There’s no better time than autumn to kick it like Miss Josephine March in her garret and curl up with a basket of crunchy apples and a favorite book. And there’s no better time than autumn to—again, like Miss Josephine March—be in New England. If a trip to the North Country isn’t in the cards for you this year, however, we can recommend the next best thing: the cozy, charming Moosepath League novels of Maine author Van Reid.
Set in Maine in the 1890s, this unforgettable series relates the many wild and wonderful adventures of the eponymous Moosepath League, which consists of big-hearted, benevolent leader Tobias Walton, his “gentleman’s gentleman” Sundry Moss, and the hapless trio of Ephram, Eagleton, and Thump. These last three may not be the brightest bulbs in the chandelier (except where the time, the weather, and the tides are concerned), but they’re stout-hearted to a fault and game for just about anything. Proudly embodying the League motto of “Tolerance, Curiosity, Humor,” the League visits various points of interest around the Pine Tree State, righting wrongs, solving mysteries, rescuing damsels in distress (and the occasional mysterious child), and entangling themselves with a parade of characters even more eccentric than they are. These aren’t romance novels in the traditional sense of the word, but there’s a strong romantic element to each, and any reader craving a leisurely afternoon lost in a distant time and place is sure to come away satisfied.
The League is established in Cordelia Underwood, or The Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League. The titular Cordelia is a lovely young woman of Portland who, as the story begins, inherits a parcel of land and a trunk full of personal effects from her seafaring uncle. The trunk contains a mysterious message—Our Minmaneth is a young goatt—and before long Cordelia is embroiled in an adventure to unravel the mysteries of Minmaneth. Along the way, she also finds herself the object of the attentions of two very different men, “Pirate of Industry” John Benning and resourceful backwoods guide Dresden Scott. Meanwhile, Mr. Walton meets the delightfully no-nonsense Miss Phileda McCannon, and Mr. Thump is entranced by Mrs. Roberto, a mysterious aerialist who (among other things) likes to leap out of hot air balloons. There’s a kidnapping that is resolved when one of the bad guys is captured in a…unique manner and a surprising finding beneath Minmaneth Rock. Reid also works in quite a number of interesting factoids about Maine history. All of this is en route to an entirely happy conclusion.
The subsequent books, in reading order, are:
Moss Farm, or the Mysterious Missives of the Moosepath League. Mr. Walton pays Sundry’s folks a visit, while the other members of the League go to remarkable lengths to deliver a letter…and quickly find themselves in over their collective heads, as is their wont.
Mollie Peer, or the Underground Adventure of the Moosepath Leagueintroduces the reader to society reporter Mollie Peer, baseball player Wyck O’Hearn, and the ragamuffin Bird, aka Mahlon, aka—but that would be telling. A spiritualist, a shaman, and an intelligent raccoon are on hand to keep things (even more) interesting.
Daniel Plainway, or the Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League. A favorite! Daniel Plainway is a kindly but very lonely country lawyer. Years ago, his neighbors, whom he loved dearly, disappeared, and at Christmastime his honor compels him on a journey of discovery—a journey that will change many lives, most especially his. A train derailment, a ghost, and a tender romance round things out.
Mrs. Roberto, or the Widowy Worries of the Moosepath League re-introduces the shapely and mysterious Mrs. Dorothea Roberto, beloved from afar by the tide-obsessed Mr. Thump. While he undertakes a perilous quest with Ephram and Eagleton to rescue Mrs. Roberto from what they are certain is dire peril, Mr. Walton and Sundry keep busy by—among other things—playing therapist to a depressed pig.
Fiddler’s Green, or a Wedding, a Ball, and the Singular Adventures of Sundry Moss. Sundry comes into his own, romancing Cordelia Underwood’s unassuming cousin, Priscilla, and enjoying thrilling adventures in the Maine woods.
There is so much to like about these books—their tight plotting, their gentle humor, and their cheerful Victorian setting—but their underlying optimism is what really makes them special. Reid’s Moosepathians are generous, open-hearted, and intrepid—and love is always possible, even under the most unlikely of circumstances. The courtship of Mr. Walton and Miss McCannon, both past the first bloom of youth, is given just as much care and attention as that of fresh young Cordelia and [SPOILER REDACTED]. When Mr. Walton frets that his commitments to League business won’t leave him sufficient time to give the lovely Phileda the attention she deserves, the League’s solution may be obvious, but it will still leave a smile on your face.
Word on the street is that a new Moosepath League adventure will appear in 2014. I hope this is true. The world needs more “Tolerance, Curiosity, [and] Humor,” and Van Reid’s Moosepathians are just the characters to deliver it. Pull up a comfy chair, have a Honeycrisp or two on hand, and dive right in.
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.