A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green
Book description: Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia but finds the same dangers lurking in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers threaten the life of a young boy left in her care, who some suspect to be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement, Azilum, offer permanent refuge? Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate the land of his hard-won farm near Azilum, but soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they will be drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.
My thoughts: What an enjoyable way to learn some history! Not only does Jocelyn Green draw rich characters for her readers, she weaves a wonderful story around real people and chunks of history. The musical “Hamilton” was in Des Moines earlier this year, so it was fun to learn about Liam’s friend Alex Hamilton–yes, Alex–and his “Watermelon Army” and tax leading to the Whiskey Rebellion, which he believed was a Jacobin attempt to overthrow the new American government. The Author’s Note and Acknowledgments is just delicious, including the fact that you can visit Asylum, Pennsylvania, which was indeed built as a refuge for Marie Antoinette and her children. The book also includes Discussion Questions.
I’d been to a writers’ workshop where Jocelyn Green was the keynote speaker. Among her topics was “9 Ways to Bolster Historical Research” and avoiding pitfalls for historical novelists. She told us about learning that another historical novelist was just about to have a book published also set in 18th Century America with a lacemaker protagonist.
Jocelyn wrote in her blog: “Laura’s story is set in colonial Williamsburg on the eve of the American Revolution. Mine starts in Paris during the French Revolution and quickly moves to Philadelphia in 1794. The connection between the lacemakers was easy to imagine, because lacemaking is typically a tradition passed down from one generation of women to the next. Laura and I had a great time creating a family tree with roots in France, and determining where the branches reached to England before spanning the ocean to America. Our heroines don’t interact with each other in either book, but eagle-eyed readers will catch the mention of great-grandmothers they shared in each one.”
So, of course, I also had to get a copy of Laura Frantz‘s The Lacemaker. They are both delightful stories.
The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz
Congratulations to Laura on winning a Christy Award for her lovely book!
Book description: When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?
My thoughts: A family is split by politics as the American revolution takes up sides. Elisabeth Lawson’s mother sides with the revolutionaries. He father, the Lt. Gov. of Virginia, sides with the mother country and has betrothed his daughter to a less than admirable young Tory. Lawsons are driving out of town and their home and belongings, along with other Tories’ holdings, are ransacked and auctioned. Elisabeth becomes displaced and takes up the lace-making her motherline has done for five generations. She gets to know some of the revolutionaries, one of whom tries to keep her safe, even though at one point Elisabeth (by then called Liberty) becomes a spy for them–against her own father. Eventually, Liberty becomes a bride, and Martha Washington sends her a baby gift. Two recipes are included for Fairy Butter and Welsh Speckled Bread, which are named in the story.
Earlier blog post about Jocelyn’s Civil War series