Looking for a theme song to go with this novel by Canadian writer Bertrand Sinclair, you might pick Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It’s a story set in the old growth woods of British Columbia, where a one-sided marriage of convenience leads to a good deal of heartbreak and disappointment.
Character. The central character is 22-year old Estella Benton, suddenly thrust on her own by the accidental death of a father who has left her penniless. Unprepared for the cold, unpredictable world, she is summed up by the narrator as “a young woman who had grown up quite complacently.” She has been “wholly shielded from the human maelstrom, fed, clothed, taught, an untried product of home and schools.”
As for the future, she has had no more than a vague notion of eventual marriage to a Prince Charming who would come along to sweep her off her feet—and maintain her in a life style to which she has been long accustomed.
Plan B finds her on a long train journey to remote British Columbia, on the banks of a lake north of Vancouver, where she joins her brother, Charlie, who has a start-up logging company. Obsessed with becoming wealthy, he has little regard for his sister’s personal welfare and puts her to work as camp cook, a grueling job that exhausts her and brings her to near despair.
|Movie still, Wallace Reid, center, as Jack Fyfe|
Romance. A rescuer and prince by almost any standard shows up in the manly form of Jack Fyfe, who has a well-run logging operation of his own. He partners with Charlie to deliver on a timber contract and befriends Estella, who discourages what she interprets as his unwelcome attention.
Any reader can see that he is filled with a gentle compassion for her and has fallen quite in love. But she will have none of this rough, handsome man of the woods. Nevermind that he has a fine intelligence and tender sensibilities. He frightens her, and for no apparent reason than her unwillingness to consider meeting him on equal terms, as a caring, considerate friend and potential life mate. For love to be true, she has to feel it as a delirious infatuation, and it’s not there.