Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ten dollars - The Going Price for 160 Acres of Dreams

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Could Katy ever love this vast, forbidding country?


Nineteen-year-old Katy is sent  to Canada by her family in the late 1890's to find a suitable husband. Katy has other plans, however - she wants a career, not marriage.
During the round of social activities arranged by her sister, she is drawn against her will towards her distant cousin Robert, who loves Katy on sight. She has also attracted the attention of her brother-in-law's boss, Martin, who doesn't take rejection easily, evens the score by destroying Katy's reputation.
Facing a return home in disgrace, Katy tries another way out. She accepts the offer of marriage from Robert, who is on his way west to set up a homestead on the prairies.
Katy is not prepared for the loneliness and hardships she is about to face. She has a difficult journey ahead, learning to become a woman and a wife and discovering how to love.

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EXCERPT
Copyright 2015 © Sharon McGregor

“Katy Anne! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.” Maggie greeted her with the lilt that made Katy feel she was still in Ireland, not halfway around the world in Toronto. Maggie gave Katy a big hug, an action made difficult by the fact that she stood nearly a head taller than the five-foot-one Katy, and by Maggie’s slightly protruding abdomen. Katy hugged her back, then they stood apart so they could look at each other. “Oh, my. My little sister is all grown up.”
“I’m nineteen. Of course I’m all grown up.” Katy bristled. Her two suitcases stood, one on either side of her, where they had been dropped by the hansom cab driver, who had brought her from the train station. The driver clucked to the horses and they set off clattering down the street.
“And still with the temperament of a spitting cat, I see.”
“It’s so good to see you again. Everyone at home misses you.”
A small face appeared in the doorway, accompanied by a sticky, sweet-filled hand. “And this must be Tommy.”
“Thomas Jr., aged one and a half.” Maggie patted her abdomen and said, “Soon to be joined by his brother. Or sister.”
“Oh, Maggie, we were thrilled to get your letter. I can help with the baby when it comes.”
“Well, let’s get you settled first. Then we’ll make plans for your future. What do you think of Toronto so far?”
“I didn’t really see much through the rain. The train ride from Halifax seemed to take forever, but I was so glad to get off the boat. This country is huge.”
“You’ve only seen a small part, you know. There’s a whole continent to the west. Most of the land is wild country, but some people are homesteading, so it will grow.”
Katy picked up the larger case, leaving the small one for the pregnant Maggie, and they lugged them upstairs.
Maggie opened a door that led into a pretty room, whitewashed and clean, with a small bed covered by a green and blue quilt. “This will be your room.”
“All to myself? I don’t think I’ve ever had a room to myself before.”
“Well, with twelve in the family, we weren’t likely to, were we?” Maggie’s eyes glistened for a moment until she took a swipe at them with her apron. “Sorry. Just indulging in a bit of homesickness.”
“Do you still miss Ireland?”
“Only sometimes. Thomas is a good husband to me and I have a full life now, but every once in a while, when I think I might never see Mam and Da again, I sit down and have a wee cry. Then I’m fine.”
“Oh, Maggie. Now you’ll have me crying, too.”
“I didn’t mean to, love. And if you ever get too homesick, I’m sure we can send you back, marked ‘not accepted at this address.’ Now you wash up. There’s a pitcher and basin on the stand. The water will be still warm. After you’ve freshened up, come downstairs and we’ll have some tea. Thomas won’t be home for ages yet, so we’ve lots of time before supper.”
Katy flopped the largest of her suitcases on the bed and began to take out her skirts and blouses, one at a time, smoothing them the best she could. There were lots of hangers in the wardrobe. She’d leave the rest for later. For now, she’d wash up and catch up on Maggie’s world. She knew Thomas worked at a distillery, and she guessed he must have a good position there. This house would have made three of their farmhouse back home.
She wished she knew what plans her parents were making for her. With six girls in the family, there wasn’t much scope in Ireland for a girl to find either a husband or employment. Katy wasn’t sure she wanted a husband, anyhow. The minute a girl married, the best part of her life was over, and she’d spend the rest of her days waiting hand and foot on her husband, and popping out a baby every year. She’d much rather find a position or train for something.
One of her sisters, Jenny, was training in the post office, but there was no room for another worker there. Perhaps she could find a clerical position in Toronto. She didn’t want to be a nursery governess—that was just like being a wife, but without the privileges. If she had more money, she might train to be a nurse or a teacher.
She harbored a sinking feeling her parents were more concerned about finding her a suitable husband than a suitable position, but she’d set them straight. She was going to look on her trip to Toronto as an adventure, something to tell stories about when she went back to Ireland, which she intended to do, eventually. She wasn’t about to face permanent expulsion just because she had run out of eligible suitors at home. She wanted a job, not a husband.

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