Book Review: The Pelican Bride by Beth White

Title: The Pelican Bride

Author: Beth White

Publisher: Revell, Grand Rapids MI, 2014, 353pp.

Copy Source: purchased on bookoutlet.com

Within the past six months or so, I’ve recognized a resurgence in affection for a type of story that I had forgotten I enjoyed.  Namely, mail-order bride stories, preferably set in the American West.  The Pelican Bride caught my attention first because it was a Christian romance by an author I was unfamiliar with, and I am trying to expand my selection of reliably good authors in that genre, and second because it is a historical fiction tale of brides crossing the Atlantic in 1704 to marry settlers and soldiers in the then French Louisiane Territory.  So, it hit some of my preferences and reminded me of a favorite Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operetta, Naughty Marietta (which also caused me some confusion as I had to shift my preconception of a New Orleans area setting to the Mobile, Alabama area once I began reading).

Set against the backdrop of a French settlement, the political machinations between the British, French, and various Native American groups, this is at heart a romance.  Genevieve Gaillain is a Huguenot, a religion of reform no longer tolerated in France.  So, as a fugitive from French justice, she flees France with her sister Aimee, both signing agreements to wed among the Canadian men sent by King Louis XIV to maintain his sovereignty in the area we now know as Mobile, Alabama.  Among those men is a farmer and cartographer, Tristan Lanier, who still grieves for his first wife and is not looking for wife #2.  Other men vie for the attention of the 25 mademoiselles, but of course Genevieve falls for Tristan.  Aimee sets her cap for several men in succession, including Tristan’s brother and the commander of the garrison.  Setting his sights on her is Julian Dufresne, much to Genevieve’s distaste, as she sees the sneaky, insincere man behind the charming facade of this aristocratic by-blow.
For a lesson in some little known history, though I am sure locally it is better known, and a more balanced portrayal of native groups than many I have read, this was a great choice.  The sub-plot of the Kaskaskian woman, Nika, and her relationships with Genevieve and others added a great deal to the story.  Had it not been included as a pivotal part of The Pelican Bride, I would happily have read a novel devoted to Nika and her story.
4 out of 5 stars.  Romance is a focal point, an integral part of the story, and this is an example of a well-written historical Christian romance. If you enjoy historical fiction and political intrigue set in Colonial America, then I recommend you give this book a try, whether or not you typically enjoy romances.
At the end of the book a short excerpt is included of the beginning of the second novel in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series, and I was lucky enough to be approved to read an e-book ARC through net galley.  (Note: Book 2, The Creole Princess, was subsequently released on April 7, 2015.)
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