Author: Susan Anne Mason
Publisher: Bethany House (2018)
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Lines: "May 1919. Grace Abernathy stood at the rail of the SS Olympic, staring out over the calm expanse of sea as the last trace of sunlight disappeared over the horizon. Darkness spread outward to encompass the water, pierced only by a single beam from the masthead light."
Summary: Grace Abernathy is sailing to Canada from England. Her sister Rose is living in Toronto. Grace has not seen Rose in several years although the sisters have stayed in touch through letters. Rose recently lost her husband in the war and a few months later gave birth to their first child. She has begged Grace to come to Canada to be with her. Their mother is not well and longs to see Rose and her grandchild. Grace promises to bring Rose and the baby home to England with her. She hopes that maybe her mother will finally forgive her if she does this.
Grace arrives in Canada only to discover that her sister recently passed away from the flu. She is shocked and saddened. Once the initial shock is over, she remembers the baby. Mrs. Chamberlain, the woman who runs the boardinghouse where Rose stayed, tells Grace that the baby has gone to live with the family of Rose's husband. The Easton's are a wealthy family that own a hotel. When their son Frank broke off his engagement to Cecilia Harrison, daughter of another wealthy man, to marry Rose Abernathy, the family disowned him. Rose begged Grace in her letters to care for her nephew if anything should happen to her. Grace is determined to do just that.
She doesn't really have a plan other than to find out if the baby is being well-cared for by the Easton family. She begins watching their house hoping to catch a glimpse of the baby. One day she sees a young lady pushing a pram come out of the gate. She follows her to the park where she strikes up a conversation with her. In the course of the conversation the woman mentions that they are looking for a nanny for the baby. Grace sees this as an opportunity to get close to her nephew. She mentions that she is looking for a job. After an interview with Andrew, the baby's uncle, she is hired. Will she be able to keep her identity secret?
My thoughts: Susan Anne Mason is a new-to-me author. I really enjoyed her writing style. She has a way of whisking the reader away into the story. I was amazed at how fast the pages turned.
The characters were all really well developed and most of them I would like to spend time with. We get to know Rose through excerpts from the letters she wrote to Grace. Most chapters start with an excerpt and they proceed chronologically. Our story starts in 1919, the letters start in 1914.
Each character is flawed, but even the seemingly bad characters show some growth. Many of the characters made huge mistakes, often life altering ones affecting not only their lives, but the lives of those they love. But the power of honesty stands out in the story. Grace obviously is deceiving the Easton family and soon comes to really like them. She is in a hard place and fears that if she tells the truth, they will make her leave and she will lose not only her nephew, but also their friendship. Her struggles through this felt very realistic.
Grace's past also is complicated. She has felt for years that she has let her mother down. Her brother died when she was 14 and Grace blames herself and believes her mother blames her also. She wants so badly to please her mother and be forgiven. Andrew struggles with a similar issue with his father. He has always felt that he didn't measure up in his father's eyes. His father favored his brother Frank. Andrew just wants to please his father, even at the expense of sacrificing his desires. Forgiveness is another major theme in the story.
Another major theme in the story is that of societal pressures. The Easton family, mainly Mr. Easton, disowned Frank after he married Rose because she was not of the same class. Andrew is now engaged to the same woman Frank had been engaged to. Andrew doesn't love her, but feels pressure from his father to marry her and solidify the family connections. Their sister Virginia is also engaged to a man she doesn't love, but feels it is her duty to marry because of the family connections. And of course Grace is a servant in the Easton home and is not allowed to join the family in certain situations because of this.
The Easton's home is magnificent and I enjoyed the descriptions of it.
"The fountain was surrounded by a low stone seating area, but Grace wasn't ready to rest just yet. She continued through the rows of flowering greenery until she came to the small orchard and a vegetable garden that she knew kept the house supplied with fresh produce. In the far south corner of the property, a gleaming white gazebo created another inviting space to relax."
This was a wonderful story of family and home and friendship. I look forward to reading more from Susan Anne Mason.