Promised to the Crown
Following the women sent as brides to the emerging French colony of Quebec is an interesting premise for historical fiction. In 1667, three women leave France, each for different reasons, to help settle the colony of New France. They find themselves forever changed after arriving in the convent of the Ursuline Sisters. Elisabeth is the first to find a good match. Trained as a baker in her beloved family shop, she works through her grief over her father’s passing by training the other young ladies in baking. These skills are admired by a local bakery owner, Gilbert, who proposes marriage along with a business partnership.
Nicole is the next to marry. She begins her new life far from her new sisters, in a freezing shack, where she suffers through childbirth alone, and then tragedy. In a town of eligible bachelors, Nicole was too desirable to remain a widow, so she remarried. Rose wants to hide behind a convent veil so she won’t be abused by a man ever again, but her suitor convinces her that he would be patient and gentle.
Runyan brings us a little-known slice of the history of early North American settlement, reminding us that these young women were of the best sort, ones who may have come upon financial difficulties or were dependent on others, so that a new life far away may have seemed like an adventure. The story touches on real-life scenarios in which hardships draw families together. The author also brings in the problems faced in a community where those with political power use their connections to create chaos by manipulating regulations for business owners. The priest attempts to destroy one of our couples’ livelihoods, but the conclusion is very well-thought out, and so is the novel as a whole.