to Toronto when I met my husband. I love the incredible range of natural beauty, from soaring jagged mountains to endless golden wheat fields, to quaint Atlantic seaside villages. We have huge, cosmopolitan cities, isolated fly-in communities, and a rich cultural scene that feeds my soul.

I also love the fabulous diversity of our population. Toronto, in particular, is a microcosm of our global village. For a foodie like me, that means I can eat in a different “country” every day of the week, and I can find pretty much every exotic ingredient under the sun in speciality shops or even in regular supermarkets.

I know it’s the same in a great many US cities too, and I revel in it.

Here are a few photos of this fabulous country.

One thing I’ve taken a long time to learn, though, is how to love Canadian history. This is ironic, since I’m a historian by training, but those history classes at school were… yawn… a bit dry. We don’t have a lot of big drama here. There were a couple of uprisings in the late 1830s that made it into the history books, some trouble in the prairies, and a couple of colourful characters, but for the most part there are no huge gestures. We gained our independence not by revolution, but by an act of British Parliament and the west wasn’t won so much as organized into neat squares. This does not provide much fodder to capture the imagination of your average 13-year-old.

Then I started researching for a book (still unpublished) and discovered that history doesn’t have to be in the Huge Events, but can shine through in the little things. The cries of an escaped slave being hunted back into captivity led to the first anti-slavery laws in the British Empire in the 1790s. New Brunswick’s vast forests built the British Navy. The ghost of a soldier killed in 1813 still haunts an inn near Niagara Falls. It’s these footnotes and by-the-ways that, for me, bring history to life.

And I’ve tried to share a bit of that in my books. The above-mentioned still-unpublished novel is steeped in the history of Niagara as it rebuilds after the War of 1812. And in my P&P prequel, The Assistant, Edward Gardiner sails from England to Nova Scotia in search of the woman he loves, to save her from certain danger.

I’ve also written a bit about modern Canada. A couple of years ago, I posted a Christmas-themed short story here for folks to enjoy (Masquerade, based on P&P), and I am in the final stages of editing a modern interpretation of Persuasion, set in the city I now call home.

This new story is called Preludes, and I hope to have it out by mid-fall. In it, my characters are classical musicians. Anne Elliot is a talented composer, and Frederico Valore (my Wentworth) is the conductor she dumped eight years before. But now he is back, conducting the orchestra where she is composer-in-residence, and they have no choice but to work together.

We can’t forget the other delicious characters Jane Austen lent to us. Anne is very close friends with Sophia Croft and her husband, whom I have named Jeremy, and Mrs. Smith takes a much larger role in my story in the guise of Jasmine Smith, nee Hamilton, a violin teacher who has fallen on hard times. And, of course, there is Anne’s cousin Mr. William Elliot, who desperately wants to become the next baronet. And so, I have named him William Barnett.

Here is an excerpt from Preludes. Anne and William are making plans to go picture-taking in High Park, a huge natural area just west of downtown Toronto.

 

***

Not the final cover, but my inspiration for Preludes

Just as she was about to slip out of the coffee shop, Jeremy’s voice sounded through the place.

“Soph, my love! And look, Anne is with her. Come over, William, and meet my two favourite ladies.”

In a moment, Jeremy was standing by the table, another man at his side. It was, indeed, the same stranger who had been at the rehearsal not so long ago. Sophia shifted over and the two men pulled up chairs to sit as well.

Jeremy started to make the introductions, but the newcomer reached across the table with an open hand. “William Barnett. A delight to meet you, Dr. Elliot. I saw you at the rehearsal, of course. Your symphony is just wonderful.”

“Call me Anne, please.” She shook the offered hand. His skin was warm and soft and his nails neat, the hand of a man who takes good care of himself. She looked up at his face. It was, as was her first impression, rather handsome, with light brown wavy hair and an easy smile. His entire appearance matched his manicured hands: elegant, very well tended, suave. Now, in the full light of the bright window, she could see his eyes were light blue, and that they crinkled at the corner when he smiled. Which he did a lot.

“William has just joined the board,” Jeremy explained as he introduced him to Sophia. “He is a property developer, and a true lover of the arts.”

“Indeed!” William interjected. “Music, theatre… I was a clarinet player when I was younger and almost went into music, but, well, the lure of business was too strong to resist. Then I discovered I could use my business experience to support the performing arts organizations I love so much.”

“It’s such a win-win,” Jeremy nodded. “Let me put in an order, and then we can talk about ideas. William comes to us with so many ideas, Soph. What will it be? Latte? Tea? Cheesecake?”

He was up in a moment, leaving the others to smile at each other and comment on the weather until Jeremy returned, to be followed a minute later by a barista carrying a large tray.

“Black coffee and cheesecake,” she placed them down in front of Jeremy, “and espresso and the double-dip biscotti for you, sir?”

“Not a cheesecake fan, Mr. Barnett?” Sophia laughed as she picked up her fork to attack her husband’s treat.

“Need to keep my boyish figure,” he joked in reply as he patted his stomach. He certainly looked trim and fit. “And it’s William, please. We’re all friends here.” His eyes flickered to Anne, and she thought his eyebrows rose suggestively when she caught his glance.

For a few minutes the conversation was general, as William addressed his comments to the group. Had they seen the latest Van Gogh exhibit at the art gallery? What were their thoughts on the new theatre season? A particularly famous local author was doing a reading of her latest novel at the main library; what had they thought of the book that was garnering so much press?

He was witty and articulate, and when he spoke of the arts, Anne could hear the passion in his voice. If he approached the orchestra with this sort of zeal, he would be an asset to the board indeed.

As the topics veered towards the fundraising ideas he wished to broach with Sophia, Anne began to shift in her seat.

“Pardon me, but I should get going and let you to your business. I’m afraid this sort of thing goes over my head.” She found the straps to her tote and checked to ensure her camera was inside.

“Must you go so soon, Anne?” William cocked his head just enough to give the hint of boyishness to his polished demeanour. It was very attractive. Then his eyes lit on Anne’s camera. “Oh! Are you a photographer too?”

She felt that blush creep across her face again. “No, not at all. I enjoy it as a hobby, but I have no real training. I find it a good way to relax, almost like—”

“Almost like meditation,” he supplied. “Yes. Walking through a park is a pleasure in itself, but walking with the focus of searching out beauty in unexpected places, that brings you to a very different level of consciousness, doesn’t it?”

Anne blinked at him. She felt her lips curl into a slight smile, and he answered it. “Yes, I suppose that is so. I’d never really thought of it that way before. Searching for beauty where it’s not expected. That is what we do, isn’t it?”

He leaned back in his chair and let his head fall back just a touch as his eyes caressed her face. “Fortunately, I do not have to look very far to find beauty now. Perhaps, Anne, we might go out together one day. I don’t have a particularly fine camera, but it’s a hobby of mine too. One evening, when it’s a bit cooler? If it’s late enough, we might hit that magic golden hour light.”

It was high summer; sunset was close to ten at night. That sounded almost like…

“I wouldn’t want to bore you with my ramblings,” she mumbled, but he would not be deterred.

“Bore me? No! I don’t do this often enough, and my friends aren’t interested. They’d rather watch some game or play pool. It would be a delight. What do you say?”

He pulled out his phone and his fingers danced across the screen for a moment. “There. What about Wednesday? The forecast is perfect, if you believe what they tell us. Can I call you or send you a text to make plans?”

Wednesday. That was usually the night she went to the Musgroves to have dinner and then watch the boys while Marie and Charles went out for an hour or so together. She was persona non grata with Marie, this week at least. She had no plans on Wednesday.

That little thread of steel worked its way through her once more and she made her decision. It was time to move on. She met his gaze with a smile.

“Yes, thank you. That sounds lovely. I’m looking forward to it.”

They exchanged numbers on their phones and said their goodbyes for now.

Anne didn’t even mind the very pointed look that Sophia sent her way.

***

Be on the lookout for more news on Preludes this fall.

For my local friends, Happy Canada Day!

 

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14 Responses to O Canada! Musings and an Excerpt, from Riana Everly

  1. Wonderful post and lovely excerpt. Thanks for sharing the photos. What a beautiful country!

  2. Hope you had a wonderful Canada Day. I’ve been to visit Canada on two occasions and had a great time.

    • It’s a beautiful country with so much diversity. I hope you get the opportunity for a trip.

  3. Happy Canada Day to all who celebrate. Beautiful pictures. I feel like I’ve been on vacation. I’d love to do one of those train tours across Canada. That would be amazing. thanks for sharing. Blessings.

    • Thanks – not my photos, but they do capture something elemental. From the Rockies to the Atlantic, I can never decide which part of the country is my favourite.

  4. Beautiful pictures! I’ve only been to Vancouver in Canada, but I fell in love with it both times I visited.
    Very cute excerpt. Why do I always kind of like that sneaky Mr. Elliot? He has personality, like Mr. Crawford, so I have moments where I think, oh, but he IS fun.

    • I can’t help but like Henry Crawford. He’s a cad, but he’s SO appealing. I have to wonder, if Fanny had accepted him, if he would have made good.
      Vancouver is a fabulous city, isn’t it? When we were there a few years ago, we took a float-plane tour over the harbour, and oh, it was so fun! I enjoy it every time we visit. Now you need to see the rest of the country. (Hint: I’m in Toronto.)

    • Thanks. I’m hoping for a fall release. I’m still not 100% happy with a couple of sections, and I want to make it the best book it can be.

  5. Gorgeous pics! I haven’t been to Canada in years! We used to go to Niagra Falls quite a bit.

    • Thanks. My mother-in-law lives in Niagara Falls, so we go fairly often. I’m not a fan of the touristy area there, but the waterfalls themselves are amazing. Seeing that never gets old.

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