After losing a client in childbirth, midwife Julianne Chevalier is branded and imprisoned for life, a criminal beyond redemption. However, in spite of her condemned status, she is given the opportunity to sail to the Louisiana colony, where her brother was stationed with the army. However, nothing is as she imagined: the price of passage is forced marriage to a convict before sailing, and the arrival in a primitive settlement proves disillusioning. Her only dream is to find her brother in this hostile land, but even that proves beyond her grasp. Even in this new place, will she ever be free of the king's mark on her shoulder?
As I've come to expect from the author, this book layers an inspiring story over some intense, meticulously researched history, and she doesn't sugar-coat the reality behind the story. I can't imagine how the women must have felt when offered the "freedom" of forced marriages to convicts before being shipped, starving, to a miserable land that couldn't support them.
Looking at the history of New Orleans, it's hard to credit any people group with noble intentions and actions, other than the native peoples who early on graciously kept the colonists from starving. But by the time this story takes place, France didn't even care about her starving, deserting colonists; the local government, in squabbles with the British, played one Indian tribe against another. The tribes were growing disillusioned with the French, and less likely to keep the peace. It is hardly a proud moment in American (and especially French) history.
Depressing history aside, the story was inspiring. I love the author's use of symbolism; though the mark of the French king condemns Julianne, she has also been marked as a child of the true king, God, in whom there is no condemnation. There's a lot of loss and sorrow, but there's hope too. It's an excellent book--highly recommended! Well deserving of the 2017 Christy Award for historical fiction!
I received a free e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. No review, positive or otherwise, was required; all opinions are my own.