Why would a group of over 2,000 people march naked across Western Canada’s prairies ?

Settling Canada’s West:


Kremlin Russia

The largest migration to Canada at one time, (8,000 people) the Doukhobors have been a little known factor in the settling of the west in Canada. When you read and research Canadian history you will discover mainly Anglo-Franco activities that are documented.

The Doukhobors were considered a pacifist group. But they challenged the Czar and the Orthodox Church In Russia and Russia appeared to be happy to let the troublemakers go. Canada opened their doors.  But it wasn’t all kindness on Canada’s part. The Doukhobors were great farmers and well able to handle the harshness of cold winters and isolation better than most.


Vosnesenia village, NE of Arran, Saskatchewan (North Colony)

Yet the question is – why did many Doukhobors start marching across the western prairies?  In 1902, 2000 or so Doukhobors –  many naked, calling themselves – The Sons of Freedom marched across the cold prairies.  They were searching for Utopia – the land of milk and honey. The Canadian government reports they marched in protest against having to sign allegiance to Canada (something their religion didn’t believe should be done).  And they were ordered to stake claim to square sections of land – privately owned, rather than share communal lands.  It was probably a reason but why naked?  Many Doukhobors, who didn’t win against the government, moved to British Columbia, where the laws didn’t say they must own the land in individual square parcels.

In Paradise on the Horizon my heroine escapes Russia, by joining the Doukhobors migration.

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M Forbes

Paradise on the Horizon: Excerpt 2

Excerpt from Paradise on the Horizon:

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M. Forbes

Luke’s eyes narrowed.  “How am I ever going to explain you to my neighbors?  Look, Natasha, ladies don’t act like whores.  Unless you want everyone believing you are my mistress, I’d start watching my behavior, if I were you.”

“You would not recognize a lady if you fell over her.”

Mutinously, Natasha reached back, motioning for Boris to pass her the bottle of wine she’d purchased in Minnedosa.  Tipping the bottle, she took a large swig of the alcohol, smiling maliciously.

So Luke wanted to teach her manners, did he?  His battered features looked drawn and sore, but she no longer cared.  Let him suffer.  She would not offer him a drink to soften the pain.  He didn’t drink.

Seeing the abhorrence in his eyes, she flicked her tongue out, deliberately licking the red drops from her lips.

“You can’t drink on the train.”  Luke hissed and then stopped short.  He started to chuckle.  His face softened.  “You’re behaving like a spoiled child, sweetheart.”

“How would that be, sweetheart?”  Natasha asked, sugary sweet.  She took another deep swallow, but it didn’t taste as good now.  She was behaving like a child.  “Of course, ladies don’t drink either.  What was I thinking?”

“No, they don’t.  But that’s beside the point.  No one can drink on a train, sweetheart.  If you’re caught, they’ll put you in jail.  Then they’ll find out who you are and ship you back to the Doukhobors.”

“Are you trying to frighten me Luke?”  Natasha whispered with mock bravado.

Did they really throw people in jail for drinking on a train?   She saw the humor in his eyes.  Surely, he was teasing her again.  “You know, I just realized you would fit in very well with those ‘Spirit Wrestlers’.  Maybe we should go back and make a trade.  They need workhorses and would surely get more use out of you than me.”

Paradise on the Horizon: Excerpt 1

From the time I was little I was fascinated with North American western history. Living in Canada’s west, with its’ low population and vast lands I learned there is still a way to explore and discover new horizons.  Canada’s rich history is virtually unexplored and undocumented in a fiction manner at this time.  Meet my ‘New West’.

At the turn of the century (1900’s) there were many events happening in the west.  Russia was in absolute turmoil with communist forces gaining power.  Russia allowed a pacifist religious sect migrate to Canada – the Doukhobors.  The infamous marching naked by the ‘Sons of Freedom’ searching for Utopia is a historical fact.  My heroine, a Russian Princess escapes with the Doukhobors.  From a Princess to a farmer is a shock she must learn to deal with.

At the same time Canadian Forces were fighting under British direction in the Boer War in South Africa.  When the English public heard rumors of abuse and rape there, Kitchener decided to come down hard on these atrocities.  My hero is a soldier, wrongly accused of rape and court-marshaled.

And to further tie actual events into my story – Reverend Lloyd Barr decided to start a colony on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border – a place now called Lloydminister. He wanted only good English stock for his settlement  Unfortunately, the farmers in England were not about to leave their fertile lands and he only got some aristocrats down on their luck to street, town-dwellers to come to Canada. None were farmers. The Doukhobors were excellent farmers.

And that is how my princess meets her soldier.

Historical Romance:  – Paradise on the Horizon.  –  Excerpt:

“What are you doing?”  Standing, Luke managed to bring his shotgun up, pointing it ominously at the strange vision before him.

“No.  You will not do this.”

Screeching like a wildcat, the old crone sprang at him.  He barely had time to think before she hit him squarely on his chest, wrestling the rifle from his frostbitten fingers.  Panting heavily, she flung it into the icy slush.

Stunned, Luke felt stinging pricks against his frozen face and shoulders as she violently beat against him, following him down as he fell to the ground.

Instinctively, he reached and his massive fist connected with her chin.

He pushed the sagging form away from his pinned body.  Rolling over, he came to rest savagely on top her.  His hands held her slender wrists above her head.  Hearing her frantic moans, he peered down into her squinting features.  Another shock ripped through him.  She was no old crone.

Instead the most sultry, magnificent blue eyes opened, glaring with stormy hostility up into his face.  Her oval face was boldly stunning and completely unlined.  Her pouting lips trembled, so tempting and kissable he felt an immediate jolt of response in his groin.

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M. Forbes

Dilemma of a Modern Writer – Combating the Urge to Give-Up

… and why I can’t, would make the title much too long.  But it certainly needs to be said as I can’t give up.  There are days I say – ‘in the whole scheme of my life – how important is it to write’.  The answer is always – I can’t stop.  The urge, the ideas and the need – combine to make it impossible to quit.  I can accept if I write for myself (your loss romance readers – tongue in cheek) – so be it.

Just one idle moment starts me writing – giving an opinion – even if it’s only to a friend or relative.  It’s surely an addiction – but it is a harmless addiction, only affecting me and no one else.  It might also be my addiction that offers light relief from stress in other people’s lives.  For a few hours I offer enjoyment, hope and happiness by escaping into another world.  It is probably therapeutic for me as well.

Previously I wrote historical and the research had me spend endless days enthralled and fascinated.  When I was younger I heard that Canada was a boring, passive country populated by nice, wonderful, happy people. I know this because some historians/writers said so.  When I began researching I couldn’t believe our rich,exciting history and so my writing career started.  From the Lost Lemon Mine Legend to Indian Massacres and on to Canada’s Civil War and even Billy Miner – a notorious train/bank robber who rivals Jesse James I was hooked.

Trying to capture these stories I have published three historical romances and have two written in rough draft.  I can’t seem to complete those two as new ideas and new thoughts invade and push me to write yet further stories.  I can’t give-up and I suggest to all writer’s – never give-up – even if you are writing for your own pleasure.  So many great stories have been rejected for no fact – other than they have been rejected, not because they aren’t good.  Writing and reading are all perception and opinion.  It is never a fact.

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M. ForbesIn Paradise on the Horizon a religious group actually march naked across the cold, barren prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. They called themselves the ‘Sons of Freedom’. Is that boring or does it beg the question – why? 

Resources – It’s not Written in Stone.

I do know some authors and would-be authors who can’t accept something might need changing.  They may be right but they may be wrong.  If you choose to self-publish it won’t seem to matter.  Your readers make the decision.  It leaves the hands of the author and the publisher. If more readers like it than don’t – you’ve made the right decision.  But it’s human to make mistakes and we are all human.

It is wise to have your book critiqued.  Preferably by more than one person.  Only you can decide which advice to take and which to discard.  There are good critiques and there are bad critiques. Be wary of those that might try to change the whole story.  I once wrote a children’s book and after a few critiques one didn’t like the story at all – it wasn’t Harry Potter caliber.  I was stunned.  How many children’s stories are?  I personally don’t trust anyone who suggests changing the whole story.  I will accept – show/don’t tell – boring – too much explanation – work into story – of course spelling and grammar errors – too unbelievable – are all pieces of advice I accept.  But – it is ultimately my story and I have reasons to write it the way I do.

Trying to make a ‘simple’ story teller into a ‘literary genius’ might be a more unbelievable situation I think.  Each has their own merits and place in books.  It is all a matter of what you seek.  A light, fluffy romance is more likely to be read for someone seeking a relaxing, easy, escapism read where if you want more thought-provoking information a light romance is not what you seek.  It’s all a matter of personal choice and timing.

In my story Paradise on the Horizon I was told by an editor that I made my heroine too arrogant. As it was an editor who gave me that advice I considered it carefully, but then decided not to change her nature.  My reasoning was – my heroine as a Russian Princess during a hard part in her life will still be arrogant. She won’t become meek and passive just because circumstances change – and that arrogance might be a part of her severe struggles.Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M. Forbes

So my recommendation is to carefully weigh all advice and make your own decisions as in the end it’s your story only.  But don’t ever feel words or scenes can’t be changed either.  We are all individuals with different thoughts and ideas.  It’s always a matter of telling a story to me – not necessarily changing a story on another person’s opinion. But if I like the changes I will do so.

Setting for Paradise on the Horizon

The Doukhobors, one of Canada’s largest immigration groups were from Russia.They were a strange religious sect to many people.  They were peaceful, refused to fight but were excellent farmers.  They were certainly a great group to settle  the prairies of Canada.  Then one day at the beginning of the 1900’s Canada’s hostile plains defeated them.  Nearly half calling themselves ‘Sons of Freedom‘ went marching, mostly naked in the cool spring searching for Utopia. My heroine, Natasha – a Russian Princess, escapes from Russia with the Doukhobors.

Researching further I discovered Canada was fighting in the Boer War in South Africa.  British Kitchener decided to appease the people complaining in England he would use any and all examples of abuse and severely punish any soldier, Canadian or English charged with atrocities, true or not.  My hero  – a Canadian soldier – is one of those wrongly charged.

Disowned by his family and friends he goes out west.  He first hires himself out as a guard to stop the Sons of Freedom before they freeze to death.  He discovers that a Reverend Barr is starting up a colony on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border.  Until he can clear his name, as Barr wants only good English stock in his colony, Luke becomes a farmer.  He knows nothing of farming but helps Natasha escape the Doukhobors knowing she does, thinking she is a Doukhobor.

All these incidents tied together so well – true incidents, my story Paradise on the Horizon, was created.

Teaser Trailer on Paradise on the Horizon

Lies and Conflict

“Stepan is my nephew. He would never hurt his aunt.”  Katya interrupted, her voice rising hysterically.  “I’m not going with Boris. He’s going with those Spirit Wrestlers.  Why the Czar was just saying how much trouble those people are causing…”

“They won’t even fight.”  Prince Alexander snorted “And what use would Stepan have for you?  All you’re good for is spending money, Cheri.  Will you stop being so selfish?  Tashya is only fifteen.  She needs you.”

“But the Doukhobors are peasants.”

“Enough.”  Alexander stood and nodded towards the huge man standing in the doorway.  “Take them, Boris, and guard Tashya.”

Hardships in a new world

     “Since it’s obvious you have no money, sweetheart or clothes for that matter, just how are you planning on getting on the train?”  Laughter edged his words.

“I’m sorry. I believe I do need help.”  Inside her heart was sinking. Her leaving the Doukhobors wouldn’t harm this man, even slightly.  Yet it meant everything to her.

“Did they mistreat you?”  Luke asked, compassion filling his eyes.  They certainly didn’t look cold now, she realized with surprise.  “I saw some pictures, in the newspapers back East.  They had women hooked up to plows, like horses. Did you plow fields, like a horse?”

“If that were all they made me do, I’d be happy.”  Natasha swallowed, wishing she hadn’t set the bottle of wine back on the table.  She needed another drink.

Unlikely relationship

     “Are soldiers in Canada better than a Princess?”

“Better than?”  Luke shook his head, puzzled.  “You lost me somewhere, sweetheart.  I think anyone might be better than a Russian Princess.”

“Why?”  Natasha blinked back her shock.  So, he did think he was too good for even a Russian Princess.  What an odd idea.

“The decadence and atrocities that go on with those Russian aristocrats are notorious.  They don’t treat people like you very well so I’ve heard so why would you care?”  Luke’s voice was puzzled as he stared at her.


“Natasha,” Luke began hesitantly.  She deserved to know the truth.  “I love another woman.”

“You don’t belong here.  Go to her.”  Standing abruptly, Natasha stomped over to the shelf and yanked down their tin plates.  Slamming them down to the table, she showed her hurt like a banner.

Luke wanted to take her back into his arms and soothe the hurt away.  He only wanted to touch her again and that thought was painful. His need for Natasha was gut-wrenching. He could understand her anger.  He was angry himself.

From escaping Russia to running from the Doukhobors (a peculiar religious sect) to fighting for the love of a man who loved another, follow Luke and Natasha’s story in

Paradise on the Horizon

Thanks to Vivienne – One World Singles Magazine

I met Vivienne Dianne Neal through Linked-In groups and want to thank her for the opportunity for a review in the magazine.  Thank you Vivienne.


Interview – by Julie Jordan, Author

I want to thank Julie Jordan – A Place for Authors – and her interview with me.  Julie has an excerpt of her upcoming novel – ‘Janelle’s Time.’

Visit:    https://aplaceforwriters.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/apw-diy-interview-mary-m-forbes/ to see the interview.