Dempsey-Legnon’s fictional adaptation of family history is a novel about life in a Cajun village in the early 1900s, as recounted by a woman who worked hard and suffered greatly for her family and for love.
In 1965, Jean Marc Fontenot lays in a hospital bed in Lafayette, La., with his wife, Angelique, at his side as Dempsey-Legnon’s impactful debut novel begins. Their children and grandchildren visit and keep Angelique company, but the steady stream of well-wishers does not change one fact: Jean Marc is dying. Angelique recounts the details of their love story, taking everyone back to Belair Cove in 1906, when she and Jean Marc were teenagers in love. To Angelique’s dismay, her father agrees with the father of the town troublemaker, Damon, that she will marry Damon, not Jean Marc. Since Damon’s family is wealthier, Angelique’s father tries to convince her that she can have a much more comfortable life with Damon. After Angelique reluctantly marries Damon, Jean Marc enlists in the military and leaves town for the war. As Damon’s volatile temper grows out of control, the disturbing details of Angelique’s awful marriage to him convincingly convey his alcoholism and abusive behavior. He’s possessive, controlling and, despite hardly showing any affection toward Angelique, he vows that he will never let her go. Damon is a miserable character; Angelique’s lack of courage to regularly stand up to him can be frustrating. On the other hand, Angelique secretly harbors feelings for Jean Marc, even in his absence. When he finally returns, he brings with him his British wife, a nurse named Elizabeth. An understandably shocked Angelique envies their life together; she still wishes to be with Jean Marc, whose mere presence in town enrages Damon. He warns Angelique against going near Jean Marc, but when Jean Marc and Elizabeth buy a neighboring farm, the lack of distance between both couples stirs up old feelings. In this captivating tale rich with historical detail, Dempsey-Legnon’s engaging writing style makes the reader feel like a part of Belair Cove, rather than an outsider looking in on the fraying romance.
Vivid, heartfelt and honest.