REVIEW: Brides of Banff Springs (Alberta) (Canadian Historical Brides Book 1) by Victoria Chatham
In the Dirty Thirties jobs were hard to come by. Having lost her father and her home in southern Alberta, Tilly McCormack is thrilled when her application for a position as a chambermaid at the prestigious Banff Springs Hotel, one of Canada’s great railway hotels, is accepted.
Tilly loves her new life in the Rocky Mountain town and the people she meets there. Local trail guide Ryan Blake, is taken with Tilly’s sparkling blue eyes and mischievous sense of humor, and thinks she is just the girl for him. Ryan’s work with a guiding and outfitting company keeps him busy but he makes time for Tilly at every opportunity and he’s already decided to make her his bride.
On the night he plans to propose to Tilly another bride-to-be, whose wedding is being held at the Hotel, disappears. Tilly has an idea where she might have gone and together with Ryan sets out to search for her.
Will they find the missing bride and will Tilly accept Ryan’s proposal?
Happy Canada Day!
Dear Ms. Chatham,
I picked this book out of the “Canadian Brides” series mainly because of the time frame – mid 1930s – and the fact that the heroine and hero are working class people. Plus the gorgeous cover, can’t forget that. I’ve since read a bit more about the Banff Springs Hotel and the lovely surrounding area.
After her father died, orphan Tilly had no choice but to sell the family farm. Years of drought and debt plus the fact that she can’t run it alone settled that. A kindly bank official helped her with a reference which got her the job offer as a chambermaid at the fancy hotel where people who still have money in the tight economy go to relax and enjoy the beauty of Alberta.
Almost as soon as she had arrived, Tilly met a handsome man who, at the end of the ride he took her on to reach the hotel, announced he was going to marry her. Ryan is an intelligent go-getter with plans to become a trail guide and he entertained Tilly with some of the many facts he’s gathered to improve his odds of being asked to guide rich tourists. What ought to be an info-dump about Alberta history is saved by having newcomer Tilly be the recipient of Ryan’s massive (and I do mean massive) knowledge stash.
The realities of finding and keeping jobs in the Great Depression are highlighted by the exhausting work that Tilly and her roommate (and fellow maid) Fliss do 10 hours a day. Fliss warns Tilly about how (usually) male guests can make life difficult but since the guest is always right, employees must work hard and keep to the background. When Tilly can’t keep herself from trying to help a person others see as privileged and runs afoul of the guest others have warned her about, can she keep her job and help her friends?
Since we know almost from the start who Tilly will fall in love with, the romance is more a sweet reminder of the tamer dating etiquette of the day. Ryan’s parents have schooled him well and he treats Tilly with respect – even if he teases her a bit. Tilly soon learns how another couple is forced to deal with the tight restrictions that earning a living while working in the hotel industry of the time impose on them. Plus married women of the day would be required to resign.
One thing I really liked about Tilly is that she’s forthright, won’t back down, and speaks out when she needs to. If someone challenges her, she steps up and insists on the truth and (more importantly) her due as a person. This ruffles some feathers but Ryan shows her that he admires this about her. Despite the fact that her friend warns her about getting involved with a rich guest, Tilly sticks to her guns and doesn’t ignore a situation she knows is wrong. When the chips are down, Ryan stands by Tilly no matter what he thinks of who she’s helping. Bonus points that the situation they enter shows off Banff weather vagaries and calls on the skills Tilly learned on the farm.
The end of the story is very sweet even if we get another lesson in Alberta history. There’s a truncated plot thread about a ghost that doesn’t really go anywhere. A major confrontation that had been built up is concluded with almost no bang and I would have prefered to see the evil villain get his due on page but okay – the RCMP always get their man. I did like to see Tilly start to work on Ryan about marital give-and-take and that he responds to it. They might not have known each other for long but I think they’re going to be a wonderful team. B-