Canada, O Canada!

Celebrationsby Mary Jo

Happy birthday, Canada! Canada Day was actually Saturday, July 1st, but this is one of those big birthdays that end in a zero: Canada is 150 years young!

I grew up in Western New York, quite close to the Canadian border. As a kid, I remember driving over the Rainbow Bridge from Niagara Falls, NY to Niagara Falls, Ontario with a lovely view of the famous falls from the car. (That's the Rainbow Bridge below, lit up at night.)  Of course, lots of Americans grew up close to the Canadian border since it runs 3,000 miles across North America from sea to shining sea.

RainbowBridgeByNightOnce upon a time, Canada and the US were both part of British North America when all the colonies were pretty much separate. (Thirteen of them are now the US.) The French colony of Quebec was a different matter, but in 1763 France ceded it to Britain as a result of the Seven Years War.

America's Independence Day is tomorrow, July 4th, and most of us learned early the story of how the 13 colonies got stroppy with Britain and fought the Revolutionary War, after which those colonies became the United States of America (though really, they could have called it the United Colonies of America. UCA??)

Canada, however, continued as a number of separate colonies for some time, including WikipediaUpper&LowerCanadaUpper Canada and Lower Canada. Looking at this map (from Wikipedia), you'd think Upper Canada would be the green bit because, well, it's upper. But no, in this case upper and lower refer to the mighty St. Lawrence River and "upper" is nearer the headwaters and covered an area this is now the southern part of the Province of Ontario. "Lower Canada" is farther along the river and is the now the southeastern part of the Province of Quebec.

In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united into the Province of Canada, which lasted until 1867, when the Dominion of Canada was formed of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. And the 150th anniversary of this act of union is what is now being celebrated.  (Picture below is one I took in a park in St. John, New Brunswick.  Beavers are the national animal of Canada.)

Canada  cats  autumn 2014 012Canada was the first Dominion within the British empire and the name indicated that it was a self-governing entity within the empire. As a side note, a while back I listened to an audiobook course on the history of the British empire, and one of the things that stuck with me was that the British statesmen decided after the American Revolution that Britain had handled the 13 colonies badly, and they needed to do better.

And they did, which is why nations like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others were comfortable staying within the big tent of the British Commonwealth.

There were good reasons for Canada uniting, not least of which was a wariness about all those Canada  cats  autumn 2014 023people south of their border. (Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia, but much of it is so very cold that the population is only about a tenth that of the US.)

One of the hoped-for goals of some Americans in the War of 1812 was to annex Canada, which after all is much closer to the US than Britain is. Very efficient, yes? Well, Canadians were NOT on board with this, and not only because tens of thousands of America loyalists had emigrated to Canada after the American Revolution and they hadn't changed their minds about being part of the United States. (The War of 1812 ended as basically a draw without a significant exchange of territory in either direction.)

There's lots of going back and forth between the US and Canada–we Word Wenches have had two Canadian Wenches, Jo Beverley and now Susanna Kearsley, and our site manager is Melissa Beverley, who lives in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

AnniversaryFlagWhile Canada and the US are generally pretty good friends, there is a certain amount of caution on the Canadian side. It's rather like a mouse and an elephant sharing a bed. They may be friendly, but when the elephant turns over, the mouse had better be alert! (I'm reminded of the story of a Mexican president who once said, "Pity poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States." <G> I'm sure Canadians sometimes feel the same.)

"The Murdoch Mysteries" is a favorite tv series for me and the Mayhem Consultant. Made in MurdochCanada, it's set in Toronto around 1900 and features a scientifically inclined detective called William Murdoch. The series is great–and now and then the characters show that wariness when arrogant American authorities shows up. <G> (I believe the series is the most popular in Canada.  Yes, Yannick Bisson who plays Murdoch is Very Handsome.  <G>  Yes, there's a very nice romance in the series. )

MapofCanadaCanada has grown and flourished in the last 150 years. Like the US, the country has expanded westward and is now comprised of 10 provinces and 3 territories. (The 10th province, Labrador and Newfoundland didn't become part of Canada until 1949.)

Canada's global image owes much to its long history of peacekeeping missions. The world LIKES Canadians–American backpackers in Europe have been known to attach Canadian flags to their backpacks in order to be received in a friendlier fashion.

DuckinCanada2And now Canada is throwing itself a grand birthday party! Fireworks, parades, speeches–and one giant yellow rubber duck. <G> Six stories high, it was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who thought of it as a symbol of global unity (and humor). It's hard to look at that duck without smiling. (This image is from the CBC news site and my Toronto friend Ali Cunliffe referred me to it.)

The duck will spend three days in Toronto, then tour other ports in Ontario, bringing smiles wherever it goes, I'm sure. OttawaFireworksPeaceTower

So happy birthday, Canada, and long may you be smiling. I hope the US will always be as good a neighbor to you as you are to us.

Mary Jo


Romancing the fun!

by Mary Jo

Romance is a positive emotion, and a positive genre.  We tend to be optimistic, glass-is-half-full people.  And we LOVE getting together with our own kind to talk about books and have fun!  

Eloisa James Barbara Vey2016One such reader and author get together is Barbara Vey's annual Reader Appreciation Weekend in Milwaukee.  A veteran of Publishers Weekly, Barbara is a long time journalist and blogger about romance, and she hosted her sixth author and reader get together the last weekend in April.  I attended, and thought you might like to see some pictures about the kind of fun we get up to. (The picture on the left is from 2016, with Eloisa James, who was the keynote speaker, and Barbara Vey.  In hats.)

There are numerous events, but the centerpiece is the Saturday luncheon. This year's keynote speaker was the remarkable Kristan Higgins , who brought the house down Kristan Higginswith her talk. 

At the luncheon, 60 authors host tables, and seven readers sign up to join favorite writers.  The author undertakes to decorate the table and provide gifts for the seven readers.  

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Who Reads American History?

Rice_LordRogue_200x300Pat here!

Since Mary Jo is writing about the War of 1812, and my early Americans are being re-released this month, I thought it might be fun to take a little jog back to our elementary school history classes.

Before you turn up your noses, consider this: The American Revolution took place during the Georgian era we so fondly write about in our historical romances, and the War of 1812 was smack dab in the midst of our favorite Regency era. The Americans participating in these confrontations were on the whole, Europeans and mostly English, or descendants thereof. We are essentially talking about the same characters we’re reading about in English Regencies, except they’re on a different continent. My westerns go further and deeper than those early years, delving into the Victorian era—at that point, the cultural dividing line between the US and England is a little more marked, but quite often, the attitudes are the same.

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The Battle of Bladensburg

330px-Private_of_MarinesToday is Veterans Day in the US, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth. We honor those who have served in the armed forces. It seems a good day to look at one battle of the Regency period. This is 'my Regency battlefield'. Unlike Waterloo and Austerlitz, it happened near to home.

When Americans think of the War of 1812 they rather vaguely think 'we won'.


Dolly Madison

They recognize some famous quotes. The Capital got burned. Boo! And there was Dolly Madison. But they have no idea What It Was All About. Historians still scratch their heads over this question.

British people, when this 'War of 1812' is mentioned, are apt to say, "What? Oh, that." For them the war in America was a little bagatelle of a campaign, fought while everybody was concerned with Napoleon.

This indecisive and fairly pointless war crosses my own life the day the British marched into Washington and burned the capitol building. On their way in, they fought in a hamlet called Bladensburg. My home town. I learned the history of this battle in a school perched on a hill where American scouts once waited for the British.

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