1915. Niagara Falls. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath who has led a sheltered existence as the younger daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company, meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform and finds herself inexplicably drawn to him – against her family’s strong objections. Tom is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls like his famous grandfather before him. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As the paths of Bess and Tom become entwined, Bess must make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.
I picked this book up a little over three years ago! The setting of Niagara Falls (Canada) caught my attention. We use to live just four hours from it and would go there often for little get-aways. The winter was my favorite time, it was a frozen wonderland. Thanks to Cathy @746 books for getting me jump started with reading books that have been languishing on my shelves with her 20 Books of Summer. Who knows how long I would have taken to get to this, if ever!
I love reading a book set somewhere I am familiar with and we have gone into museums there and learned the history of the Falls and the power companies so this was really special for me. Ms. Buchanan really brought the time period alive. Set during the early 1900’s when the power companies were harnessing the power of the Falls and people began to fight back and try to protect the Falls. Tom Cole chief among them. Then he falls in love with a girl whose father is a bigwig at the power plant and a proponent for bringing electricity to the area and Canada.
Incorporated in are many of the early stories of attempts by ‘stunters’ at fame by going over the falls one way or another and heroic true rescues. The character of Tom Cole is loosely based on real life character Red Hill. Ms. Buchanan was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario. At the start of some chapters are actual photos from the day.
Love, adventure, history and a family in distress. A meaty, engaging story. You should get your hands on a copy of this! Ms. Buchanan has a second historical fiction novel out, The Painted Girls, set in belle époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’ Little Dancer, Aged 14 and by the era’s most famous criminal trials. I’d like to read that too.
In the back of the book there is an author’s note about the story and the history. She states that the amount of water plummeting over the Horseshoe and American Falls is now about 50 percent of the natural flow during the daylight hours of the tourist season and only 25 percent otherwise! I can’t imagine being alive to have seen the Falls in it’s full glory before the power plants diverted all that power! It must have been amazing.
Have you gotten a chance to go the Falls? Summer, winter? What were your thoughts about it?