Adèle: Wilderness Bride

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Historical romance by Thora Kerr Illing

Escaping from a bad marriage is challenging in any age. It was fraught with danger in 17th century New France when a runaway bride could expect censure from society and Church, even if she found an honest way of earning a living.

Adèle was among the young women sent from France to marry in the young colony along the St. Lawrence River. Unusual because she was literate, Adèle is miserably matched with an abusive farmer. She is helped to escape to Quebec by a coureur-de-bois and rebuilds her life, claiming to be a widow. She has work, friends and a faithful dog but the only man to whom she can speak from the heart is promised to her friend. Adèle’s imagined story of adversity, heartache and eventual happiness unfolds against the background of a seminal period in Canadian history.

Adèle: Wilderness Bride. A story of New France  won the runner-up award in the Romance category in the 2012 Beach Book Festival contest.

In the 2012 London Book Festival Adèle: Wilderness Bride. A story of New France was given Honourable Mention in the General Fiction category.

In the 2013 PARIS BOOK FESTIVAL – Honourable Mention in the ROMANCE category

Why have I chosen, living in Victoria, to write about the early settlers of New France? A few years ago I was intrigued to learn that two-thirds of the roughly seven million Canadians who today speak French as their mother tongue can claim they are descendants of the roughly 3,300 French immigrants who settled the town of Quebec and the St. Lawrence valley before 1680. Of huge importance among those immigrants were the 770 women sent from France as brides-to-be. The filles du roi (daughters of the King) program lasted barely ten years (1663-1672) but it changed the history of this country.

How brave and resourceful those young women must have been!  Most came from farms, which was the right background for the hard lives that awaited them. Today with all the comforts and conveniences we take for granted, it may be hard for us to realise how demanding everyday life was for Canada’s early colonists. Those French girls must have worked from dawn to dusk grinding corn, cooking, washing clothes, tending animals and labouring in the fields alongside their husbands, and of course bearing and caring for their numerous children. Imagine the long, dark winter nights, frozen water, deep snows and lack of fresh food. In times of sickness only a neighbour could offer comfort for those who lived beyond the reach of the nursing Sisters of Quebec and Montreal.

Some of the young wives died and some, like Adèle of my novel, must have suffered terribly from homesickness. Yet they endured and thanks to their large families the riverside settlements grew and prospered until Louis XIV became embroiled in war in Europe that siphoned off subsidy money needed to support his far-away colony. I researched the background of my novel with growing admiration for the women who left France in the mid-17th century. The filles du roi were truly remarkable women.

I hope my novel encourages readers to explore for themselves this inspiring chapter in the history of our country.

Thora Kerr Illing