Please join me in welcoming the marvelous Cathy Gohlke to the blog today to talk about her experiences in one of the locations and inspiration for her new historical fiction, Ladies of the Lake!
LADIES OF THE LAKE by Cathy Gohlke
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2023
After two young women’s deep bond is torn apart, what will it take to bring them together again? In Ladies of the Lake, the beloved author of Saving Amelie and Night Bird Calling returns with a transformative new historical novel about the wonder and complexities of friendship, love, and belonging.
When she is forced to leave her beloved Prince Edward Island to attend Lakeside Ladies Academy after the death of her parents, the last thing Adelaide Rose MacNeill expects to find is three kindred spirits. The Ladies of the Lake, as the four girls call themselves, quickly bond like sisters, vowing that wherever life takes them, they will always be there for each other. But that is before: Before love and jealousy come between Adelaide and Dorothy, the closest of the friends. Before the dawn of World War I upends their world and casts baseless suspicion onto the German American man they both love. Before a terrible explosion in Halifax Harbor rips the sisterhood irrevocably apart.
Seventeen years later, Rosaline Murray receives an unsuspecting telephone call from Dorothy, now headmistress of Lakeside, inviting her to attend the graduation of a new generation of girls, including Rosalines beloved daughter. With that call, Rosaline is drawn into a past shed determined to put behind her. To memories of a man she once loved . . . of a sisterhood she abandoned . . . and of the day she stopped being Adelaide MacNeill.
in the steps of anne
by Cathy Gohlke, author of Ladies of the Lake
Reading Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, for the first time was, as Anne might have expressed, “an epoch in my life.”
Montgomery’s characters, major and minor, leapt off book pages and into my heart. Montgomery’s love for gardens, her descriptions of growing things, of landscapes and seascapes, of Prince Edward Island’s red and rocky shore, of the changing seasons, particularly the opening of the earth to spring, filled my heart with a knowing that I’d been there, seen those places, smelled that freshly turned earth, newly cut hay and those richly scented flowers, that yeasty bread baking in the oven—even when I’d never stepped foot in Nova Scotia.
It was easy to step into the world of Avonlea Montgomery created and to forge my own heart bonds with PEI. Little wonder it is that from the time I first read Montgomery’s books and journals I longed to go there, to see Nova Scotia and especially the island for myself.
In the late summer and early fall of 2019, months before the pandemic that changed travel began, my husband whisked me away for the anniversary trip of a lifetime—to the Maritimes in Nova Scotia with one glorious day on Prince Edward Island.
We toured the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Park Corner (Silver Bush) where Anne often stayed with her aunt and uncle while growing up—the home she called, “the wonder castle of my childhood.” I could see why. It is a setting rich for the imagination.
Entering the drive, we passed the pond that inspired Anne’s glorious “Lake of Shining Waters.” We’d barely stepped on soil when one of the owners of the property, descendants of the Campbells related to Montgomery, dressed and looking for all the world like Matthew Cuthbert as played by Richard Farnsworth in the Anne of Green Gables series, taught us to plant blue potatoes, the most common food on the island.
Our house tour began in the kitchen—the heart of the home. I lingered, imagining Anne’s discovery of a mouse in the pudding sauce she’d forgotten to cover in the pantry, could see Marilla impatiently stirring a pot of steaming morning porridge on the cast iron stove or pulling her plate of plum turnovers from its oven. It was all I could do not to run my hand over the beautiful trunk that inspired the blue chest in “The Story Girl.”
Walking through the house we saw the organ that played the wedding march for Lucy Maud and her betrothed, Reverend Ewan Macdonald, saw Anne’s enchanted bookcase and a crazy quilt made by Montgomery herself. We glimpsed early editions of Montgomery’s books, read displayed snippets of manuscripts, journals and letters in Maud’s own hand.
To read her letter condemning the war—WWII—and her anxieties for those she loved tore at my heart. I know that anger at the terrible waste of human life and property in war; I’ve felt those fears for loved ones.
Montgomery suffered from depression, anxiety, and medications that today we know are addictive and harmful. She poured out her life for her family in every way she knew, struggled with ill health, and wrote not only because she loved to write, needed to write, but to keep the wolf from the door. I’d felt those turbulent longings before when reading her letters and journals but being in the home she loved as a sanctuary brought deeper meaning to her words. It took a brave woman leave her journals and letters to a judgmental world.
Seeing the room she slept in, the places and haunts she loved, and the likely places she penned her manuscripts grew a writer’s kinship in my heart.
There were books to buy but I’d already read each one, save a book of recipes kept by Montgomery and a copy of an annotated manuscript of Anne of Green Gables, which I eagerly added to my collection.
Leaving the museum was bittersweet, like saying goodbye to dear friends—I could not have told you where Lucy Maud Montgomery ended and Anne, of Green Gables or Emily, of New Moon began. The author and her characters are so much a part of one another.
Later, we walked barefoot across PEI’s rocky red shore to dip our feet into the cold coastal waters, a sensation I felt I’d walked before through Montgomery’s stories.
On the drive away we saw the home of Montgomery’s birthplace where she lived only a short time until her mother died and she was sent by her father to live with older relatives—a sadness and feelings of abandonment that filled the longings of both her heroines Anne, and Emily of New Moon. We passed the graves where she and her husband are buried in Cavendish Community Cemetery.
Late that afternoon we toured [Charlottetown], and in the evening attended a delightful performance of, “Anne of Green Gables—the Musical,” at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
It was a wonderful trip to fulfill the dream of a lifetime—one I’ll never forget. I was as loathe to leave PEI as was Addie, in Ladies of the Lake. In being forced to leave her island home after the deaths of her parents, Addie lamented “leaving the island with its craggy hills and dales, its wild winds and rambling woods, its millions of wildflowers in summer and rocky, red sandstone shore that rushed down to the sea. I didn’t know if I could live without those things, or without the morning breath of the sea. They were part of all my life, part of me.”
I imagine that Lucy Maud Montgomery felt much the same. My solace in leaving PEI was knowing that I’d been, and that I can revisit time and again through the pages of Montgomery’s wonderful books and my own imagination.
Bestselling, Christy Hall of Fame, and Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and her husband, Dan, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
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