This book essentially contains two stories: one set in the present day (narrated in the first person), and one set in France in 1685 (narrated in the third person).
In the present, Renee Talbot’s family have had the sole surviving copy of the ‘Persecution Pamphlet’ in their safekeeping for more than three centuries. Originally printed in 1685 as “A Collection of Verse for the Encouragement of Young Men and Women” it actually contained carefully concealed information to assist Huguenots (French Protestants) fleeing persecution under King Louis XIV. For eleven generations it has been handed down through the Talbot family from father to eldest son, but when Renee’s grandfather inherited the document he made it known that upon his death it would be donated to a museum. The time had come for this piece of history to belong to the whole world.
Having passed away seven months previously, the story begins with Renee and her grandmother collecting the pamphlet from safe-custody in preparation for the annual Talbot family reunion, where it will be displayed for viewing by the family before an official ceremony handing it over to the National Museum of American History. But before it gets handed over Renee would really like to investigate some markings on the pamphlet. A journal written by one of her Huguenot ancestors, Catherine Gillet, suggests that the markings may have been a coded message from her brother. But even more than that, reading about Catherine’s bravery has inspired Renee to confront a demon from her own past.
Well, that and the encouragement of the pamphlet’s handsome security guard who seems to be as attracted to her as she is to him…
Renee’s ancestor, Catherine Gillet, cannot renounce her Protestant faith no matter how much pressure King Louis XIV and his dragoons bring to bear, but she is beginning to have doubts about her own brother, Jules, and her betrothed, Pierre Talbot. Both seem to be keeping things from her and making decisions that will affect her life without any consultation with her. King Louis’ net closes around them ever more tightly and yet Pierre seems to be drifting further and further away. When Pierre’s brother, Eriq, shares his concern that Jules and Pierre may actually be betraying Huguenots under the guise of helping them Catherine doesn’t know who to trust. All she knows is that it is becoming too dangerous to stay in Lyon, but how can she make it to London, especially when Jules seems intent on moving the family to the Plateau? And what will become of her betrothal to Pierre?
Overall I enjoyed this book, but there were a few things that prevented me from giving it five stars. Firstly, I felt as though the writing wasn’t always as dynamic as it could have been. At times this was because the narrator (either Renee or Catherine) would waffle on a bit rather than getting to the essence of what they were relating to the reader; other times it was because there were action or reaction beats missing from the flow of what was taking place, or the writing didn’t pace the action as well as it could have. I also felt as though the authors were slipping into telling rather than showing sometimes. At times it was appropriate to summarise some of the action taking place, but sometimes this went on for extended periods (like at the Talbot family reunion), and sometimes it slipped in where showing would have been better.
Secondly, I felt that Renee’s story (in the present) was a little flat, mainly because the conflict (an event from the past that still haunts her) was much lower in stakes than the conflict in Catherine’s story. The conflict also resolved fairly easily in terms of its effect on Renee, although it is left unresolved in a broader sense, presumably to be continued in the next book of the series. There was, of course, the romance between Renee and Blake, which I thought was sweet and realistic for the time frame of the novel. It was nice that the attraction seemed to be based on an emotional connection with one another rather than simply a physical attraction and I hope we get to see more of its development in the next book in the series. And I have to say, I loved the name of the boat at the end! Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel that Renee’s point of view was a bit lacklustre overall.
On the positive side, I thought Catherine’s story was compelling, and it was the greater percentage of the book. Only getting Catherine’s point of view meant that we were just as in the dark as she was regarding the actions and motives of those around her, and whilst the ending to Catherine’s story was the one I hoped for there were many times when I wondered whether that was where the story was headed.
All in all, an enjoyable read, and I look forward to the next in the series.
My Brother’s Crown is published by Harvest House and was released on
1 October 2015.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.