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Trust and Betrayal in 1940s Canada - an Editorial Review of "Castle Gordon"

Book Blurb:

After her husband is gunned down mere weeks before the end of WWII, Anna Castle Gordon arrives in a small Canadian town on the shores of Lake Huron, determined to carry out their planned future despite his demise. Braving harsh northern storms and unfamiliar territory seems straightforward to Anna after serving in the air force herself. When her late husband’s lecherous brother proves threatening, and her funds are withheld, Anna’s confidence wavers.

Handsome and caring, Scottish born Joseph Hendrie seems the answer to her apprehension; until a local woman’s disappearance creates Anna’s biggest challenge yet… knowing who to trust. Will she become the next victim? Is Joseph all he seems? Can she follow her dreams in a new country without his help, or does she want to?

Author Bio:

My career has spanned many years in a mix of criminal and civil law and hospital surgical administrative work. Along with my work and life experience, I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and a Creative Writing Certificate both from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to take early retirement and pursue a career in writing, a pursuit I have entered with energy and enthusiasm. I am currently a registered member of Toronto Romance Writers; Crime Writers of Canada; and Sisters in Crime.

My husband and I live in Grimsby, Ontario, but I feel most at home at our cottage in Kincardine, Ontario near my daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. On these shores of Lake Huron, with some of the best walking trails in the country, my imagination soars and my best stories come to life.

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Editorial Review:

Once again, I remind you, this is 1945, not the 1800's. Women have rights.”

While the title of the book might confuse many, leading one to think this is about an actual castle somewhere in Scotland, this story is actually about a strong young woman named Anna Castle Gordon, which is appropriate since she displays the same qualities of a fortified and defensible stronghold.

Men do not need to take control of every situation for things to be done correctly. I am quite capable of taking care of myself; I will not stand for this.”

Taking place fight after WWII, Anna returns to her life after serving in the RAF Women's division as a mechanic, and faced with a future without her husband who lost his life in the fight. Yet, their dream together, that of starting a life overseas in Canada in a little town called Kincardine, is much changed, that future is ever present in Anna's mind. Her goal has not waived and she is determined to bring their dream to fruition. There is one problem, though, which opens the book, and that is her brother-in-law, Ian Campbell. Ian is a piece of work and finds a way to ensnare his brother's funds set aside for Anna, thus controlling her life as he already controls his own wife, Marcy's life. Ian is a brute, a sadistic and repulsive man, not to mention an abusive sexual deviant. After one night when Ian thinks to bring Anna to heel, and to his bed in a violent attack, Anna flees and encounters Joseph Hendrie, a handsome Scotsman with a dashing brogue to match. Yet, every which way Anna turns she discovers people hiding secrets – Ian, Marcy, and Joseph. Who can she trust?

We had plans to come to Canada, start a business and live on a nice farm property. When I enlisted in the Air Force, we arranged for everything to be sold other than the few things we stored. As Graham's wife, and without children, it is now my money and I intend to use it as we planned. He would have wanted it that way.”

When Anna discovers a way to bring her dream to life (with the revelation of some hidden items from her husband), as well as a way to sue Ian for the rest of her funds, she establishes her own identity and independence by buying her own home – all in a time when women were shoved into “boxes” and forced to acquiesce to men's aspirations and desires. Anna is a passionate character, full of fight and fervor, and the author reveals many of these traits throughout in a narrative thick with dialogue (sometimes heavily so to the detriment of the storyline). While this is a technique of moving the story forward and providing details through the characters instead of the narrative itself, the dialogue, especially at the beginning with the back and forth rhetoric between Anna and Ian often felt a bit much to start with and tended to hinder an understanding of the actual goal and theme of the book. However, after pushing forward into the meat of the matter, the reader settles into the story, more so when a mystery evolves in the disappearance of a young woman and the romance between Anna and Joseph develops.

While this book is easy to comprehend and flows nicely, one might find this entertaining enough to finish in one sitting. Anna, as a character, is quite modern in her views and actions, in comparison to Ian's wife, Marcy, who still upholds the quite Victoriana-type mind-set, and she is quite likable even though her character is not quite as developed as one might expect for a strong-willed post-WWII woman who fixed airplanes during the war. Again, perhaps the reason is the immense amount of dialogue between characters and the sparseness of internal and scene development, as well as the wish for more historical background. This lack does not take away from the intrigue of the book, however, and the author is to be commended for bringing in a sort of 'Du Maurier”-type storyline, and providing a satisfying ending with an unexpected twist involving Marcy's brother and his involvement with her husband, Ian.

Ian is the culprit of your sadness, Marcy. Starting at day one from the sound of it. If only Graham had known the half of it. He said Ian sent letters home describing the beautiful countryside and his prosperous life in Canada as a successful banker. He portrayed a picture-perfect life with his beautiful wife and his devoted brother-in-law. That's why we wanted to settle here.”

Well, nothing is ever perfect. And I'm only telling you all this to warn you. I learned long ago that Ian is a moody, unpredictable man and it is best to heed him or get out of his way.”

The strength of this story is the focus on a woman overcoming strong abuse at the hands of a sadistic abuser... of finding her voice and her independence during a time when most men viewed this type of abuse as a mere discipline to keep a wife in line (such as the police chief who dismisses involvement in “domestic affairs”). Focus on this theme connects women readers to this story who have suffered the same, thus Anna's character provides strength and resiliency, someone to look up to and emulate. For this enduring theme, the author is to be congratulated for a story well-told and for the message to come across loud and clear.

My mum used to say a blessing on the winter solstice. I can't remember exactly, but something about finding peace in the promise of more light; that the cycle of nature brings faith to yer soul. She told us to rejoice in the darkness, in the silence find rest, for the lighter days that followed would be abundantly blessed.”


Castle Gordon” by Sue Jaskula receives 4 stars from The Historical Fiction Company

1 Comment

Sep 18, 2022

Thank you for this detailed and glowing review! Comparison to Daphne Du Maurier is an honour I never expected to achieve. High praise indeed! ❤️

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