The novel The Midnight Watch by David Dyer is a very different approach to the Titanic story. It focuses on the crew of the Californian which was supposedly a ship that had been close to the Titanic when the boat went down but did not respond to distress rockets that were fired into the sky. A Boston journalist, John Steadman, who was known for his ability to portray the victims of tragedies, was investigating just what happened that night. When the story first broke, newspapers even printed that the ship had hit an iceberg, but had only been slightly damaged and was being towed into port. It took time for the complete and accurate story to unfold. Steadman’s editor was pressuring him to go to press with a story about the victims, but he just didn’t feel the captain of the Californian was properly explaining why his ship had not gone to Titanic’s rescue. Two of the Californian’s crew felt pressured by their captain to not fully disclose what had happened that night. The character’s reactions are fictionalized, but many of the actions are fact based and carefully researched by the author. If you are fascinated by the Titanic’s story, this humanizes a part of the story which is usually only briefly mentioned when the tragic night is detailed.
It’s always a special treat to read a well written book set in Michigan. Joseph Heywood has been writing for fifteen years about Grady Service, a “Woods Cop”, or conservation officer who works in the Upper Peninsula. Buckular Dystrophy is the newest book in the series. It follows Grady around through a hunting season. From November 15th to November 30th most of the men in the Upper Peninsula are suffering from what conservation officers call buckular dystrophy or deer killing disease. It seems that all the hunters will do anything possible to get the biggest buck and the most deer possible. Michigan hunting laws are fairly simple and straightforward, but some hunters feel the laws shouldn’t apply to them. This is the year that Grady managed to write sixty-eight violation tickets at one deer camp, uncovered a deer-for-bucks scam, and had his garage firebombed. The bigger question is, why are there reduced numbers of large bucks even seen in the last few years. Many hunters blame it on wolves, but the experts say that isn’t the answer. Grady and a very unusual new partner are on the case.
Even though we live in a state that borders Canada, we know very little about Canadian history. The novel Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan tells the story of the late 1600’s in Canada when the area was a French colony. As a method to encourage the population to create stable communities, the French king paid the boat passage and a dowry for young women of good character who would travel to New France. They were expected to marry and raise large families. This story follows three women who have very different reasons for leaving home. Nicole was driven from France by poverty. Her family needed the money from her dowry to keep their farm going. Rose had been orphaned and when she was taken in by an uncle, she was abused. This was her best opportunity to escape an intolerable situation. Elisabeth had worked very hard in the bakery owned by her father. When her beloved father died, her mother quickly planned a remarriage and Elisabeth felt there no longer was a comfortable place in the family or business. These women faced difficult situations in a raw, new country. In addition to primitive and cold conditions, there wasn’t a supportive society in their new home. This is an inspiring story of what it takes to build a new country.
Americans are now reading more Australian fiction, mainly thanks to the popularity of Liane Moriarty’s stories. An enjoyable if somewhat formulaic book is Helen Brown’s novel, Tumbledown Manor. Lisa Trumperton’s very pleasant life collapsed like a broken mirror in the middle of a birthday celebration for one of the big years ending in zero. A huge bouquet with a very sexually suggestive message was delivered to her during her party. Unfortunately, the card was addressed to a certain someone else. As a result, her husband was quickly out on the street. Lisa had to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. She went to visit her son and her sister in Australia. The two sisters had grown up there, so even though her parents were dead, it felt like going home to Lisa. When she realized her grandparents’ home was on the market, Lisa felt compelled to have the house. How she tries to fix up a large, dilapidated Victorian house, meets a few available men, and develops a great relationship with her grown son create a pleasant if undemanding read.
When Lorna Dunaway and her fiancé are looking for a spot to hold their wedding, their final stop is Black Rabbit Hall. Lorna had seen the stately home on an internet search and it looked vaguely familiar to her. When they arrive at the gates after a long, meandering drive into Cornwall, Lorna is certain it was a place her mother brought her to every summer. When they tour the house, they realize the owner does not have it ready to host events. In spite of its rundown condition, Lorna wants to stage their wedding there. The story of the house is told in flashbacks from the deteriorating present to a time when a very happy family lived there. Ultimately, everyone is connected and Lorna does have a very special connection to the house. Tragedy and deceit have shaped the lives of those who have made their home at Black Rabbit Hall. If you have enjoyed novels by Kate Morton or Elizabeth Adler, this is a similar story. The characters from the past are especially vivid.