Marriage Most Extraordinary
Bruce W. Bishop
Can Eva Carroll, a young feminist and budding journalist, have a happy marriage to this man while placating the conventions of the day?
The Great War is over. Everyone is optimistic. Eva is the daughter of one of three sisters who have already been leading unconventional lives. Although born in Boston, she now lives with her mother, Elisabet, stepfather, and Swedish grandparents in a small eastern Canadian coastal town.
Somewhat naive, Eva falls in love with her stepfather, Seamus, only nine years her senior. Elisabet surprisingly condones the relationship. But she imposes a condition — her daughter and her second husband must marry after she divorces him.
Unconventional Daughters is the first book in a series of family and friends sagas nestled in unique historical settings. If you like compelling characters, fascinating locales, and surprising plot twists, then you’ll love Bruce W. Bishop’s debut page-turner.
Gothenburg, Sweden, November 1882: Jacob & Signe Burcharth, married just a year, have decided to adopt children who were orphaned due to a tragic family murder/suicide. (The protagonist in the novel, Eva, is their granddaughter.) The children are in the care of the Diocese of Gothenburg. While being interviewed by the local Bishop, the young couple are mistaken as to the details of the adoption:
“... I understand you are here today to confirm the adoption of the paupers who were recently orphaned due to a terrible occurrence regarding their parents.”
“Yes, that’s correct, Reverend Bishop,” Jacob replied. “My wife and I are planning to emigrate to the United States next year, and we feel that we would like to give the same opportunity to unfortunate local children so they can have a better —", he was stopped in mid-sentence.
“Presumably, you are not able to have children of your own?” inquired the Bishop, looking directly at Signe and expecting an answer from her.
“Umm…that’s right,” Jacob said. Signe remained motionless and quiet in the seat next to him.
Ignoring Jacob momentarily, Bishop Björck kept his attention on Signe.
“Mrs. Burcharth, the Church of Sweden would not want to separate these children by placing them in different homes. Having more than one child may be considered a formidable task for some women. Do you feel that you can mother them adequately?”
Signe looked up for the first time and addressed the Bishop.
“Yes, Reverend Bishop. With God’s will and the help of my hard-working husband, I’m sure we can bring up the children in a safe and loving home,” Signe said, and again averted her eyes.
The Bishop sighed. He wished she were a bit more enthused, a bit more maternal in her demeanor, a bit happy. He felt she was more resigned to the fact of becoming an immediate parent rather than excited at the prospect.
“Well, all right, then,” he concluded. “Since you have the means to support the children, this is not a case of fattigauktion — in other words, you are not expecting the Diocese to pay you an amount per month for a year of their care. Am I correct?”
Jacob nodded his assent.
“There are still a considerable number of forms to complete and attend to, and I will also be asking both of you questions separately before the children are released to your care.”
Jacob appeared relieved that the first and perhaps biggest hurdle had been cleared.
The Bishop began shuffling the papers before him and read.
“All right, then. We have Martin, age twelve; Elisabet, age five; Collan, age four, and Katarina, the baby, at age three.”
Signe looked up, sheer panic crossing her features.
“Oh, no, Reverend Bishop. There were to be the three girls. I, that is, we, did not plan on a fourth child,” she said quickly. Turning to her husband, she continued, “Jacob, isn’t that right? We had not planned on taking care of four children, surely — .”
Jacob floundered. He looked plaintively at the Bishop.
“I do believe there is a misunderstanding, Reverend Bishop. My wife and I were extremely happy and blessed at the thought of becoming parents to three, but not four, children at the same time. I know that my, uh, our budget does not extend to caring for a fourth child.” He paused. “And did you say that the boy is twelve years of age?”
Glancing again at the papers on his desk, the Bishop nodded.
“Yes. There is a seven-year age difference between the boy and his eldest sister.”
“Could one not assume that a boy that age might become a very worthy servant, or apprentice, in a decent Gothenburg family, Reverend Bishop?” Jacob asked. “I mean, I was told that a family who bids the lowest amount of money it needs from the parish can be issued a child, especially one who is twelve or older. Surely there are rich Gothenburg families who need extra labor on their estates?”
The Bishop sat back in his chair and smoothed his ample white sideburns. He considered Jacob’s query. He had hoped the adoption of all four children would go smoothly, but it was not the first time he had encountered difficulties in the process.
Bruce W. Bishop is an award-winning travel and lifestyle journalist based in Nova Scotia, Canada. 'Unconventional Daughters' is his first novel. The interlinked second novel, 'Uncommon Sons', was released in the summer of 2021.