Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

Promised to the Crown (Daughters of New France, Book #1)
by Aimie K. Runyan
Release Date: April 26th 2016
2016 Kensington
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1496701121
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

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 Thoughts
Promised to the Crown is the first book in a new trilogy about the founding of New France, and in particular, the Filles du Roi, the women destined to leave France, marry, and produce offspring to strengthen the colony.   As there are few books that focus on these women, I am always intrigued when a new novel comes out.  And while I found myself easily engaged in the characters' story lines, I will admit that I felt myself to be reading a contemporary fiction novel about friendship and love at times, rather than about the founding of New France.  

The Filles du Roi were women between the ages of 15 and 30, often from the commoner families, and were granted either goods or money as dowry. The women were not forced to come over to New France, but often chose to do so because they could not make a favourable match in France, or were seeking better conditions for themselves.  This book shares the alternating stories of Rose, Elisabeth, and Nicole and the development of their friendship after meeting as the cross the Atlantic.  I enjoyed the alternating story lines very much, but at the same time, never truly felt like I got to know any one of them very well, as their stories tended to border on lightness - any time any one of the stories got anywhere dark and became really interesting, the author would jump to another character, or jump ahead in time, which made me feel disassociated with the character's feelings and emotions.  I really felt like I was reading more contemporary literature at times, rather than historical fiction with its pain and ugliness as well as the joy.  Being French Canadian, and knowing the history of New France very well, there was a lot that was quite painful in the development of this colony, and I would have liked to have seen more of that in this novel.  I get that losing children, and losing a husband is painful, but there were definitely other things that went into developing a colony such as New France; I just felt like a lot of the hardships were glossed over and made to look easy and inviting, which it definitely wasn't.  Nicole's first marriage, and her new husband's house and the conditions within, were much more realistic to how things actually were in New France, and I found that to be quite interesting, not all of the dances and the balls.

The colonization of New France was of high importance to the Crown and although it's hard to believe given the time period, women actually played a huge role in the development of New France, something which I think is downplayed a bit in this book.  I know even marriages with the native people were encouraged because of the fur trade, although none of that is mentioned in this book.  While it was quite interesting to see how the women's marriages developed, I'm not really sure if the women's roles in society, except for Nicole being at her husband's side at various social functions to further her husband's ambitions, was really shown to its full extent in this novel.  I actually think Elisabeth's role as equal partner in the bakery was the most accurate role in this novel as women were encouraged to take active roles in their husbands' lives.  What was quite accurate was the push to have many children; cash incentives were also an effective way of ensuring women had many children, but I don't remember this being mentioned in the novel at all.  

Promised to the Crown was an interesting, engaging read about the development of New France, and the arrival of the Filles du Roi. While fascinating, I did find it to be on the light side and was somewhat disappointed by that at times; yes, there were hardships for the women in their various marriages, but it was normal life hardships they went through, and I wanted to read about the colony hardships, like the harsh winters, the dealings with the natives, the fur trade, and so on.  I didn't necessarily feel like I was reading about New France at times.  I am really hoping the next novel will delve more deeply into the relationships with the natives as well as some of the major issues that existed during this time period; it would add depth and insight to a time period that I think needs to be explored in more detail.  Would I recommend this novel?  For anyone wishing to learn more about the development of early Canada as well as reading about some strong female characters, absolutely.  I am looking forward to seeing what is coming next.   

  Promised to the Crown


  1. It's an aspect of our history that does get some exposure in history classes- though not enough. Good review!

    1. I remember asking about them in History class and being told they weren't important; I needed to focus on what we were currently studying, the Wendat Nation. It only fueled an interest to discover more. That was in grade 7.