Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review: Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham
Series: Standalone
Published: April 4th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
313 pages (ARC)
Genre: Canadian Historical Fiction
Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Summer 1755, Acadia

Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.



 

In 2015, I read and loved Genevieve Graham’s historical novel, Tides of Honour. I love historical fiction, and have always lamented about the lack of Canadian historical fiction. Not only was Tides of Honour set in Canada, it also featured an event I knew nothing about: the Halifax Explosion of 1917. When I learned Ms Graham was writing a novel about the Acadian Expulsion, I was ecstatic. My dad was from Shediac, an Acadian town in New Brunswick. One of his brothers is into genealogy and did thorough research on our family line, even creating a book that each family member has (considering my dad was the youngest of 16 children, this book comes in extremely handy!). One thing he didn’t talk about in the book was the Acadian Expulsion, but when I told him I was visiting France for the second time in 2015, he called me and gave me some new information about our family - where our ancestors came from in France, plus the fact at least one of our ancestors was part of the Acadian Resistance, along with the fact our family was sent to Boston during the Expulsion, where they lived with Native Americans before returning to Canada. My dad died long before my uncle did any of this research, but being a proud Acadian, I know he would have loved this information, and I’m positive he would have loved Ms Graham’s Promises to Keep, just as I did.

Promises to Keep started in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, an idyllic area with happy, flourishing families living comfortably off the land. They lived in harmony with the local Mi’kmaq tribe, and Amélie’s family in particular had close ties to the Natives. At the start of the story, the British Army had been a presence for awhile, but they didn’t interfere much with the locals. With new orders from the king, the Acadians' lives began to change in small ways that soon turned more drastic. The British wanted the Acadians' land, and they’d stop at nothing to get it.

I love that the story started with a view of what life was like pre-expulsion. Amélie and her family were happy and healthy, and they were proud Acadians. They never lost that pride, even when they lost nearly everything else. The beautiful life they lived was such a contrast to what unravelled throughout the book - their family being being ripped apart, and the misery, pain, and heartache that followed.

Graham did a fantastic job of weaving a story with strong characters, an engaging plot, and a sweet romance. I rooted for Amélia and Connor from the beginning, and my heart broke for all they had to go through together and separately. I loved how all the different elements of the story were twined together, creating something beautiful, complex, and meaningful. I truly felt for these characters - for the pain they had to endure, and the struggles they faced. Not only am I impressed with Graham’s storytelling ability, I’m also impressed that she managed to get so much story - and with such heart and emotion - into a relatively short book. So many stories like this drag on and end up overdoing it with historical detail, but Graham did a masterful job of balancing the historical aspects with the romance, action, and family aspects. 

In the last couple of years, I’ve (mostly) learned not to get my hopes up too high for books, but because of my personal reasons for being curious about Promises to Keep, my expectations were high. I can honestly say Genevieve Graham exceeded by expectations with this story. Promises to Keep is a beautiful, engaging story about perseverance, hope, strength, family, and love. I can’t recommend this book highly enough to fans of historical fiction.






 
Buy Tides of Honour: Amazon || Chapters
Read my review of Tides of Honour


Have you read Promises to Keep? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you enjoy historical fiction? What's an era or a specific historical event you'd like to see featured in a book?

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