Goodreads: Kilmeny of the Orchard
To the small village of Lindsay on Prince Edward Island comes Eric Marshall, a twenty-four-year-old substitute schoolmaster. Dark and handsome, the son of a wealthy merchant, Eric has a bright future in the family business and has taken the two-month teaching post only as a favor to a friend.
Then fate, which has been more than generous to Eric, throws in his path a beautiful, mysterious girl named Kilmeny Gordon. With jet-black hair and the face of a Renaissance Madonna, Kilmeny immediately captures the young man’s heart. But she is mute and cannot speak, and Eric is concerned for and bewitched by this shy, sensitive, blue-eyed girl.
For the first time in his life, Eric must work hard for something he wants badly. And there is nothing he wants more than for Kilmeny to return his love.
Kilmeny of the Orchard is one of those charming stories by L. M. Montgomery that is often overlooked simply because Anne is more popular. However, with protagonists who are fully adults and a male POV, Kilmeny has a lot to offer readers that Anne, Emily, and Pat cannot.
The story follows the quest of a young man with a bright future who suddenly finds himself captivated by a young woman who seems completely off-limits. Practically no one in Lindsay has met her, and her guardians are not interested in having her wooed. Complicating matters further, a foster brother seems to have laid claims on Kilmeny himself. This book is really all about the romance, which is perfect for readers who love when Montgomery gets romantic but don’t want to wait for her protagonists to take three books to grow up before they can even start courting.
Kilmeny does show its age more than some of Montgomery’s other stories, something that didn’t strike me when I read this book as a child but which certainly stood out to me on this reading. For one thing, there’s a character who’s inherently suspicious simply because he’s a foreigner, Italian. It doesn’t matter he was raised on the Island since he was an infant by a Canadian and never even met his biological parents; nature over nurture counts at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The representation of Kilmeny and the relationship between her and Eric also reads as a little dated. Eric is 24 and Kilmeny 18, and Eric is completely captivated by how charmingly innocent Kilmeny is (partially due to her isolated upbringing, not just her age). Montgomery does make sure Kilmeny has a transformation where she goes from girl to woman before the romance gets too far, but I think the obsession with teaching the innocent young maiden the ways of love is a fantasy that read better for Montgomery’s audience than it might today. That said, I think even modern readers who feel their lives are a little dull will love the other part of the fantasy–that love simply walked into Kilmeny’s life when she was least expecting it. Very sweet.
Mixing romance. history, and a touch of the Gothic, Kilmeny of the Orchard is an enchanting story sure to appeal to Montgomery fans and readers who adore old-fashioned love stories.