The Spice Merchant's Daughter by Fran Orenstein, ISBN: 978-1-61160-004-0, Whiskey Creek Press, review by ellen george
Fran Orenstein is such a talented author - she has written books that are aimed primarily at the young, but have been read by kids of all ages. She is one of my favorites, as you can literally get lost in her books and not feel that you are reading a kid's book, but an exciting fun adventure.
Her first plunge into teen/adult fiction is The Spice Merchant's Daughter. It is an exciting novel dealing with the Heugenot persecution in France and the story of one family's journey to Prussia to escape it.
The year is 1685, and John-Claude Dubois son of a successful spice merchant in France, is sent with his brothers to Prussia to be with his uncle who is established there. The fact that their father stayed to fight the oppression weighed heavily on the boys, but they were charged to go to freedom and to make successes of themselves in an environment that didn't discriminate religions.
Onboard the ship, John-Claude falls in love with a beutiful passenger, Marie, and they marry when they land in Prussia. Their first born daughter, Katy, is a beautiful, smart child who helps her father in the spice shop and is fluent in several languages.
Imagine when an aristocratic lady comes into the spice shop and asks that Katy become a companion for a spoiled aristocratic girl Charlotte, who is betrothed to a man of the French nobility. Katy must help Charlotte with her French, and through her quiet pride, and elegance, help Charlotte become a lady worthy of being a wife of a noble.
Unfortunately, Charlotte has a brother that has designs on Katy, and Katy only has eyes for a blacksmith, Gilles.
Katy must fend off the advances of Franz, while being true to her love and the family that loves her as one of their own. Charlotte has come to love Katy as a sister.
Franz is the loose cannon that can make or break the wedding, and the plans of the family as they go to Versailles for Charlotte's wedding. There is an encounter with Katy and King Louis that foreshadows events in the next century, where the people riot against the aristocracy, the King's thoughts are most enlightening, and knowing what will happen 50+ years from then, the French Revolution, you start to understand the start of the end of the nobles who are clueless sometimes to what the reality is happening in their realm.
The Spice Merchant's Daughter is a wonderful read. It traces the growth of the children to adulthood and loves and tells the scary story of atrocities in France and how people tried to escape them, also what an evil man can cause in the history of families.
Ms. Orenstein, always an entertaining author, continues to entrance the reader with this historical novel, and again proves herself the major talent she is, whether it's writing children's fiction or adult fiction.
The Spice Merchant's Daughter, by Fran Orenstein, ISBN: 978-1-61160-004-9, Whiskey Creek Press, review by ellen george