Set in frontier Canada in 1810, Wilderness Wife is a historical novel based on the early life of Marguerite Wadin MacKay. She believes her 17-year marriage to explorer Alex MacKay is strong—until sudden fame destroys it. When he returns from earning fame from a cross-Canada expedition, he announces their frontier marriage is void in Montréal where he will now go to make his fortune and choose a society wife—not one with native blood. Taking only their son, MacKay sends Marguerite and their three daughters to a trading post where she’d lived as a child. Deeply shamed, she arrives in time to assist young Doctor John McLoughlin with a medical emergency. She believes her life is over and wrestles with emotional and spiritual anguish, but he is impressed with the character and wisdom if this courageous woman. He asks the man in charge, “Why have I not heard of this remarkable woman before?” He is told, “Because much is made of her husband. Not enough of her.” Two years later when McLoughlin declares his love, Marguerite dissuades him from a match harmful to his career. Besides having mixed blood, she is nine years older, but he loves her and will have no one else. After abandonment, can a woman love again and fulfill a key role in North American history?
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Before picking up Wilderness Wife – a new historical romance by Delores Topliff – I had never heard of Marguerite Wadin MacKay or Dr. John McLoughlin. Nor had I ever heard the term ‘wilderness wife’ or studied the conflict between the Hudson Bay and North West fur trading companies. At least not in a way that it stuck in my brain. Yet on the pages of this novel, thanks to Topliff’s love of history and education, I met these key historical personalities in the story of the Pacific Northwest and came away with a new appreciation for the women of that era particularly.
We all know that wilderness life wasn’t easy, but I think sometimes we forget just how arduous it really was. Particularly for women and for people of mixed heritage. In Marguerite’s case, she had to deal with both types of prejudice and the accompanying insecurities they left behind in her heart. As I read this sweet romance and got to know Marguerite, I came away so impressed by her strength, her resiliency, and her spirit. The author does a great job of conveying how ‘deserving’ Marguerite was of a pity party, of giving up, and of harboring bitterness – and of how seldom she did any of that. Yet, she remained an infinitely relatable character for any woman who has ever felt less than ‘enough.’
And then there’s John, whom I found equally fascinating as a historical figure. He is definitely a hero to be admired, a husband to be swooned over, and a man to respect. My heart broke for him in a particular season of the story, and I held my breath more than once. I’m kinda glad, in hindsight, that I didn’t know the outcome of the book’s events so I could experience it firsthand on these pages. I was moved to tears a couple of times and also found myself wanting to know even more about his and Marguerite’s life and their descendants.
Bottom Line: If you love discovering little-known historical figures on the pages of a novel and seeing their stories brought to life with romance and danger and faith, then you definitely need to check out Wilderness Wife by Delores Topliff! Your heart will be touched and your mind will be engaged, and you will quickly become enthralled with the history playing out in each chapter. Marguerite is a heroine with grit, strength, faith, and a heart full of love. But most importantly she is a sweet example of overcoming the negative voices from without and especially from within – the voices that say we are not worthy of love, that we are not worthy of respect – and replacing them with the voices of our Creator and those who love us most. John & Marguerite’s story is forever imprinted on my heart, and I am the better for it.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I read via Kindle Unlimited. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / enjoyed it!
KissingBook Level: 3+ / will forget to breathe on occasion
~ Carrie Schmidt (Meez Carrie)
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Delores Topliff loved growing up in the shadow of Fort Vancouver, Washington, founded by Dr. John McLoughlin and his courageous wife, Marguerite. It definitely shaped her life to live at what was then considered the end of the Oregon Trail. Today Delores divides her year between family in Twin Cities, Minnesota, and friends and warmer weather in NE Mississippi. She teaches online university courses, loves her two doctor sons and families, and travel. Find blogs, books, and more at delorestopliff.com and on Facebook at Delores Topliff Books.