The Best of Intentions (Canadian Crossings)

Written by Susan Anne Mason
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1919, Grace arrives in Toronto, Canada, from England, having received letters pleading for help from her widowed sister, Rose, who has a young child. Grace is also there to convince Rose to come home to see their sick mother. Five years ago, Rose had married a Canadian, Frank Easton, the son of the wealthy owners of the hotel where she’d worked. Grace knew that Frank had died during WWI but is devastated upon learning from the local parson that Rose has succumbed to the rampaging Spanish flu. Grace learns that Rose’s baby, Christian, has been adopted by the very Eastons who’d disowned Frank and shunned Rose, considering her below their class. Although the parson assures her that Christian is being well looked after in the Eastons’ mansion, she is concerned for his well-being. Following anonymous chance encounters with both Frank’s sister and brother, and upon learning about their advertising for a nanny, Grace concocts a devious scheme to secure the job.

This opening novel in Susan Mason’s Canadian Crossings series, set on an estate with a large manor house, conservatory, and numerous servants (including an amorous chauffeur), provides delightful glimpses of scenes like those from Downton Abbey. The Toronto location is fitting, as it has similar properties. The descriptions of the area and the nearby lake island are very appealing. Mr. Easton is typically rigid, but his wife and their daughter and son aren’t. They let the nanny dine with them. Hence, it’s perplexing that Grace, herself of modest means, would consider the prosperous Eastons inappropriate guardians for Christian, and abhors the proposal that he might be sent to a boarding school in Europe. For a devout Christian, some of her actions seem uncharacteristic and un-inspirational. We might ponder whether it’s appropriate to lie and misrepresent oneself, even if it is with the best of intentions.