In 17th-century France, Flemish lace is desired but illegal, so the smuggling business is alive and well.
This debut historical novel from Anthony (the pen name of a Christian book author) tells the story of lace from multiple perspectives, including an abused dog trained to smuggle lace across the border. Treated little better than the dog is Katharina, a nun who has become bent and blind from her incessant lace-making. Her sister, Heilwich, hopes to buy her back from the abbey before Katharina’s blindness is discovered and she is cast out onto the streets, very likely to earn a living by prostitution. Meanwhile, border guards are trained to hunt smugglers, and confiscated lace ends up gracing the sleeves of the aristocracy. One young girl, Lisette, becomes entranced by the lace cuffs of a visiting Count. Her curiosity, however, ruins not only the Count’s lace cuffs, but also her family’s fortunes, as he resorts to blackmail to gain vengeance. He wants, of course, not only more lace, but also a means to save his own fortune, since his father has threatened to disinherit him. Why disinherit him? Well, the Marquis has a newly pregnant wife, his first wife ruined the young Count by raising him initially as a girl, and the Count shows no inclination to produce an heir himself. Lisette’s cousin Alexandre has also endured hard times. He and his leprous father were cast out by the village priest long ago, yet Lisette’s father rescued him. He owes his life to Lisette’s father, and he has given his heart to Lisette. So when she impulsively begs the Count to take her in place of the lace, and the Count spirits her away, Alexandre vows vengeance himself. Lurking behind is the master smuggler himself, De Grote. The many facets of the story of lace are intriguing, yet Anthony does not fully weave them together. There are simply too many threads.
Sweeping, yes. Cohesive, no.