Celeste Talbot is usually such a sensible young woman—until she falls for an English soldier reassigned to the Colonies. Leaving her Huguenot family behind, she sets sail for America, only to realize that her younger sister Berta has been kidnapped and forced on board the very same ship. Whom can Celeste trust? The dashing soldier? Or the vigilant carpenter who remains by their side in the perilous New World?
Virginia, present day
Madeline “Maddee” Talbot has her hands full when she agrees to take in her younger sister Nicole following a serious car accident. The young women grew apart when Nicole fell into drug addiction, and Maddee prays this will be the start of a better life for her sister. But as they investigate a trauma from their childhood, Maddee must keep a diligent eye on Nicole—and the shadowy figure watching them from afar.
From the Christy Award-winning team of Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould, My Sister’s Prayer tells an epic tale of two women compelled to protect their sisters, confront their fears, and navigate the muddy waters of betrayal to find true love.
“One last matter,” Nana said as she settled comfortably into her chair. “Do you remember how much you girls enjoyed reading the journal of Catherine Talbot?”
“Of course.” The journal had been written by my eleven-greats grandmother in 1685 when she was just eighteen years old, during a time that Huguenots were being persecuted in France for their faith. It told of her courage and determination and had made for a fascinating and inspiring read.
“Well,” Nana continued, “it recently struck me that there’s something else you really should see that is related to Catherine. Information about her daughters.”
“Her daughters?” I thought for a moment. Though Catherine’s journal only covered the span of a few months, we knew she’d gone on to have six children in her lifetime. Her son, Emmanuel Talbot, had been the first male in the family to come to America, though I seemed to recall hearing he’d been preceded here by two of his sisters.
“Some of their old letters have been preserved in the family archives,” Nana said. “I was reminded of them last summer when Renee was researching the pamphlet.[…] Last week I was thinking about the relationship between you and Nicole, and those old letters came to mind. I think the two of you ought to read them.”
“Sounds great. The letters were written by Catherine?”
“No, to her by her gown daughters once they emigrated to Virginia.”
I thought for a moment. “They’re not in French are they, like the journal was?”
“No, Catherine and her husband ended up having to flee from France to England, if you recall. Their children were born and raised there.” Nana sighed, and I could see how tired she was. “Anyway, once things settle down around here, I’ll dig them up for you. Considering the story they tell of two sisters making their way in the New World, I think you and Nicole would enjoy reading them together.”
“That sounds wonderful, Nana. We’d love to.”
I drove away with a lightness in my heart I hadn’t felt in a long while. I was intrigued by the ideas of the letters, yes, but mostly my thoughts were on my sister. Not only was the real Nicole back – for now, at least, I reminded myself – but it struck me how nice it was going to be to come home to someone at night, to not have to eat alone. To bond with her again.
Just don’t trust her, said the voice in my head. Bond, yes. Love, yes. Trust, no.
I whispered a quick prayer, fully aware that taking Nicole in could turn out to be either a tremendous blessing or the biggest mistake of my life.
To be honest, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about this novel. It maintained my interest, but wasn’t really as engaging as I hoped. One of the reasons was simply that the writing featured a lot of narrative – dwelling in the character’s thoughts, filling in background story, explaining things to the reader – and it had a tendency to tell rather than show at times. The flow and expression in the writing was pleasing, but it just left me feeling a little detached – more like a passive observer rather than an active participant in the story.
One of the main attractions for me with the previous novel in this series was the Huguenot setting for the historical plot, so I was a little disappointed that this novel moved away from the religious persecution in France to the plight of those arriving in the New World. Even so, I would have to say I found the historical plot the most engaging part of this story. Celeste confronts many challenges when they arrive in the New World, with nothing turning out as she imagined, and despite being fairly sure where this was headed romantically, there were plenty of twists and turns along the journey that kept me guessing on everything else!
The contemporary story, on the other hand, felt a little flat to me. Maddee is the only point-of-view character in this part of the story, but it was really Nicole’s story as much as it was Maddee’s. While it was interesting to consider the balance Maddee needed to strike between the love and grace required to re-establish their relationship, and the tough love that will be needed to help Nicole recover from her addiction, there wasn’t anything in Maddee’s story that really grabbed at my emotions, whereas I felt that having Nicole’s point-of-view would have provided that; a feeling that was only reinforced by some of the reveals at the end of the novel. It was at that point that the vague sense that something had been missing became a certainty.
I realize that Nicole will be the cousin featured in the next book in the series, but I can’t help feeling as though we will have missed sharing an important part of her story by then. It also sets up the next novel for another lot of narrative as Nicole relates her journey so far to get the reader up to speed. My preference would have been to share her journey from the beginning in this novel.
Aside from the dual time period format of the novel, there is another plot surrounding the unsolved murder that has haunted the Talbot cousins (Renee, Maddee, Nicole, and Danielle) for the last nineteen years. As children, they discovered a murdered man in an abandoned hut, but in the time it took to run home, inform their parents, and call the police, all evidence of the crime had disappeared. Proving that the incident was not a product of their over-active imaginations finally occurred in My Brother’s Crown and it appears that the investigation will unfold across the series.
As intrigued as I am by this mystery, it feels like a forgotten story line that keeps popping up now and then to vie for the reader’s attention – and a very slowly developing one, at that. Hopefully this plot will become more engaging later in the series
A few thoughts to close: The romance was pretty low-key in this novel. It wasn’t entirely predictable, although I suspected where things were heading in both the historical and contemporary plots about midway through the book. It also took me a while to see the relevance of the historical story to Maddee’s and Nicole’s situation. For a while it just felt like two parallel stories.
Will I read the third in the series? Probably, because I would like to know the continuation of Nicole’s story. But I’m not anticipating the third as much as I was anticipating this one.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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My Brother’s Crown