The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green
Genre: Christian, Historical Romance
Dates Read: February 1-4, 2019
Synopsis: After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.
When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?
With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.
This is some good storytelling (also a gorgeous cover, hellooo). I hadn’t known much about Louisianan history during this time period, aside from the fact that it was ruled by the French. I knew there were struggles between colonists and Native Americans, but that barely scratches the surface of the rich history of the area.
While I think some bits did get a little preachy, I can’t complain too much because it is Christian fiction. When it bothers me is when it feels like it’s just inserted into the story to meet the Christian fiction quota, if you know what I mean. It needs to flow along with the story and not feel like a mini sermon being wedged in between the paragraphs of the story. Another example I can think of for comparison is something I learned about in a college Asian history class: the Communist party in China used to insert little bits of propaganda into films, like a random scene with kids brushing their teeth, to normalize it in society. As long as the preachy bits don’t feel like that, it’s fine.
The romance in this book fell a little flat for me. I think it might be because (1) Simon felt like a plot device to get Julianne and Marc-Paul closer together and (2) they didn’t spend much time together. I would have liked more conversations between them — and, yes, that means some of their problems stemmed from a lack of trust/communication.
I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding Julianne’s brother, Benjamin. That was probably my favorite part of the book. I kept looking for clues as to what he was up to, trying to guess what was going to happen before it did. That made reading this book unexpectedly fun, even when some pretty terrible things were happening to the characters.
I especially loved Julianne’s relationship with the half-French, half-Choctaw girl Lily. There was a touching moment in the book when Lily saw Julianne’s damning fleur-de-lis on her shoulder and thought it was her own name there, making her think that she really belonged in this new family. That’s really the whole message of this book: that good can come out of even the worst things we face in life, if only we are willing to search for it.
- But did John Law suppose they would suddenly become stable, industrious farmers upon being transplanted to the colony, and loyal to the country that treated them with such little care? (44)
- “There is more life for you to live. The sun will shine again.” (200)
- “Talk to the Lord, Julianne. Even if you’re mad as hornets. If you keep it all bottled up, you’ll only end up with a belly full of bee stings.” (200)
- Better sooner rather than later, for secrets festered the longer they were kept. (205)
- Regret was a river like the Mississippi, with depths the eye could not measure. (235)
- “But beware that bitterness doesn’t poison you, ma chère. If you feed it, it will eat you up instead.” (242)
- “We all have scars, my beautiful one. They make us who we are, and if we let them, they bring us together.” (264)
- She still marveled that God had taken her mark of judgment and used it as an instrument of grace. (326)