Being more diligent about reading is allowing me to get back to trying out new fiction authors while I wait for my established favorites to finish their next round of books. The latest new experience was Jocelyn Green through her novel The Mark of the King.
The Mark of the King covers a segment of history that is unfamiliar to me. Set primarily in New Orleans in the early 1700s, this story explores France’s attempt to settle their Louisiana territory – oftentimes through rather unsavory means. When Julianne Chevalier, a French midwife, is convicted of murder after the death of one of her clients, she jumps at the chance to be a part of the Louisiana settlement. Little does she know, however, that her commitment means a forced marriage to another convict, miserable conditions in a harsh foreign land, and one tragedy and heartache heaped upon another.
Other than learning how France’s presence in Louisiana impacted the British colonies and then, later, turned into the French-American treaty that resulted in the Louisiana Territory being added to the United States, I have never greatly explored the history of France’s presence in the Americas. So, viewing settlement from the French perspective was fascinating to me. The Mark of the King offers a small glimpse into the challenges France faced when attempting to settle Louisiana, especially knowing Britain’s success in settling their own colonies. Additionally, this novel explores conditions before the French and Indian War, revealing how the British and French pitted Indian tribes against one another in order to protect the interests of the colonies.
Like all good historical fiction, The Mark of the King explores how that grander scope of historical seasons impacted individual lives. In this case, the individual lives were convicts like Julianne and her husband Simon, military personnel such as Marc-Paul Girard and his subordinates, and the local tribes that interacted with both the French and the British. And those individual lives faced hard challenges. The beauty of this novel is that it deals with the hard challenges – and describes them very clearly – while still showing the thread of hope that comes only from discovering the personal nature of God. Although all who showed a more personal relationship with God were persecuted in France, the isolation of the colonists, and the lack of an organized church, tended to forge a natural path for these settlers to seek God and His mercy.
Do keep in mind that The Mark of the King is not a lighthearted read. It fully depicts the nature of life in the colonies, including Indian attacks, the results of leaving “law” in the hands of restless soldiers and colonists, and the harsh nature of life in an unsettled land. So, although you will find romance and beauty in this novel, know that it is not your standard escapist Christian romance. But, it is just the kind of novel I tend to highly recommend because of its historical depth, its picture of mercy and healing even in the midst of hopelessness, and its exploration of difficult truths. If this is typical of Jocelyn Green, then I am definitely interested in more of her novels.