Valancy Stirling is reaching 29 years old and has never fallen in love because her family is so controlling and stifling but one day she dares to break stand up for herself and break family expectations entirely by falling in love with a vagabond. The story begins with Valancy Stirling feeling depressed about her life because she feels like she's hardly lived in it. She's the oldest spinster in her family and constantly compared to her more beautiful and popular cousin and her spinsterhood the butt of jokes and pity. On the outside, Valancy is a drab, wallpaper type of girl who is obedient to her mother and often sickly and unhappy. Her only consolation is to read some beautiful books about the vast freedom of the natural world by the author John Foster and daydream about her Blue Castle and the lovers in it. Lately, she's been having queer pains in her heart so she goes to see a doctor about it. Her appointment is cut short due to her doctor having a familial emergency. Later on, Valancy receives a letter from her doctor saying that she has a heart complication and may not have very long to live. The doctor suggests that she take care not to overexcite herself and take pills to keep her condition stable for as long as possible. Valancy is shocked at the news that she might die but the news also liberates her.
Suddenly, her life is put into perspective. Valancy is tired of meekly allowing her Aunts, Uncles and Mother to push her around. She starts to rebel, much to the horror of her family who think she's gone nuts because they don't know of Valancy's health condition. Valancy used to bear with her relations but now she finds amusement in being rebellious and the reactions she gets from her relations. She finds out that one of her old school friends is very ill and dying from tuberculosis. She befriends the "mad drunkard" old coot (Roaring Abel is his name) who is her friend's father and she helps care for her friend until her death. She even, to the horror of her family, moves to live with her friend. During her stay with her friend, she meets Barney Snaith, a sort of vagabond with a rakish air that her family utterly disapproves of. Valancy is curious about Barney, as he leads a secretive life. The townsfolk speculate all sorts of things about Barney - that he's a notorious criminal who's hiding from the law in the wilds.
One day, Abel invites Valancy to a party at an assembly where well brought up ladies are not normally to be found. Abel was hired to play music there and he thinks a good dance will do Valancy some good. Valancy, for the first time in her life, decides to indulge herself a little and dresses up very nicely. At the dance, there are more men than girls and Valancy is constantly asked to dance - especially around the midnight hours when the men start getting a bit drunk and rowdy. Barney makes his appearance at around this time and helps Valancy escape from a bunch of snubbed men who didn't like being rejected by her. Barney drives her back to Abel's house, however along the way, his car runs out of gas. They are stuck on a dark lonely road together. Valancy finds she likes Barney's company very much and that she feels comfortable even sitting in silence with him. Funny enough, one of Valancy's Uncles shows up and is horrified to find Valancy with the vagabond late at night. He says that he will forgive Valancy if she comes home with him but Valancy refuses and takes a sort of glee at turning her nose up at society and the approval of her family.
Over the next few days, Valancy and Barney go out for movies etc. and gossip abounds. Though Valancy finds she is in love with Barney, she's not so sure whether Barney is dating her because he feels sorry for her or because he actually likes her, too. One day, Abel's daughter finally passes away from her illness and Abel, distraught, goes on a drinking spree though he doesn't do anything to harm Valancy. Valancy tells him she will leave now, but not to return home to her family. Instead, she waits for Barney to come and asks him to marry her. She explains that she's got a condition where she won't live past a few more months and that before she dies, she wants to live a peaceful, happy life and that she thought she could get that with Barney. Barney is surprised that Valancy cares that much for him and he agrees to marry her - though Valancy doesn't kid herself into thinking it's really out of love but more out of friendship and maybe pity.
Valancy returns home only to inform her family that she's now married to Barney and she will be living with him in his cabin on the island. Her family is resigned that she has completely gone mad and are now trying to smooth over the embarrassment she has caused for the family reputation by pretending she no longer exists. When Valancy sees her new home, she loves it - it is better than the Blue Castle of her dreams. She and Barney live a simple life, enjoying nature and living off of the land and away from civilization. Barney has some secrets that he admits he doesn't want Valancy to know and Valancy respects that. There is, in particular, one room that is always locked, giving off an air of the Bluebeard story. Overall, however, Valancy completely loves Barney and is happy that she has him as her companion. Barney makes nature beautiful for her, in his descriptions - he's almost better than her favorite John Foster Nature books. One day, Barney doesn't return during a snow storm and Valancy is worried sick and she realizes that she loves him so much and is so relieved when he returns safely. Valancy notices that Barney has opened up a lot more to her as well since they first met and she hopes that maybe Barney loves her as much as she loves him.
One day, Valancy is spotted by a famous artist who wants to paint her. Barney is a little jealous and Valancy is amused and gains a new sort of confidence about herself. A few days later, she and Barney are having a walk and they cross a railroad station. That day, Valancy had indulged herself by purchasing some pretty heeled shoes, but the heel of her shoe became caught in the railroad. Suddenly, the train was coming and Valancy thought she was going to die but Barney frees her. Valancy's heart was beating really fast and hard for those moments and Valancy wonders why she didn't die that moment. The seed of doubt starts settling in her mind as she thinks over the last few months of her life. She's already lived far beyond what the doctor said she would live - could it be possible he had made a mistake? For the rest of the day, Valancy and Barney lapse into silence and finally Barney leaves on one of his rambles. The next day, Barney still hasn't returned so Valancy goes to see the doctor again. The doctor is surprised that Valancy thinks she was going to die and admits that he made a mistake and had sent her a letter that was supposed to be given to someone else! Valancy never had a heart problem and she was actually quite healthy. Though this is good news, Valancy is heartbroken and her mind is full of scenarios. Will Barney believe that she wasn't lying about her heart condition? Will he feel like he was tricked into marrying her? Will he still love her now that the pity factor is gone?
Valancy returns to the island and finds a man there who turns out to be Barney's father, a millionaire inventor of pseudo-health products. Barney's dad tells her that Barney had gone off and not been in contact with him for years and it was through lots of effort that his dad finally found out where he was. Barney's dad tells Valancy that Barney was jilted by his fiance who was a beautiful girl that only wanted to marry Barney for his money but was secretly disgusted that Barney was the son of a businessman that made unglamorous health products. Barney overheard her making fun of him and breaks it off with her but his heart was never fully healed after that. Upon hearing this, Valancy is full of dread. She thinks that Barney will think Valancy was doing the same thing to him! Only trying to marry him for his money!
After Barney's father leaves, Valancy returns to the cabin. Barney is still gone but he has left the door to Bluebeard's room open. Valancy believes that Barney wants to be alone because he knows that Valancy has lied to him about her heart condition. Valancy discovers that Barney is actually John Foster! She leaves him a note telling him the truth and saying that she will not take it wrongly if he decides to break off their marriage. She then returns back to her family.
Eventually, Barney and Valancy will reconcile and finally admit to each other how much they love each other. Valancy will have her moment of redemption, proving her superior worth to her family when her family discovers that she's married a millionaire.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the beautiful language that LM Montgomery uses to describe nature - she paints such beautiful romantic dreamscapes.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was at the end when Barney tells Valancy that the reason why he had to be alone after the railroad incident was because it reminded him of the fact that Valancy might die from her heart problems and he couldn't bear it because he had fallen totally in love with her.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Valancy showed immense growth as a character - changing from a timid, obedient girl to a happy, independent and free woman.
Valancy Stirling has always been afraid of life. She's almost 29, and her family still controls her. They tell her what to wear, what to eat, and what to do. They also tease her because she has never been married or even been asked. Then, Valancy receives some startling news. She has a fatal heart condition. At most, she could live a year or die at any moment. Valancy takes this news as an opportunity to live. She doesn't tell her family anything, but shocks them by doing exactly what she wants. At first, this only includes saying what she thinks. But, she soon shocks them by going to nurse dying Cissy Gay, who is an outcast for having a child out of wedlock. An even worse shock comes when Valancy marries Barney Snaith, who everyone in town believes is a notorious criminal. Valancy lets Barney know about her condition, and believes that he has only married her out of pity. But, she is happier with him than she has ever been.
This report prepared by Angela Tircuit