Escaping from a bad marriage is challenging in any age. It was fraught with danger in 17th century New France when a runaway bride could expect censure from society and Church, even if she found an honest way of earning a living. Adèle was among the young women sent from France to marry in the young colony along the St. Lawrence River. Unusual because she was literate, Adèle is miserably matched with an abusive farmer. She is helped to escape to Quebec by a coureur-de-bois and rebuilds her life, claiming to be a widow. She has work, friends and a faithful dog but the only man to whom she can speak from the heart is promised to her friend. Adèle’s imagined story of adversity, heartache and eventual happiness unfolds against the background of a seminal period in Canadian history.
For anyone fascinated with France and the history of their role in the new world that came to be known as Quebec Canada, this is a wonderful novel to begin with. Adele, the illegitimate daughter of a high ranking nobleman, is offered as a Filles du Roi (a Daughter of the King) whereby young single women were given a small dowry in exchange for their promise to travel to Colonial Canada to wed and raise a family and children in an effort to populate the new world. But Adele’s hopes are dashed when the man she marries abuses her. What ensues is how Adele managed to escape her abusive husband, struggles to forge herself a new life on her own, and ultimately finds happiness.
The novel is authentic, well-written, and accurately researched, with real secondary characters, and political experiences of the time. I continued reading it with interest into the very end because Adele was such an intriguing heroine.