Friday, June 9, 2017

Duty to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 28, 2016

Set amid the promise and challenge of the first Canadian colonies, Aimie K. Runyan’s vividly rendered novel provides a fascinating portrait of the women who would become the founding mothers of New France. In 1667, an invisible wall separates settlers in New France from their Huron neighbors. Yet whether in the fledgling city of Quebec or within one of the native tribes, every woman’s fate depends on the man she chooses—or is obligated—to marry. Although Claudine Deschamps and Gabrielle Giroux both live within the settlement, their prospects are very different. French-born Claudine has followed her older sister across the Atlantic hoping to attract a wealthy husband through her beauty and connections. Gabrielle, orphan daughter of the town drunkard, is forced into a loveless union by a cruel law that requires her to marry by her sixteenth birthday. And Manon Lefebvre, born in the Huron village and later adopted by settlers, has faced the prejudices of both societies and is convinced she can no longer be accepted in either. Drawn into unexpected friendship through their loves, losses, and dreams of home and family, all three women will have to call on their bravery and resilience to succeed in this new world…

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Arrival of the Brides by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale.
Lysander reflects that “The course of true love never did run smooth…”  in Act 1, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The play is not my favorite, but the line speaks to a truth few writers are willing and/or able to recreate. We all know that ‘happily ever after’ endings sell like hotcakes, but the reality of love is far more complicated than most fiction suggests.

Romantic love is obviously the most popular, but familial, parental, spiritual, and communal love, are equally powerful and important which is what Claudine Deschamps, Gabrielle Giroux, and Manon Lefebvre discover in Aimie K. Runyan’s Duty to the Crown. Each faces a unique set of challenges, but when all is said and done, it is the relationships they form along the way that see them through.

I give Runyan a lot of credit for tackling a number of complex social issues through the trials and tribulations for her three heroines and I don’t mean to downplay the historic value of the novel in any way, but it was her illustration of Quebec’s greater community of women that captured my imagination. It is obvious that a great deal of research when into this piece and that the author has a lot of respect for both French and Canadian culture, but the strength and fortitude of the nation’s founding mothers is first and foremost among her chosen themes and I greatly appreciated how she chose to display and explore those ideas through her fiction.

Duty to the Crown is the second book the Daughters of New France series and while it isn’t entirely necessary to read the novels in order, I’d definitely recommend tackling the volumes chronologically. 

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God in heaven, I escaped my father’s house only to find myself in a deeper circle of hell. I don’t know what I’ve done to offend, but I think it’s You who must make amends now.
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