A complex union of two families in the northeastern United States is threatened by the Civil War in this second installment of a historical fiction trilogy.
The French Huguenot Duladiers have become successful entrepreneurs in the New World, establishing a thriving silk business, a linen concern, as well as a foothold in opium and tobacco production. Their good fortunes, though, are dependent upon intermarriage with the Montours, who have Native American and French ancestry. The connection between the families is a delicate one, partly because of their complicated romantic and familial entanglements and partly due to the cultural differences that divide them. Kristiana Duladier assumes a position of leadership after her Aunt Catherine’s business reputation is ruined, and Kristiana bears a son, Threadneedle, with Lazarus Montour, though she shares a bed with Turtle Dawn Montour, who’s denied a man by her own tribe. Later, Threadneedle draws closer to his native roots and prepares for war, much to his mother’s chagrin. Regina, Catherine’s daughter, is an abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights, and Kilian, Catherine’s son, who doesn’t know the full truth about his parentage, covers the Civil War as a journalist. Meanwhile, Wilhelm, Kristiana’s father, who’d been shunned for his violence against women, tries to worm his way back into the clan. Kinal (Burning Silk, 2010) revisits many of the same themes of the first volume, with erotically charged, polyamorous affairs and the participation of both families in aspects of occult magic. The author’s knowledge of the silk and linen trades remains notable, and she has a penchant for high drama. However, this sequel is much more focused on tortuously incestuous romantic involvements, and much of the tale is torpidly complex and soap-operatic. The prose remains emotionally overwrought, and the discussion of Native American culture is weakened by timeworn clichés; for example, while solidifying the bond with her tribe, Delphine petitions a deer: “Will you offer your life for my quest, to complete my return to my people, to make my first rites as a warrior, to make a buckskin for a purpose I can’t divine yet?”
Like its predecessor, a wildly imaginative but melodramatic period piece.