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"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Oct 25, 2016

Book Review: Duty to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

Duty to the Crown, second book in the Daughters of New France series by Aimie K. Runyan, Kensington Books, 2016, 352 pp.

The principal characters in Duty to the Crown, covering the years 1677-1680 in Quebec, appeared in Promised to the Crown, the initial novel in Runyan's Daughters of New France series. Nicole, Rose, and Elisabeth, female protagonists of that book, are now established in their marriages and their enterprises and focus shifts to their younger counterparts.

Manon, the native girl skilled in medicines and healing, still feels torn between her own culture and that of the French settlers--the Lefebvre family--who raised her and whom she abruptly deserted. After her banishment by her own people she returns to them, struggling to re-integrate herself into the white world, where she's regarded with suspicion, prejudice, and at times, outright hostility. At the top of the social scale is her foster mother Nicole Lefebvre, whose sisters--gentle Emmanuelle and bold, self-centered Claudine--and Elisabeth's adopted daughter Gabrielle--are her contemporaries. All the young women are expected to make suitable marriages and avoid scandal. In order to fulfill their duty to the Crown and their families, they must foster French civilisation and culture in this remote and harsh landscape and expand the colony's population and prosperity through childbearing.

The author skillfully and compellingly renders the setting and living conditions as she depicts the loves, longings, heartbreak, and challenges faced by her female and male characters. The bonds of friendship and the commitment to responsibilities ring true as members of the community encounter the harsher realities of life in a treacherous yet promising new world. Marital strife and struggles are as sensitively depicted as harmony, success, justice and reconciliation. This novel and the preceding one are very highly recommended to readers of historical fiction and particularly for those seeking an alternative to courtly novels set in 17th century Europe.

*I received an Advance Reading Copy of this title prior to publication for review purposes.

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