Howard, Leslie. The Brideship Wife. Toronto, Ontario: Simon & Schuster Canada, 2020.
ISBN-13: 978-1508259350 (paperback)/978-1508259367 (eBook) | $17.99 USD (paperback)/$11.99 USD (ebook) | 400 pages | Historical Fiction
Inspired by the history of the British “brideships,” this captivating historical debut tells the story of one woman’s coming of age and search for independence—for readers of Pam Jenoff’s The Orphan’s Tale and Armando Lucas Correa’s The German Girl.
Tomorrow we would dock in Victoria on the northwest coast of North America, about as far away from my home as I could imagine. Like pebbles tossed upon the beach, we would scatter, trying to make our way as best as we could. Most of us would marry; some would not.
England, 1862. Charlotte is somewhat of a wallflower. Shy and bookish, she knows her duty is to marry, but with no dowry, she has little choice in the matter. She can’t continue to live off the generosity of her sister Harriet and her wealthy brother-in-law, Charles, whose political aspirations dictate that she make an advantageous match.
When Harriet hosts a grand party, Charlotte is charged with winning the affections of one of Charles’s colleagues, but before the night is over, her reputation—her one thing of value—is at risk. In the days that follow, rumours begin to swirl. Soon Charles’s standing in society is threatened and all that Charlotte has held dear is jeopardized, even Harriet, and Charlotte is forced to leave everything she has ever known in England and embark on a treacherous voyage to the New World.
From the rigid social circles of Victorian England to the lawless lands bursting with gold in British Columbia’s Cariboo, The Brideship Wife takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through a time of great change. Based on a forgotten chapter in history, this is a sparkling debut about the pricelessness of freedom and the courage it takes to follow your heart.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Having relatively recently read another book about the brideships, I was excited to get a Canadian author’s take on the event with The Brideship Wife. And I ended up loving this book for how it tackles that little known historical event, paying tribute to the real life women who traveled on the Tynemouth, while also using it as an opportunity to discuss a compelling reason a single woman would make that choice.
I loved seeing Charlotte come into her own through her experiences, as before that, she was in a precarious situation of allowing her family to make choices for her future, as was expected, and when a man violates her, she is the one who faces ruin. But through striking out on her own, she learns more of the world.
I could not help but compare and contrast her arc to that of her sister’s. The two ultimately made different choices, but I think part of Charlotte’s growth into being able to become independent is seeing how ill-used her sister was by her former husband.
There’s a great supporting cast throughout, from the forward thinking Dr. Carson, who takes Charlotte under his tutelage, to the sweet romantic interest, the clergyman John Crossman, and the widowed Sarah, who is also a target of scorn.
I loved this book; it’s a wonderful historical novel commenting on women’s precarious position in society, while also exploring a little known historical event in British/Canadian history. I recommend this to anyone who loves historical fiction.
Born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Leslie came to love the people, the stunning landscape and the history of this unique part of the world, and she yearned to write about them. But recognizing that a career in writing would not pay the bills she chose finance instead. She earned a degree in Economics and Political Science from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and enjoyed a successful seventeen-year career in investment and international wealth management with one of Canada’s leading financial institutions.
Later she became a consultant to the non-profit sector, advising charities on obtaining and managing large gifts. Here she was able to develop her latent passion for writing with many nonfiction articles published in newspapers, websites and trade journals. Mentored by her mother, the late novelist Blanche Howard, Leslie tried her hand at fiction.
The soon to be published (May 2020) by Simon and Schuster, Canada, The Brideship Wife is her debut novel.
Married with two grown children, Leslie divides her time between Vancouver, British Columbia and a small heirloom cider apple farm in the beautiful Naramata Bench area of the Okanagan Valley, a stone’s throw from where she and her husband grew up.
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