The story follows William and his sister Ella Durant. They have spent their formative years traveling and living abroad, cavorting with high society, while their father, Dr. Thomas C. Durant, builds the transcontinental railroad (1861-1874). It comes as a shock to William when, in his 24th year, his father instructs him to return to America to take on the family’s tradition of building railroads, this time into the interior of the Adirondack Wilderness where the Durants own half a million acres. Even more shocking however is that Dr. Durant is now bankrupt and recovering from a political scandal that has investors both in London and New York wary of Durant business endeavors.
Being brought up mostly by his English-bred mother, and having no formal education in business, William struggles to maneuver in the American business landscape when Robber Barons were at the height of their political and economic power. When William is sent to scout out a location for the family compound in the Adirondacks he soon discovers that he much prefers the wilderness than business jungle in New York City.
While overseeing the construction of his beloved retreat, Pine Knot, in the Adirondacks, William meets Louise Lawrence — half French Canadian, half Mohawk Indian — and falls in love. William also has to contend with his father’s insistence on making him President of the Adirondack Railroad, which requires him to spend more time in New York City and away from Louise and Pine Knot. Further adding to his disillusion is that fact that he is President of the Railroad Company in name only as his father maintains autocratic control.
Ella struggles with her own cultural identity as she strives to be recognized as a writer, while trying to avert an arranged marriage. When Ella falls in love with Poultney Bigelow, a literary partner for Ella, she makes the mistake of getting caught with him in an uncompromising situation. William is torn trying to protect her from their father’s wrath as well as keeping Ella in line. The sister and brother have a falling out.
When brother and sister meet at the death-bed of their father, they must contend with the fact that they would like to see him dead so they can resume a life of freedom, and take control of the family landholdings and money.
Juxtaposing this narrative is the narrative of Avery and Jack, present day inhabitants of one of the cabins William Durant built in the woods for his trysts with Louise and later in life, Minnie. They find a diary dated 1893 which provides clues to the Durant destiny and lures the reader into wanting to read more about the Durant family saga for novels two and three in the trilogy.
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About the Author
Sheila Myers is an Associate Professor at Cayuga Community College in Upstate New York. If she is not off planting trees with her students she is writing. Myers traveled to England, and visited several libraries and museums throughout England and the U.S. to research this novel. Her website and blog about the research journey for this project can be found at: www.wwdurantstory.com. Imaginary Brightness: A Durant Family Saga is Sheila's second novel. Her first:
Ephemeral Summer, is a coming of age story set in her beloved Finger Lakes. You can find Sheila on Twitter at @SheilaMMyers.