Life in This New World Requires More Strength Than She Ever Imagined
After the death of her client, midwife Julianne Chevalier is imprisoned and branded, marking her as a criminal beyond redemption. Hoping to reunite with her brother, a soldier, she trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling French colony of Louisiana. The price of her transport, however, is a forced marriage to a fellow convict.
New Orleans is nothing like Julianne expects. The settlement is steeped in mud and mosquitoes, and there is no news of her brother, Benjamin. When tragedy strikes, she turns to military officer Marc-Paul Girard for help, but does he know more about her brother than he will admit?
With her dreams shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous land, where only grace – and love – can overcome the stigma of the king’s mark upon her shoulder.
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“The fleur-de-lys on her shoulder burned as if the hot iron had singed her skin mere moments ago…All she wanted was to bring forth life, but ever since she’d been branded, it seemed her life was marked by death.” (pg.234)
Once in a while I am lucky enough to find a historical novel that takes the historical aspect further than atmosphere and setting. The Mark of the King is a history lesson wrapped up in an engrossing story of one woman’s trials and relationships. Well written, well researched, and very likely among the best books I will read this year.
Reminiscent of Beth White’s The Pelican Bride, also set in the French colonies of early American history, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God with a strong female lead and a story that takes a few twists and turns. One twist in particular had me pause in my reading, evoking a verbal “Oh, wow” reaction.
Set during a time when British and English were paying Native American tribes to fight each other, while running their colonies with conscripted citizens as well as African and native slaves, this is a story whose author was not afraid to get down and dirty with vivid details. Vermin, filth, starvation, rain, and mud lend atmosphere for some even grittier aspects of the storyline. While this added to the immersive nature of the story, and helped give a real feel to the settings and situations, it also contributed to my main complaint. Not a new complaint for me, and not one that is totally unexpected. With a main character who is a mid-wife, I am always a bit leery of how descriptive an author might be and in this case my concern was warranted. The details were a bit too, well, let’s say they were a bit too squishy for my delicate sensibilities. My other complaint? It is a pleasant surprise to see my first name used for a fictional character, though having her be a prostitute would not have been my choice. Luckily, she doesn’t figure into more than a quick scene and most readers will probably not remember her by name.
The Mark of the King is headed for my “keeper” shelf and Jocelyn Green has now joined a select few authors who become a “must read” with a single book. I devoured this novel in a single evening. I might be rethinking my next few reads as “lighter” historical fiction will surely suffer unduly in comparison if they follow too closely.
The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green | Bethany House, Jan 2017 | paperback, 416pgs
This review refers to a finished copy received through Bethany House’s Blogger Review Program. All opinions expressed are my own.