Gulf Coast Chronicles, Book 1
Back of the book:
She's come to the New World to escape a perilous past.
But has it followed her to these far shores?
It is 1704 when Frenchwoman Geneviève Gaillain and her sister board the frigate Pélican bound for the distant Louisiana colony. Both have promised to marry one of the rough men toiling in this strange new world in order to escape suffering in the old. Geneviève knows life won't be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of persecution for her outlawed religious beliefs.
When she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer-turned-farmer whose checkered past is shrouded in mystery, Geneviève realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. Trouble is brewing outside the fort between the French colonists and the native people surrounding them. And an even more sinister enemy may lurk within. Could the secret Geneviève harbors mean the undoing of the colony itself?
Gulf Coast native Beth White brings vividly to life the hot, sultry South in this luscious, layered tale.
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In this twenty-first century world of ours it is hard to imagine crossing an ocean to marry someone we've never met and live in a place we know nothing about. The teenage girls known as the Pelican Brides did just that. Many of them came to escape poverty or persecution in France. The journey to what is now Mobile, Alabama took three months and many didn't even make it to Louisiane. Once there they were met with conditions that were not as promised. The men they had to choose from were not exactly what they had expected either.
In The Pelican Bride we follow this journey with Geneviève Gaillain and her younger sister. The story begins just as they land at Massacre Island in Mobile Bay. The first man Geneviève meets is Tristan Lanier. He is rugged and handsome but is dead set against marrying. Geneviève is amused by him but is sure that there are better prospects to be had.
After only a short time at Fort Louis the pressure begins for each of the young women to find a spouse. If they do not choose soon the support from the Crown will be withdrawn and the unmarried women will be left to fend for themselves. Geneviève doesn't like any of the prospects so she becomes determined to make a way to provide for herself and her sister. She is a trained pastry chef and plans to use those skills to earn a living.
The New World has many factions that are looking to conquer and settle this wilderness. The tension between the French, British, Spanish and Native Americans is a constant backdrop to everyday life. The harsh conditions and climate add another dimension to the act of building a colony that will grow and prosper.
This novel had two of my favorite elements. The first is that this is a title from an author unknown to me. I'm very excited to discover her work and looking forward to reading what she has already written and eagerly anticipating what is coming next in this series. The second thing that I enjoyed was reading about a time frame that isn't widely covered in historical fiction. We owe so much to these brave men and women for helping to establish the country we have today. Beth White did a fabulous job of mixing fascinating facts with fictionalized characters to showcase a point in history that would ultimately change the landscape of the world.