BOOK REVIEWS
Kicker's Journey
2nd Edition

Ylva Publishing
 

Lambda Literary Review

Canadian author Lois Cloarec Hart claims to be an accidental author. But her latest rich, opulent period piece set in Victorian England and the Canadian “Wild West” demonstrates that readers are all the better for the circumstances which prompted this gifted author to take up ink and pen.

Her historical romance, Kicker’s Journey, scores double: It is a great period piece about being a lesbian in Victorian England, and it also gives us a tantalizing glance into the lives of pioneers in the Canadian West. Does immigrating to the New World really bring the much craved for freedom for those at the fringe of society?

Not only is Kicker’s first name rather unusual for a woman, but so are her jobs as a stable hand and a farrier, as well as her male clothes. In the middle of the rigid mores and the clad-iron caste system of Victorian England, she is different but has found her niche in the stables of the Grindleshire Academy for Young Ladies. There she is respected and has a comfortable and tranquil life “downstairs.” Everything starts to change when the new teacher, Madelyn Bristow, arrives. Not only is her station in life vastly above a working-class oddity like Kicker, but she is also literate and sought-after by gentlemen. However, Kicker and Madelyn fall slowly but inexorably in love and seek to escape the prejudices of upper crust England and the expectations of their families by immigrating to the New World, to Canada’s Wild West, carrying little more than a cherished dream: a life together.

Rich, opulent, epic are the words which come to mind to describe this novel. First, there is a notable richness of language. Lois Cloarec Hart manages to capture the essence of Kicker’s low class accent, the upper-class speech, and all those little nuances in-between without making the dialogue difficult to read. It is a joy to follow the flow of dialogue and to revel in those differences indicative of class as expressed in language. The description of the class system itself is admirable. Hart masterfully shows, and with many details, how the system works—in the Old World as well as the New World. For example, the short sojourn of Kicker in Madelyn’s family home is a study in itself … Downton Abbey with lesbian protagonists. Another treat is the crossing of the Atlantic and the immigration process itself: There are many little vignettes of everyday life, and it is a great credit to the editor and the author that although there a lots of tantalizing morsels of well-researched historical facts, they are intricately woven into the fabric of the story and never stop the forward momentum of the book. The Canadian part of the story is colorful, and Hart doesn’t shy away from showing the hardships of life at the frontier. This part abounds with many a great character and is written with great attention to detail, which lets the reader travel into a world long gone. And mind you: Canada’s West is no lesbian paradise. There is still plenty of prejudice in the New World—against women, against native Americans, but there is a chance to build a life even if you are different. Kicker and Madelyn have to stake out their new life with their newfound friends and fiends.

This is a substantial, epic read, that is filled with plenty of passion. The novel is a treat for any reader interested in the Victorian age around the turn of the 19th century and the workings of the old Canadian West. Hart retains the color, the mores, and the language of the time, while providing a great nuanced historical read.

 

Lynne Pierce - Just About Write

Lois C. Hart doesn't produce books as quickly as some authors, but when they come out, you can depend on a good story. Kicker's Journey continues in that tradition.

Kicker Stuart has always known she's different. Unlike her sisters and other girls in her village, she's always preferred wearing her brother's pants and working next to her father in his blacksmith shop. Fourteen-year-old Kicker believes she has found the ideal position and is set for life when she is hired to work at the stables of the Grindleshire Academy for Young Ladies. She knows she's not the social equal of the young women who attend school there, but that has never bothered Kicker. She's much more at home with the servants and the horses anyway.

Six years later, she meets the new teacher, Madelyn Bristow, and everything changes. What starts out as a friendship blossoms into romance, which will not be tolerated in England in the 1890s, so the women decide to cross the Atlantic Ocean and attempt a new life in the far reaches of Canada. Madelyn and Kicker discover that, while Canada gives them more freedom than England would, there are still obstacles to overcome. The land itself is harsh and demanding, and though most of the people are very accepting, there are still those who cling to social status and pride. As they attempt to establish themselves in the community of Galbraith Crossing, they find themselves surrounded by friends and enemies. Maddie and Kicker will find not only their endurance tested, but their love also.

Kicker's Journey is almost epic in its proportions. Hart is a master storyteller who knows how to develop characters and settings equally well. As the book moves from boarding school to London to the trip across the ocean, the reader feels the atmosphere of each and is able to see the personalities of the characters unfold as they grow. The concept of class differences in England is clearly explained and then carried over to Canada, where the trip across the continent captures not only the beauty of the land, but the harshness it could inflict on settlers. When the women stop to visit an old friend of Madelyn's, Hart has a chance to show the suffering that early settlers must have endured.

The story in Galbraith Crossing is reminiscent of stories from the American Old West. There is a frontier town dominated by two powerful ranching families, one noble, the other trouble, and plenty of colorful characters. Hart also captures the feeling of how the very geography of the place could be its biggest challenge through drought, heat and blinding snowstorms. This is a story of women who are challenged by everything around them, including class and gender expectations.

There is a rich feel to the story in this book. It will keep the reader turning pages as each new step in Kicker and Madelyn's journey provides new obstacles to the women's relationship. This is excellent reading.

 

Rainbow Reviews

A deft hand with characterization, and an easy, smooth way of introducing historical background details make this novel educational as well as pleasurable. Author Hart has a keen ear for the dialogue of the period, and of British class society, so that her characters' speech rings true and vivid. Kicker's Journey is a gentle yet compelling book, a finely-researched historical with revealing characterization and subtle plotting. This novel is sensual, yet romantic rather than erotic, emotional and suffused throughout with Kicker's and Madelyn's hope and trust in forging for themselves a better life, one that they can live united.

 
 
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