By Gabriele Wills
Fictional friends make you laugh and cry. They invite you along on adventures. They share their most intimate thoughts and moments with you, and become lasting friends whose lives matter to you. Once acquainted, who can ever forget Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan, and Sherlock Holmes to name just a few. But they don’t have to be legendary to impress you. For a multitude of reasons, they touch your heart and soul, and linger in your psyche.
As an author, I have an even deeper relationship with my characters. They are constantly in my thoughts, and a part of me resides in each. Once formed, they take over the story, changing the plot to suit their whims.
Allow me to introduce you to the feisty heroine of the Muskoka Trilogy, Victoria Wyndham:
I’m known to close friends and family as Ria. Not to Grandmother, of course, who says I'm incorrigible. Or Father, who calls me willful and thoughtless. My mother died when I was born and he has never forgiven me.
Prickly Aunt Phyllis has condemned me as an undisciplined hoyden. Luckily, Aunt Olivia and Uncle Richard have always been generous and loving, so that I feel very much a part of their large brood, and particularly close to my twin cousins, Zoë and Max, who are my age. Max is such a card, and Zoë is clever and boldly outspoken, even with Grandmother. They're onboard for any adventures that I dream up.
Stuffy cousin Henry claims that I'm reckless and always venture beyond the bounds of his imagination. His younger sister, Phoebe, is surely more inclined to do that, since she is quite mad, and talks to her sinister two-faced doll - who apparently replies.
I should explain that we have a summer home on Wyndwood Island on a pristine lake in Muskoka, about 100 miles north of Toronto. We Wyndhams spend three or four months together at the cottage every summer, which doesn't always make for harmonious relationships. Especially after Jack arrived.
None of us knew, until this summer of 1914, that we had more Wyndham cousins! Jack's father was disowned for marrying a "showgirl". Jack is a charmer, and devilishly handsome. Grandmother admires him, although she doesn't trust him. She thinks that because he grew up so poor, he will be ruthless, and use everyone to get ahead. She would be scandalized if she knew how Jack and I first met. He has three sisters, one whose remarkable voice has already impressed a Broadway composer. The eldest, Lizzie, is harder to like, although I can't put my finger on why.
Chas Thornton told me that a chap could drown in my azure eyes. He’s an outrageous flirt, and tremendous fun. His family owns a neighbouring island, and his father is one of the richest men in Canada. Our friend, Ellie, thinks he's "absolutely beautiful" and adores him, even though she detests his lifestyle and lack of ambition.
Ellie doesn't approve of conspicuous wealth. A medical student, she is also something of a crusader, with perhaps too much of a social conscience. She would populate our homes - which she finds obscenely large - with unwed mothers and orphans. But I like her down-to-earth honesty, and she is the staunchest of friends.
Her brother, Blake, is already a doctor, and very much the love of Zoë's life, if only he would realize it!
Chas's younger brother, Rafe, is rather dissolute, and unsettles me with his rapacious attentions. He seems to be a frustrated boy living in the shadow of his charismatic older brother.
Justin Carrington, on the other hand, is the kindest and most gentlemanly friend. I had a terrific pash for him when I was fifteen, and now I fear that he has rather fallen for me. Grandmother is trying to encourage an alliance, maintaining that "friendship and mutual respect are far better than passion for building a good marriage." But she doesn't know where my heart lies.
I have many more friends, whom you’ll meet if you read The Muskoka Novels.
But I fear for them, as several have gone off to war, Jack and Chas to become daring aviators. But we girls are as plucky as the chaps, and not about to be left behind! Zoë intends to become a volunteer nurse, and I fancy driving an ambulance.
I do wonder why our generation is being so severely tested. Have we been living in a fool's paradise?
As for Muskoka, it's our sanctuary. Once you visit our island with its stately pines, sparkling granite, and distant vistas of tufted islands floating on the cobalt blue lake, you might understand why my soul hungers for it.
By the way, we always have room for guests at Wyndwood. Oh, do come!
Visit Gabriele's website: http://themuskokanovels.com/