France, 1685. Catherine Gillet knows her brother, Jules, wants to protect her from the sinister threats of the French crown. But Jules is involved in a potentially deadly enterprise, one connected with an encoded document. When his actions put the whole family at risk, will Catherine find a way to save them?
Virginia, present day. Renee Talbot, a direct descendant of Catherine’s, is fascinated by the document that’s been part of her family legacy for more than three centuries. Certain its pages hold hidden secrets, she takes a closer look — and makes a shocking discovery. But when memories of a childhood trauma are rekindled, she’s forced to seek answers of a different kind. Inspired by the faith and bravery of Catherine, can Renee find the truth and face her deepest fears at last?
From the authors of the Christy Award-winning The Amish Midwife comes an epic story of two women, centuries apart, each discovering her own hidden bravery, standing for what she believes in, and finding love in unexpected places.
Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of numerous books, both fiction and nonfiction, including A Penny for Your Thoughts, Whispers of the Bayou, and the #1-ranked The Amish Midwife. She has received numerous honors, including two Christy Awards and RT Book Club Magazine’s Career Achievement Award. Mindy and her husband, John, live near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and have two grown daughters.
Leslie Gould is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, including the #1 bestseller The Amish Midwife (CBA and ECPA), co-written with Mindy Starns Clark. The novel, the first in The Women of Lancaster County series, was a 2012 Christy Award winner. The Amish Nanny and The Amish Bride, the second and third novels in the series, also hit the bestseller list.
One of Leslie’s stand-alone novels, Beyond the Blue, won of the Romantic Times Book Club Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2006.
Leslie received her master of fine arts in creative writing from Portland State University in 2009 and has taught fiction as an adjunct professor at Multnomah University. She also teaches workshops at public and private schools and at writers’ conferences.
A varied work history, from curating a historical museum to editing a bridal magazine, preceded her fiction-writing career. She is also an Army Reserve wife who has supported her husband, Peter, through many years of service, including a deployment to Afghanistan as the commander of a field hospital. Leslie and her husband live in Oregon with their four children.
My book club chose My Brother’s Crown by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould mainly because we have loved Clark’s novels. This first novel in the Cousins of The Dove series is a bit of a departure for us — we read a lot of contemporary suspense, but historical fiction is something some of us shy away from. This book was a treat for both the suspense and history fans in the group. A couple of us have pre-ordered the next book, so I think we can safely say this one is a recommended read from By The Book!
There are two story lines in My Brother’s Crown. The first is set in modern day Virginia and centers around Renee Talbot. Her family is presenting a valuable historical artifact to the Smithsonian, and Renee is heavily involved in the process. She meets a hunky security guy with the insurance agency and there is immediate attraction. A past event makes Renee wary of commitment, but with Blake’s help, Renee and her cousins confront their childhood trauma, and the stage is set for more investigation into the mystery. Meanwhile, the danger and intrigue of France in the late 1600s unfolds in the second story line. Catherine Gillet is a young Huguenot woman during the height of persecution under King Louis XIV. Catherine is torn between her faith, the enticements of the world and an ideal of safety away from France. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that Catherine is not aware of making her unsure of just whom to trust.
To be honest, I felt that the plot and characters of the historical story were more developed. This may be because at the end of the book, Catherine’s story seems complete. Catherine was a good character — headstrong and opinionated, with a definite belief in justice. Her attitudes and personality colored the way she saw the world and interacted with events. I also enjoyed learning more about the Huguenots and the persecution they endured. We learn a lot about Pilgrims and Puritans in American History, but not a lot about other religious groups that came to America for freedom. My Brother’s Crown provided greater insight into the struggle for religious freedom. The modern story line with its mystery murder from the cousins’ childhood will continue in subsequent books. And while I want to learn more about that, I felt like I have only gotten a a brief glimpse into that story. Renee and Blake’s romance was good, but felt a bit rushed. I am hoping they will figure in the subsequent books.
All in all, we enjoyed My Brother’s Crown. We had a good bit of discussion on the Huguenots and the roles and limitations of women throughout history. We are looking forward to My Sister’s Prayer, book 2 in the series, due out in September 2016.
Audience: older teens to adults.
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(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)