REVIEW: A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green
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.
Dear Ms. Green,
While reading historical novels, I love it when I learn something completely new to me and the book does a good job evoking a past time and place. This book does both and in two countries with bonus points for a great cover. It is, however, more historical fiction than historical romance in feel.
Vivienne Rivard has made her living doing something that can now get her arrested in revolutionary France: lacemaking. Along with other trades that had mainly catered to the nobility, it is a crime and one which cost her Aunt Rose her life. The horror of the bloodshed in Paris is depicted in a scene that isn’t too graphic but which nonetheless is chilling. Tragedy continues for Vivienne as she loses her mother to the scourge that stalked Sybelle’s profession as a courtesan – the pox. But it is through her mother that Vivienne manages to escape France before she could lose her own head.
Now beginning a new life in Philadelphia, Vivienne is determined to look forward instead of back as do so many other émigrés. She’s not too proud to take whatever job she can and to grab at opportunities. It is through this that she gets to know a former lady-in-waiting to the Queen and Martine’s young son as well as a man who had fought for American liberty from Britain. Liam Delany was an officer under Alexander Hamilton during the Revolution and what he sees happening now in western Pennsylvania frustrates and concerns him. Like him, many of his subordinates converted their wartime payment into land but to make a living, they distill their rye into whiskey as it’s easier to barter, transport and sell. The nascent US government is determined to control this and a clash of taxation for a strong central government vs individual liberties looks inevitable.
As Liam’s family is caught up in the battle that could tear the young nation apart, Vivienne wrestles with the claim a man from her past is trying to establish with her as well as trying to protect a child who could become a pawn for either the French Royalists or the Jacobins who are establishing a foothold among Americans who sympathize with the efforts across the Atlantic to overthrow the Monarchy and advance the Rights of Man. To protect herself as well as the child, Vivienne must flee to another Asylum – this time in the wilds of frontier Pennsylvania.
I thought the book does a great job of showing the knife edge of existence in Paris during the Reign of Terror when our job, your family or mere suspicion could be enough to send you to your death. Among the French in Pennsylvania we see the many faces of asylum seekers: those ready and able to shift to a new life and country as opposed to those who can’t or won’t find their footing and only long for home. I liked how the story ties together the various fights for liberty and individual freedoms and how the characters would view them. There are outrages that cause characters to examine their consciences and where they’re willing to draw a line. There are two characters whose actions, though done with firm convictions of justice, clearly show how even the best of intentions can go too far.
The romance is slow and subdued and, IMO, takes a backseat to the political events. The resolution didn’t spring out of nowhere but Liam and Vivienne take their time. I would classify the book as mainly inspirational lite with the occasional invocation of the influence of God or mention of prayer such as I would expect in this age.
As in “The Mark of the King,” I enjoyed the mix of French characters in a little used American setting. I’m not sure about all the waltzing among French nobles or in America but loved to learn about Azilum. Liam and Vivienne are strongly drawn characters who think and grow as the novel progresses but I wish the romance had been focused on a bit more. B