The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Lady Marguerite lives the life of most aristocratic girls in 17th century France. Except Marguerite is not like most girls. Hotheaded and determined to make her own destiny, Marguerite sets off after her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family's steam forge, and the man she has decided to marry. The trip to New France is fraught with peril though, with pirates attacking their airship and dashing young captains.
Romance stories aren't my thing, but I have not been able to stop talking about this book. Mostly due to the fantastic historical reference and clever use of steampunk within. Not being Canadian, apparently I was never taught about the King's Daughters. Never heard of it? Gather round children and let me teach you some history.
The King's Daughters (or filles du roi) was a term used to refer to almost 800 young French women who immigrated to New France (a.k.a. Canada) between 1663 and 1673. They were sponsored by King Louis XIV who provided the girls with a trousseau in which they were given clothes, household items to begin their new life, a dowry, and the ability to choose their own husbands. Most of the girls were commoners although a few daughters of nobility did choose such a life either because of limited options, money, or both. This also guaranteed that instead of filling their new colonies with prisoners, they were instead populating New France with willing young women who were wards of the King. Quite an honor. My hat is off to these young women too, who chose to leave their homes forever, to go to a place that was just beginning to see civilization in order to build a better life for themselves and have a choice in who they married.
In the back of the book Statham mentions that this is how one her ancestors arrived in the new world. This alone made for an interesting read. Throw in some steampunk automatons, a vapid companion, a budding romance, one girl determined to be her own woman, airships, and pirates and I would say that all in all it was a fun book although not terribly original. Then again, what is these days? This is the usual romance story with some fun tweaks that make something old not feel worn.
At times I did find Marguerite to be infuriating in her arrogance, condescension, and snobbery. The girl signs up to go to New France as a King's Daughter almost on a whim. Yet it doesn't occur to her what kind of life she will lead there, what kind of men will be available for her to marry, the women who will be joining her, or her role in all of it. This could be chalked up to youth, but for Marguerite it seemed to have more to do with how quick she was to make decisions, even bad ones. I wished she had made more peace with her fellow passengers before she became their savior, but then it would have had the other thing I can't stand which is a bunch of catty women sitting around figuring out how not to be catty.
All in all a good book for romance lovers and steampunk aficionados alike, with a bit of real
world history thrown in for good measure.