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Guest Post & Giveaway: Riana Everly, Author of The Assistant: Before Pride and Prejudice, Speaks about University of King’s College

I want to welcome Riana Everly back to Savvy Verse & Wit today with her new book, The Assistant.

About the Book:

A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean.

When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.

But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart?

Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.

Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?

Please give Riana a warm welcome.

In The Assistant, Edward Gardiner has recently returned to England after completing his degree at King’s College in Nova Scotia. Having grown up in Canada, I had known about The University of King’s College for many, many years, but the university reasserted itself in my consciousness about five years ago when my son was starting to explore options for his own degree. He ultimately decided to go elsewhere, but he was very much taken with both King’s and Halifax, where the university is now located. When a friend’s son did choose to attend King’s, I was all the more impressed with the institution and what it has to offer, because it has been a terrific experience for this young man.

But what makes King’s so special? Every place has its first-rate institutions of higher learning. One of the many things that fascinated me about King’s was its history, reaching back to the 1700s, not a mean feat for such a young country as Canada.

The University of King’s College was founded in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1789. It was the first university to be established in what is now English-speaking Canada, and is the oldest English-language university in the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom.

King’s actually began its existence in New York City, where it was founded by King George II on October 31, 1754. However, in 1776 the college was forced to halt operations for eight years due to ongoing revolution, warfare and social strife. During that time the library was looted and the university’s building was commandeered by both the British and American forces for use as a military hospital. When the school was taken over by revolutionary forces, the Loyalists, led by Bishop Charles Inglis, fled to Windsor, Nova Scotia. There, they founded the King’s Collegiate School in 1788, and the following year, the University of King’s College was established as a permanent institution. It was there that Edward Gardiner received his education just five years later.

And the old King’s in New York? After the revolution it was revived and renamed and is now located at Broadway and 116 th Street, New York City. These days, it is known as Columbia University.

There are a few more interesting points about King’s. It was modeled on the English universities, which were residential, based on a tutorial system, and were closely linked to the Church of England. In fact, until the end of the nineteenth century, all students had to be Anglican and take oaths affirming their assent to the 39 articles of the church. This is unlike Scottish universities of the time, where there was no religious test for students.

Of more interest to many sports fans, it is possible that the first game of hockey was played by King’s students in Winsdor, around the year 1800, when they decided to strap on skates and play a version of the field game of Hurley on the frozen pond. I am no tremendous sports fan, but there is something fun about imagining a very young Edward Gardiner being one of the first people to venture onto the ice and engage in an exciting game of Ice Hurley… or Ice Hockey!

These days, King’s is located in the city of Halifax, where it is affiliated with Dalhousie University. It remains, however, an independent institution, and one of the finest in Canada, with a world-wide reputation.

~*~ (Excerpt from Chapter One)

It was Edward’s own mother, Mary, who had convinced James Gardiner that young Edward needed an Education. Not of the social class to consider Oxford or Cambridge for their son, the Gardiners embarked upon a quest, and eventually determined upon the colonies. An old friend of Gardiner senior made the suggestion of King’s College in Nova Scotia, along with the offer of an apprenticeship in his export business there, which sent timber and furs across the ocean. The double allure of a classical education and personal experience in another part of his own family’s trade was too great to refuse, and upon completing his primary education in the local parish, Edward was sent to the small town of Windsor, Nova Scotia, some fifty miles from Halifax, the capital of that colony.

His three years abroad were initially lonely ones for the shy young man, but along with an excellent education, he also acquired the social skills required of a successful businessman. He learned to meet people and engage with them on their own terms; he learned that a pleasant smile and a friendly demeanour would better recommend him to others than mere social éclat; he learned the importance of business in keeping the blood of the Empire flowing; and most importantly, he learned that, in this less stratified world of the Atlantic colonies, tradesmen and sons of local magistrates were social equals, who could converse intelligently on matters of consequence. Edward returned home educated and mature, with a knowledge of his place in the world, but with the skills to move beyond his circles. He could discuss business affairs with his fellow merchants, fashion with the Ladies who sought unique decorations at his establishments, literature and sport with the gentlemen who accompanied them, and was a competent and sought-after chess partner.

In short, Edward Gardiner had every prospect of outshining his father.

Thank you, Riana, for sharing the history of King’s College and early hockey.

About the Author:

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! Visit her on Facebook and at her website.

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