Synopsis: Bound for a new continent, and a new beginning.
In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.
They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.
Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.
My Review: Being a Canadian, I had learned bits about this period in history, but this book brought it alive for me. I absolutely loved this story and am looking forward to the next one: Duty to the Crown.
It is 1667 and France wants to secure it’s colony in North America known as “New France”. To do this, the King offered young women of various stations a dowry and passage to the colony in order to marry one of the settlers and raise families. The belief was that once entrenched in New France, the settlers would protect it, in the event of an attack by the British or the Indigenous People. These women were known as The Filles du Roi. They were orphans or from families down on their luck. They might have been women fleeing from a bad match their parent’s made and they did not want to follow through on but they all had to have a letter of comportment from their priest.
The story is told from the point of view of three of these strong women, Rose, Nicole and Elisabeth. Each came from a different background, yet on the ship over, forged a friendship that enabled them to survive the harsh conditions and trying circumstances of the colony. The other characters in the story included the nuns who assisted them upon arrival, the future husbands, clergy, government officials and other settlers. They all added to the descriptions of the land, the struggles faced, the society that developed and the prejudices that followed them from France. Even though this was a new land, the expectations of women was still drawn from the French culture. They were helpmates, mothers, homemakers not equal partners in the marriage. The three brave, strong and independent women who tell this story were fortunate to meet and marry men that felt differently and in private at least, they had much more freedom than others.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were some humorous moments as well as tragic and sad ones. There is some romance and adventure as well. Watching the relationships develop between the women, the sisters (nuns), the spouses and the adopted children kept me reading long past my bedtime. This is one period of history that I had not really read about and the amount of information imparted in this fictional story was excellent. The excellent research was evident in the story and has peaked my interest in this period of my country’s history. I invite all of you to read this story and learn about these women, the hardships of the ocean voyage and the life of an early settler. It will not disappoint.