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, Kickers 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 Kickers 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 Canadas
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 Kickers
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 worksin the Old World as well as
the New World. For example, the short sojourn of
Kicker in Madelyns family home is a study
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 doesnt
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: Canadas West is no lesbian paradise.
There is still plenty of prejudice in the New Worldagainst
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
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
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