Everyone in New France, a village in Pennsylvania, awaits Queen Marie Antoinette’s arrival—as soon as she escapes the French Revolution.
The ridiculously overdressed and sadly inept nobles and their families who have fled France with little but their lives believe that their queen will provide needed civility to the village their American hirelings are carving out of the Pennsylvania wilderness for them. Eugenie, 15 and haunted by the horrors they’ve escaped, arrives unprepared for the harshly primitive conditions they find, and she’s annoyed by her unrealistic mother’s matchmaking with an unpleasant young noble. In alternating chapters, her story is contrasted with that of Quaker Hannah, who, like her father and brother, has been hired to help the French out for a year but whose faith keeps her from the subservience the noblemen demand. The French have been joined by a Caribbean slaveholder and his four brutally mistreated slaves; this provides a catalyst for a developing friendship between the two girls, in spite of disdainful Maman’s rejection of the American girl and her competently down-to-earth ways. The gradual, believable changes in both girls’ characters add an appealing dimension to an engrossing depiction of this little-known episode.
Based on actual events and richly immersive in the feel of the period, this effort rises above sometimes-awkward exposition to create a well-rounded, satisfying historical tale. (Historical fiction. 11-14)