Jacqui Nelson’s North of the Border with guest Vanessa Grant

Who’s next on my North of the Border guest blog series? Today we have Vanessa Grant, author of the Time for Love series and Writing Romance!

Where does Vanessa get her inspiration? How is Canada part of her inspiration? Read on and see...

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Memories of Algonquin Park, by Vanessa Grant. 

Andy and Jessie Grant - a War, a Wedding, a Family, and a Park 

My grandfather, Andrew Martin Grant joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in World War I. He was injured by a shell explosion and left lying on the battlefield, and went on to serve in England’s 528th Forestry Battalion until the end of World War I. 

He also fell in love and married Jessie Beauchamp in December, 1917 and after the war ended November 11, 1918, they decided to remain in England where Jessie had family. 

Jessie’s first son, my Uncle Norman, was born in England in early 1919. A year later when she discovered she was pregnant again, Jessie and Andy decided that, with Britain’s economy in post-war economic chaos and jobs scarce, Andy should return Canada where he knew he could get work. Jessie would stay in England until the baby was born.

My father William Douglas Grant (Doug) was born September 12, 1920. Five weeks later Jessie and her babies sailed from Liverpool, bound for Canada. After 21 days of rough water, she was grateful to meet her father-in-law and let him take over getting them to her husband Andy in Algonquin Park.

Algonquin Park, painted by Tom Thomson
Algonquin Park, painted by Tom Thomson [Public Domain]

Andy's father came to Daventry to work in a sawmill there, and Andy followed him briefly before becoming a park ranger. For decades Andy provided licenses, watched for fires and poachers, and rescued lost campers. 

On several occasions he retrieved bodies of drowned victims. [On one occasion, …] The body of Damasse Pigeau, a section man who drowned late one fall when his canoe overturned, was not found until the following spring. [On another, two...] Americans were retrieved from the fast water of the Amable du Fond.

[Andy and Jessie Grant are remembered in the following poem] 

"When you step from the train you're sure to see Andy, the Mayor of Daventry; 
The man who handles the fishing school. When he shakes your hand he doesn't fool."
“Well, here you are at the end of the trail
 Mrs. Grant is sorting the mail 
She knows you're starved by your hungry look 
And Boy! Does she ever know how to cook."

A Tale of Two Homes

Andy was assigned a Park Warden’s house located on a hill about a mile from the village of Daventry. The cabin was poorly insulated, with gaps between the floorboards that small boys loved to drop coins through— and by the summer of 1924, it was overflowing with four energetic small boys. 

Four Grant Boys

Park Ranger Andy Grant and helper Ray Sawchuck
Park Ranger Andy Grant and helper Ray Sawchuck, preparing to fight the 1924 fire near Daventry

In 1924, a devastating fire forced Andy to put his wife and children on a raft on the lake while he soaked the house with water to save it. Andy was not allowed to build a larger than normal ranger's cabin at Daventry to accommodate his family, so he built a home of his own nearby. It remains today as a Grant cottage.

2nd Grant Cottage 1949
The home Grandpa built in Algonquin Park.
Back Row: Andrew and Jessie Grant, the grandparents.
Front Row: Norman and Helen Grant with their first two children, my cousins Douglas and Gary
(Picture taken in 1949)

“The Big Fella”

Bernice Cleator recounts the night Norman and Douglas Grant rescued Bernice and two of her teenage friends who were stranded in the Algonquin Park bush with a canoe.

[They…] quickly assessed our predicament and came up with a solution. Norm took Toby in his canoe, and Doug took Aleda and me in ours. Their powerful strokes swept us down the lake through the darkness, and when the moon rose above the pointed tops of the pines the journey was perfect. 

They insisted on seeing us right to the door of our cabin,“Just in case ‘the 'big fella' is prowling around,” Norm said. 

"Have you seen him yet?" asked Doug. 

No, we hadn't seen him, but we'd certainly heard him. The "big fella" was a bear who was never far from our cabin… We never came up the path from the lake, or set foot out the back to the outhouse without taking the axe. 

Black Bear Public Domain photo by Dr. William Webber
Public Domain photo by Dr. William Webber
Building an Airplane

In addition to rescuing teenaged girls, Uncle Norm and my Dad helped Grandpa with work on the cabin. Once, they built an airplane out of wood, hauled it up onto the roof, and argued with each other about which of them should take the first flight off the roof in the airplane’s cockpit. In my father’s version of the story, my Uncle Norman was the one who foolishly piloted the airplane’s first (and last) flight, flying the wooden airplane straight into the ground below.

Later I learned from my cousin Ken Grant that in his father’s version, it was my dad who crashed the wooden plane into the ground. 

Just like a puppy dog …

My mother tells me that she once took me on Algonquin Park train when I was still a toddler. As she tells the story, once the train was underway I pulled out my potty, set it in the aisle, and did what toddlers are supposed to do in their potties. 

I don’t remember any of it: not the train, not the potty, not my mother’s embarrassment at my public exhibition. 

But I do remember my father quoting a couple of lines from a poem about the Algonquin Park train: 

“Just like a puppy dog out for a stroll

it [the train]stops at every telephone pole”

State Library of New South Wales collection
State Library of New South Wales collection [Public Domain]

Following the Grant Tradition ~ Telling Stories 

I’ve always been fascinated by the strong effect environment and setting can have on our lives. Isolated settings can be extraordinarily powerful, remotely beautiful, and filled with unknown hazards and opportunities. 

I’ve lived in and visited many remote places, many of which have made their way into my romance novels. Here are a couple of my favorites…

Stray Lady
After three years Georgina still hadn’t adjusted to life without her husband. In an effort to fill in the time, she decided to sail the Lady Harriet down the west coast of Canada, but foul weather resulted in the boat smashing up on Green Island

I lived on Green Island Lighthouse for 2 years. It’s 6 miles south of the Alaska panhandle, isolated and beautiful.

 Awakening Dreams
Crystal and Jesse were lucky to survive the seaplane crash, but trekking out of the wilderness was hardly a normal mode of travel for a late to work tax auditor like Crystal.

Set among the islands on the north pacific coast of British Columbia, which my husband Brian and I cruised for years
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Do you have a setting you would love to see in a book? Is there a book you keep coming back to because of the emotions the powerful setting stirs in you? A favorite place you remember that evokes precious memories?

Comment on this blog for a chance to win a Vanessa Grant eBook of your choice!

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"Storytelling is my lifelong passion." ... Vanessa Grant 

Vanessa's first novel was published in 1985 and she now has 33 romance novels published as Vanessa Grant (some while living on a sailboat in Mexico for two years) and three dark thrillers under the pseudonym Val Cameron.

Vanessa has been translated into 15 languages with over 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her non-fiction book Writing Romance won the Under the Covers literary award and was described in a National Writer's Monthly review as "by far the best writing book I have ever read."

Website: VanessaGrant.ca 
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cyM5j1 

~ All pictures (except for the 1st) are supplied by today’s guest with their assurance of usage rights.


  1. Love Algonquin Park, but how could you tell so many memories and never mention mosquitos and blackflies? :-)

  2. Oh, Alice, yes! Mosquitos and black flies abound in the park. There was also the time when I was staying in a small 1-room cabin that had 2 single beds in it for extra guests, behind the main cabin. I was in one bed and my cousin, who was much younger, was sleeping in the other bed.

    I couldn't get to sleep because of sounds above my head in the rafters of the cabin. It was dark and I couldn't see what was making the noise. Then suddenly it ran down the wall and skittered right across my face, and disappeared.


    I managed to pick up my sleeping young cousin in her sleeping bag and carry her down to the main cabin. Trying to carry a young child who's in a slippery sleeping bag is pretty challenging!

    Of course, I got teased later for being a wimp, frightened of a squirrel!


  3. Thanks for commenting, Avril. I enjoyed writing the blog :)

  4. any
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  5. I remember this beautiful place my foster sister and i would walk to every night after dinner to get away from the abusive foster parents. It was along Skyline Blvd and when you looked to the left you saw the clouds and the water way down in thru the valley. Then there was a place for cars to turn out that ended up to be a place that cars would turn into and take pics as it was just so beautiful when the sun was out it was just so pretty as the sun would shine off the water and it was so far down the valley and at the end was the water just beautiful. As we would walk there we would pass a couple who owned a Rhodedemdrum Farm and they had beautiful flowers and bushes all of them rhodedemdrums and on weekends they were so busy. We delivered the newspaper there and it was so neat to go in and just smell sometimes you would get caught up with the smell and the owners would suddenly appear and I would always say "Oh just smelling". They would giggle. peggy clayton ptclayton2@aol.com I can't do ebook but can read a print and review on 2 sites

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Peggy. I'm so glad you had the beautiful scent of the flowers and the companionship of your sister during those


  6. What a fascinating family history, Vanessa! I love the idea of a remote lighthouse as a setting. I loved Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle, and the setting was certainly one of the reasons why.

    1. Thanks, Ros.

      I also loved The Eye of the needle. Follett is such a skillful author. I loved The Key to Rebecca


    2. Congratulations, Ros! I did the draw this morning and you're the winner!

      Check out https://books2read.com/ap/2xq2YR/Vanessa-Grant to make your selection



    3. Oh, yay! Well, since I love lighthouses, Stray Lady seems like a perfect choice. :) Thanks, Vanessa!

  7. Great memories, Vanessa. Thanks for sharing them!

  8. My husbands family cottage was in Dwight just outside the park boundary and for many years we'd pick up the canoe and camping supplies at the cottage and disappear into ghetto park for weeKS at a time. Wonderful memories. Thanks for bringing them back.

    1. Thanks for posting, Just It's such a beautiful area, the park, the wildlife, canoes and portaging from one Lake to another. Some places you feel it could still be a over a hundred years ago.



  9. Hi Vanessa, Love your memories of the park. They really resonated with me. and yes, everything we have experienced in our lives impacts our writing.

  10. Thanks for commenting, Sylvie. I think of it all as rich compost to feed the muse


  11. That was so engaging! Personal memories and family histories are a great way to share our Canadian history. Loved your tapestry.Sarah Stewart

  12. Ros, congrats on winning Vanessa's book! Thank you and everyone for commenting on and visiting this guest blog ❤️

  13. Hi Vanessa,
    The photos in your blog could have come right out of my family album! I was born just north of Algonquin Park in Sioux Lookout. I spent most of my youth in the woods and your blog has revived many happy memories. Thank you.

  14. Thanks for sharing your family's history Vanessa. How interesting! My family hail from rural Manitoba, so I'm not at all familiar with the area you wrote about. It's quintessentially Canadian, nonetheless. One of these days I'll get back to my unfinished manuscript inspired by the lives of some of my family members. That was such a fascinating and adventurous time in Canadian history.