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…
Having enjoyed Promised to the Crown, I anxiously awaited the release of Duty to the Crown and it did not disappoint. Historically rich, it covers a locale and period of history that I am unfamiliar with. The Canadian frontier is a complete unknown to me, but Aimie Runyan brings it to life vividly.
The story follows the second generation of young women in frontier Quebec; girls we met in the first book. Nicole's sisters Claudine and Emmanuelle, who followed her across the Atlantic, hoping for husbands of their own. Gabrielle, a talented young seamstress, forced to marry an abusive man because although adopted by Elisabeth and Gilbert, she is considered an orphan. And Manon, a young Huron girl who, despite being adopted by Nicole and Alexandre, feels unaccepted by either society.
Perhaps my favorite part of this story is the relationships: mother/daughter, adopted father/daughter, sisters, husband/wife, and more. Relationships of any kind are rarely drama-free. They are emotional and chaotic, they are fraught with misunderstanding and miscommunication. Marriage especially, can be a maelstrom of messy emotions. But, strong relationships grow from that. The exploration of these relationships and the growth and maturity that comes from that is what makes this story remarkable.
Claudine's maturity from flightly silly girl to devoted wife and mother; Manon's discovery of who she is and where she fits; and Gabrielle's journey through a cycle of abuse to self-sufficiency breathe life and beauty into this story.
Like Promised to the Crown, this novel features strong women. Their stories are full of trial and difficulty and tragedy, but their strength is resilient and their love and faith in each other steadfast and resolute.
Second in the Daughters of New France series, this novel could stand alone, but your enjoyment of the story is far richer if you have read the first book.
Thanks to the author and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Aimie K. Runyan on her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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