A Daughter of the King
by Catherine Pettersson
The WIld Rose Press

"Her existence had become a perverse fairytale, one that had transformed her from princess to peasant."

Based on the life of her ancestor, Pettersson's novel traces a girl's passage from France to New France (Quebec) as one of the "King's Daughters" intended to populate the new colony in 1668. Jeanne Denot never intended to leave her home at Mursay. Her father, a French officer, promises she will inherit the estate. Jeanne lives at Mursay with her aunt Mimi and cousin Francoise. Her father is often gone on soldierly missions. He dies when Jeanne comes of age.

Soon after her first ball, Jeanne and Francoise are invited to Paris to be presented at court. Jeanne finds herself cast overboard during the river voyage, fights her way to land, and winds up in a Paris poorhouse, where she meets Madeleine, her new best friend. Madeleine helps Jeanne try to find her aunt at the palace, to no avail. They begin to suspect her aunt doesn't want Jeanne to find her. An encounter with a courier promising to bring the girls to meet aunt Mimi confirms their suspicions and ends in violence. When Jeanne and Madeleine hear of an opportunity to travel abroad and start a new life, they take it. Ship life mirrors street life, with the rich on upper decks and the poor, like Jeanne, Madeleine, and other mademoiselles, below. Love changes the tides for the heroines aboard the ship.

With chapters going back and forth between the ship and Jeanne's upbringing in Mursay, the novel frames the plot as a multi-layered dialogue. Just as Jeanne's present situation on the way to New France plays out the effects of her past, the novel shows the origins of ongoing problems today. The story not only portrays life in the seventeenth century, but it also comments on injustices through its "noble" characters.

Quotes at the beginning of chapters from a variety of sources show extensive research without getting in the story's way. Cast low from her high life, Jeanne experiences hospitality, bravery, and cunning exemplified by her poorer companions. In this way, she points out ways this class is only considered poor because of the way upper classes look at it and not because poverty, moral or monetary, is inherent in these people. Madeleine, who saves Jeanne physically and emotionally, is a prime example of the inherent riches within this class. Teeth, a surly mademoiselle, is another. She shows her tender side when she acts as a midwife for a pregnant girl on board. The girls' conversations, replete with foul language and witticisms, suggest a comic, hopeful outcome when the past and present talk to each other. The vibrant discussions between characters also convey the author's fun in writing and leading a writing group. The act of looking into her family's past yields abundant and creative results.

Parallels between pairs of characters cause tensions that pull the action along. Jeanne and the madam who oversees the king's daughters both go overboard. Their situations question each other in comparison. Which is nefarious? The man Jeanne's father sets her up with and the one she actually loves also inform each other. Set side by side, Jeanne's choice is clear to her but not to society. Aunt Mimi's lover, Father Dieudonne, is comparable to a crazy hermit who helps Jeanne when she first arrives in Paris. His Saint Francis-like demeanor, although addled, reveals Dieudonne's hypocrisy. These foils point to the book's outlook, reflected in Jeanne's final heroic actions. She applies timeless lessons derived from her reading and life experience to an ending that is happy and relevant to any age.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award E-Book Fiction Honorable Mention & Grand Prize Short-List book

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