Highlighting Historical Romance welcomes Riana Everly and her research into the history of Nova Scotia.
Part of the story in my upcoming release The Assistant takes place in Nova Scotia in the year 1800. A reader accustomed to the comforts and luxuries of London might wonder why I would be so heartless as to send my characters across a stormy ocean to such a remote and forbidding colony, but Nova Scotia was more central to the Empire than a mere map might suggest.
In 1800, the colony of Nova Scotia was beginning to come into its own. The capital city, Halifax, is situated on a large hillside nestled next to a year-round ice-free harbour, large enough to house an entire fleet of ships. Coupled with the untold wealth of timber from nearby New Brunswick, Halifax Harbour was a key strategic outpost allowing British control of the Atlantic seaboard. North America’s first naval dockyards had been opened in the harbour in 1758, and many of the ships that sailed under the Union Jack were constructed there and took their maiden voyages from Halifax.
But natural resources were not that Nova Scotia had to offer to the Empire. It had people too—well-educated and loyal people. During and after the American Revolution in 1776, families from the Thirteen Colonies who were loyal to the crown fled to British-held lands both north (to what is now Canada) and south (to what is now Florida and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi). My husband’s family traces its lineage to such Loyalists, although in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) rather than the Maritimes. Wherever the Loyalists went, they took with them their institutions, including universities.
In 1776, King’s College in New York City was forced to halt operations for eight years. During that time the library was looted and the university’s building was commandeered by both the British and American forces for use as a military hospital. When the school was taken over by the patriots, the Loyalists founders fled to Windsor, Nova Scotia, and re-established the college there under the same name. King’s College, Windsor, was established as a permanent institution in 1789, and it was there that my hero, Edward Gardiner, received his education.
And the old King’s in New York? After the revolution it was revived and renamed and is now located at Broadway and 116th Street, New York City. These days, it is known as Columbia University.
About the Book: The Assistant
A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean
When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.
But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart? Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.
Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?
Cover graphic: View of the Naval Yard, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1796 by George Tobin, 1768-1838
The strong wind had moved the ship more quickly across the Atlantic than expected, and they arrived in Halifax four and a half weeks after departing London, only days after Matthew’s ship was thought to have arrived. As they sailed into the harbour, Edward was once again awed by the natural resource the British had been so fortunate as to claim. The narrow opening was well protected on all sides by a series of batteries and fortifications, but once passed that critical point, the waters opened up again into a massive natural harbour, large enough to house most of the British navy.
The town of Halifax itself was small and stretched out along the banks of the harbour beneath a large hill, crowned with an impressive military citadel. Small though it was, the town was clearly bustling. The recent revolt by the former American colonies, along with the threat posed by the Corsican upstart Bonaparte, had led England to increase its formidable navy, and much of that work was being done here in the harbour. A huge naval dockyards had been established, and timber from both Nova Scotia and the neighbouring colony of New Brunswick supplied the wood for much of the Empire’s fleet.
Edward could see evidence of the increased activity in the town itself. An impressive new building was being constructed, which the men would later learn was to be the new Government House, and other instances of new construction could be found in every direction. The place had, indeed, changed quite remarkably even in the few short years since Edward’s last sight of it.
As they drew closer to the dock where they would set in, Edward peered around for sight of another ship, the one that might have carried his friends. There was much activity in the port, and vessels of all sorts sat tethered to all available piers, as well as anchored just off the shore, where they could wait until ready to be laded for their return voyages.
“Looking for The Lucinda?” Sherrington asked as he came across his younger companion, staring out into the forest of masts. “It could not have arrived much before. We crossed in exceptional time.”
“Aye. But I know I will not find it thus. Still, I cannot but hope to catch a glimpse of a face I know. I keep hoping, against all reason, to find my Lynnie.”
About the Author
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! Her debut novel, Teaching Eliza, was listed as one of the favourite reads of 2017 by Savvy Verse & Wit.