|St. Andrew Street East, Fergus, Ontario, Canada|
Dianne Ascroft, author of the Century Cottage Cozy Mystery series and the World War II series The Yankee Years, is a Canadian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland, with her husband and an assortment of strong-willed animals. She is fascinated by the history of the places where she has lived, and when she’s not writing, she enjoys walks in the countryside and evenings in front of a roaring fire. Learn more about Dianne and her books at her website.
Sometimes you find a place that captivates you and it just lingers in your mind. For me that spot is Fergus, Ontario, Canada, a small town one hundred kilometres northwest of Toronto. In fact, it has made such an impression on me that it inspired Fenwater, the town in my Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series.
One of the best things about Fergus is St Andrew Street East, the main street. The downtown section is only three blocks long but it has a diverse collection of shops and restaurants where you feel welcome as soon as you walk through the door. The last time I visited the town, I wandered along the street and stopped to admire the historic architecture of the squat, granite Carnegie Library, then walked a few doors farther to pop into an eclectic bookshop where I leisurely browsed without interruption. When I reached the end of the street, I rummaged in an old-fashioned market housed in a rustic, barnlike building. I also stopped at several craft and artisan shops. In one of them, I watched a craftswoman thread a beaded necklace together and another artisan paint stained glass decorations, and in another shop I sampled homemade chocolates.
Some of the other things you’ll find on the street are hot tubs, carpets and flooring, jewellery, health food products and fresh produce. There’s a wealth of unique items on sale that you won’t get in a chain store.
When you’ve had enough of browsing in the shops, you can indulge your taste buds at a tearoom, a public house, a tandoori restaurant or eat Italian cuisine in a 150 year old stone inn. There’s also a family-style diner where you can order something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich.
Entertainment is provided by the Grand Theatre, which stages a variety of shows and concerts throughout the year. You won’t find wild nightlife on St Andrew Street East, but there are lots of reasons to be there day or night.
|Fergus Grand River|
And as you wander along the street, the soothing sound of the Grand River’s flowing water winding its parallel path behind the street accompanies you.
Many of the buildings were built from granite quarried locally more than a century ago, giving the architecture a distinctive, charming character. Life on the street moves at a slower pace than on busy city streets and it’s not surprising to meet someone you know and stop for a chat. It’s just the sort of place where my protagonist, Lois Stone, feels at home. She left the big city for a slower pace of life and that’s what she’s found in Fenwater, the fictional version of Fergus.
On the flipside of the coin and the town are the huge supermarkets and chain stores in shopping malls, surrounded by acres of parking spaces, which have sprung up outside the downtown area. While they provide necessary products and services, they are impersonal and boringly predictable. The same brand name shops can be found in any mall on the North American continent. I think these cloned shopping complexes leach away the individual character of a town.
Given a choice between the two, I would rather meander along Fergus’s main street, not race my shopping trolley down unending aisles piled high with no-name brand goods. Since neighbours and community, and getting away from the rat race, are important to my protagonist I won’t be sending Lois to a mall to shop. That’s the world she was desperate to leave behind when she moved to Fenwater. So she’ll stick to the peaceful, welcoming main street of her town where there will always be friends to meet, something unique to discover and an intriguing mystery or two.
A Timeless Celebration
A Century Cottage Cozy Mystery
A small town, a big party, a stolen gift.
When an artefact from the Titanic is stolen before her town's 150th anniversary celebration, it's up to Lois Stone to catch the thief.
Middle-aged widow Lois has moved from bustling Toronto to tranquil Fenwater and is settling into her new life away from the dangers of the city. Then two events happen that shatter her serenity: her house is burgled and an antique watch belonging to a Titanic survivor is stolen from the local museum. Her best friend, Marge, was responsible for the watch's safekeeping until its official presentation to the museum at the town's 150th anniversary party, and its disappearance will jeopardize her job and the museum's future. Lois won't let her friend take the blame and the consequences for the theft. She's determined to find the watch in time to save her best friend's job, the museum's future, and the town's 150th anniversary celebration. And so begins a week of new friends, apple and cinnamon muffins, calico cats, midnight intruders, shadowy caprine companions and more than one person with a reason to steal the watch, set against the backdrop of century houses on leafy residential streets, the swirling melodies of bagpipes, a shimmering heat haze and the burble of cool water.