JayneB Reviews / Book Reviews1750s / 18th-century / American historical / Canada / enemies to lovers / French and Indian War / Frontier / Historical / immigrants / Virginia / War / MilitaryNo Comments
As 1754 is drawing to a close, tensions between the French and the British on Canada’s Acadian shore are reaching a fever pitch. Seamstress Sylvie Galant and her family–French-speaking Acadians wishing to remain neutral–are caught in the middle, their land positioned between two forts flying rival flags. Amid preparations for the celebration of Noël, the talk is of unrest, coming war, and William Blackburn, the British Army Ranger raising havoc across North America’s borderlands.
As summer takes hold in 1755 and British ships appear on the horizon, Sylvie encounters Blackburn, who warns her of the coming invasion. Rather than participate in the forced removal of the Acadians from their land, he resigns his commission. But that cannot save Sylvie or her kin. Relocated on a ramshackle ship to Virginia, Sylvie struggles to pick up the pieces of her life. When her path crosses once more with William’s, they must work through the complex tangle of their shared, shattered past to navigate the present and forge an enduring future.
CW – Death of a child aboard a transport ship, clearance of the Acadians from their homes
Dear Ms. Franz,
I’ve come to look forward to January because it means that there will be another book of yours being released and your books are usually set during the 18th century (yes, I’m a fan of Georgian era books). When I saw the title and read the blurb, the first thing that came to mind was Longfellow’s tragic poem and I thought “Oh no, please don’t let the MCs be separated for years.” Thankfully they’re not though heroine Sylvie does lose many of her family members during the Acadian clearance.
A brief prologue introduces hero William Blackburn who is fighting for his life as he flees the French. Then we don’t hear about him again for about a quarter of the book. But I was enjoying learning about life in Acadie, seeing Sylvie’s close knit family and traditions, and I was content to wait. Trouble, however, is brewing and the tension is slowly ratcheted up. Are the English coming? Will the French in the local fort be able to fight them off? Will the Acadians be allowed to continue their way of life, as neutrals in a war that everyone feels is coming?
So (no spoiler) the answers are yes, no, and no. Sylvie and Will meet when he arrives with his Rangers and (incognito) comes looking for her half-brother Bleu, the son of her father’s first marriage to a Mi’kmaq woman who was killed by the English in a raid. Will’s family was slaughtered by French and Hurons when he was a child so there is a lot of pain to go around. Once Sylvie knows who Will actually is, she is torn but lands on the side of “this man is my enemy as he is the enemy of my people.” Only Will had no idea what the English plans were for the Acadians and resigns in protest. He’s not there when the Acadians begin to be treated like shit by the English and that’s before they get shoved onto death ships, many of which sink in storms.
After their ship founders off the coast of Virginia, Sylvie and a few others are rescued by a Captain Lennox who acts decently towards them and begins to rally other powerful men of the Virginia colony to their side. Yay that we see Henri again, followed by Esme and her sister and brother-in-law all from “A Heart Adrift.” Many Virginians aren’t so thrilled that boatloads of French speaking immigrants are suddenly landing there. Sylvie and some of her fellow shipmates are allowed to seek employment in Williamsburg (loved seeing more of life there then) and that is where she and Will meet up again. Is there a chance that these two can overcome all that stands between them?
I will note that despite the nice glossary at the beginning (and thank you for that), a lot of it was used only to annoyingly be followed immediately by an English translation. Some of the writing was also done in a way to, I guess, make it sound more period. I either got used to this or it petered out. Religion is a major part of the character’s lives but in a way that is personal to them without it being inserted too much in the story with a heavy hand. Mileage will vary for readers.
Thank you for not sugar coated all the terrible stuff that occurs in this book. And I don’t just mean what happens to the Acadians though that is the main injustice. Sylvie’s crew initially end up in an almshouse in Virginia before having to take jobs that are offered to them regardless of what they really want to do. They are not welcomed with open arms by many in Williamsburg. There is a pair of orphans who become important to Sylvie who were bound out for service though the youngest is only about four. Child labor, gotta hate it. Also, an enslaved woman sets Sylvie straight about the differences between them and what Society will allow. I wish that Eve’s story had some closure but perhaps she will appear in a future book? Please.
I like that Sylvie takes control – as much as she can – of her path forward after losing everyone dear to her. She uses her skills with a needle, ability to speak French – the English and Colonists may hate the French but they love French fashions, wine, and the language – to improve her lot. Given the book title, I wasn’t surprised that more of the plot revolves around her. Will is basically a decent guy. He treats people well and comes up with a plan to help those Acadians in need. Like Henri two books ago, Will faces some criticism in not being in the military with war already breaking out but yeah, he’s done.
The romance is more of a slow burn with Sylvie conflicted by her feelings and Will knowing his but not willing to push her. He gently courts her though he steps back to let her figure out what she wants. Their relationship is an enemies-to-lovers slow thaw. The plan that Will has actually works and things with this go well. So well that the third quarter of the book seemed to drag a little as I waited for a few things I thought might happen. When Something Finally Happened, it occurred very quickly and (only) partly out of the blue. Or should I say “Bleu.” I didn’t think that Will would be fooled but how were things going to be solved and ended? I was happy with this though, like Sylvie, I’d enjoy seeing Someone settle down and yes, I want more about several characters. Please. B
Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.