This is the first of my monthly book reviews I will do on my website. I will go back and forth between reviewing writing craft books I find helpful and works of fiction and history I enjoyed. It will be a potpourri of books.
This month’s book is the debut novel for local Colorado Author Aimie K. Runyan, entitled Promised to the Crown, published by Kensington Press. Here’s the premise write off the back cover:
They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters” – young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their dutyis to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving – poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance at happiness.
There were several things I enjoyed about this book. Chiefly, it deals with a part of history I am not really familiar with – Colonial France. Yes, everyone knows about the sugar plantations in the Caribbean, the slavery and the piracy. But, the frontier of Quebec is different. I did not know that Louis XIV instituted a plan to encourage young women to immigrate on their own to Quebec and find husbands. So this was a treat for me, I learned a lot.
What I really liked were the strong female characters. They leapt off the page for me. Even minor characters, like Elizabeth’s domineering mother, who continued to create problems for her daughter almost a year after she left France, to Mother Mathilde who ran the town convent and tried to make good matches for these women, were vivid, to me.
But what I really liked was how the author shows us societies expectations on these women’s bodies. The norms of their society, the Roman Catholic Church, their frontier community, not to mention their husbands, all made demands on their persons – and sex was the least of it. Mothering, working, as status symbols of prosperity and wealth, Aimie does a subtle job of exploring the expectations placed on these women’s bodies. The demands, at times, are so subtle, they don’t even realize they are being used. But the whole reason their trip is paid for by the King of France is so they marry and have lots of babies. The pressure to marry and give birth is high. And, while the coming of babies is a time of joy for most women, when you add the lack of our modern pre-natal care in 17th century frontier Quebec, the announcement of a pregnancy is fraught with danger.
One particular plot line fascinated me.
One of the characters has a hard childbirth which ended with the baby dying a few hours later. The way Aimie Runyan describes the ruinous state the characters body is in after childbirth, I just knew she was never going to get pregnant again. So you can imagine my joy when the character conceives a few chapters later. However, I was worried, too. Will the baby survive? There are several miscarriages for our characters. And, the frontier is dangerous. Will the mother survive? Hell, will the father survive?
There is also provincial politics in Aimie’s Debut novel. Men of high standing lord their power over others. Being prosperous is a political statement. The women new to Quebec are constantly reminded not to make enemies – of anyone.
When you combine the mortality rate, with the dangers of frontier living and the politics of the Ancient Regime, the best way I can describe Aimie’s book is to call it a small scale Little House on the Prairie meets Game of Thrones.
If you love historical romance, women’s fiction, or historical narratives in general, I Strongly suggest you get Promised to the Crown.
I don’t really have a rating system in place yet, but if I did, Promised to the Crown would receive the highest marks.
Amazon is having a Sale! If you purchase Promised to the Crown before Wednesday, Feb. 1st the paperback will be $10.20 on Amazon. Its normally $15. If you buy it on Kindle, its $2.99!