Promises to Keep – Genevieve Graham

Promises to KeepOn the Cover: Summer 1755, Acadia

Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.

Published: April 2017

 


 

The Review:

I was excited for this book the moment I heard about it. After reading Graham’s Tides of Honour I was eager to read another of her novels. I had the luck to win Promises to Keep in a giveaway from the awesome Chrystal at Snowdrop Dreams – thank you again!

The one thing that made me fall in love with Graham’s writing is her ability to paint a picture with words. Promises to Keep begins in Grande Pré, and Graham undeniably captures the beauty of this land. Each sense is caught up in the descriptions, and I felt as though I could smell the sweet summer air, hear the ocean in the distance, and feel the sun on my skin. Graham’s writing truly transported me to this world. Even more magical was that I actually visited Grande Pré weeks after finishing this novel, and I felt as though I was truly stepping into Amélie’s world. The accuracy and depth to Graham’s visual depictions are stunning and leave me in awe.

The visual elements in Graham’s novels become even more significant when it comes to the history. The Acadians are subjected to terrible conditions during their relocations, which resulted in illness, starvation and in many cases, death. Here, Graham’s writing illuminates on their experience, her writing so vivid and impactful that it is hard to look away from the page. But just as strong is the resilience and determination of the Acadian people as they fight to survive. Amélie Belliveau speaks and fights with an unwavering vehemence and I absolutely loved the way Graham portrayed her character.

Promises to Keep 2

If there was one thing I couldn’t get behind in this novel, it was the love story. This breaks my heart, for I really wanted to be swept away. Unfortunately, the love story is a little too Romeo-and-Juliet-esque, and it does border on insta-love in a way I just couldn’t enjoy. If there had been a bit more foundation to the romance in the beginning of the novel I would have been more convinced. That being said, I did enjoy the evolution throughout the book and by the end I was content.

Promises to Keep hits fairly close to home, as I am married to a Belliveau whose family was and is from the Grande Pré area. Reading a story that his ancestors literally lived through was incredibly deep and touching, and I understand his Acadian pride a little bit more. This book is rich in detail and is both beautiful and shattering. It a wonderful read for anyone who wants to explore this little corner of Canadian history and learn more about the Acadian people.

Rating: 4 / 5

Quotations: 

“The hummingbirds would return soon, tiny warriors marking the true beginning of summer in their frantic, efficient manner, and I smiled every time I saw them.” – p 1 

“In my life I’d never gone beyond the limits of Grande Pré, but from here I could see past the golden rises of the dykes and let my daydreams ride the Atlantic. The prettiest sight of all was at the end of the day, when the fishermen’s white-sailed boats returned home, riding the spill of sunset on the water. They had been joined recently by a number of much larger, unfamiliar ships, and we all wondered at their business. Until this morning, I had enjoyed the anticipation of one day finding out why they were there. Now I knew from my brother that they brought only more soldiers. I was no longer happy to see them.” – p 8 

“I blinked up at him, my feet anchored on the mud-splattered boards of the dock. How could I blindly go up that ramp? I am not a sheep! I wanted to cry, but in truth I had become exactly that.” – p 139

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The Hidden Keys – André Alexis

The Hidden KeysOn the Cover: Although the Green Dolphin is a bar of ill repute, it is there that Tancred Palmieri, a thief with elegant and erudite tastes, meets Willow Azarian, an aging heroin addict. She reveals to Tancred that her very wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides one clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. Willow enlists Tancred to steal these objects from her siblings and solve the puzzle.

A Japanese screen, a painting that plays music, an aquavit bottle, a framed poem, and a model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: Tancred is lured in to this beguiling quest, and even though Willow dies before he can begin, he presses on.

As he tracks down the treasure, however, he must enlist the help of Alexander von Wurfel, esteemed copyist, and fend off Willow’s heroin dealers, a young albino named “Nigger” Colby and his sidekick, Sigismund “Freud” Luxemburg, a club-footed psychopath, both of whom are eager to get their paws on this supposed pot of gold. And he must mislead Detective Daniel Mandelshtam, his most adored friend.

Based in a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, The Hidden Keys questions what it means to be honorable and what it means to be faithful.

Published: September 2016


 

The Review:

When I first started this book I didn’t like any of the characters. It was surprisingly the narrating voice that sucked me into this world and kept me captivated. It was also the narrator’s voice that made me take a hard look at Tancred and want to learn more about him. The mystery of this book really revolves around Tancred, as he doesn’t reveal much about himself, doesn’t speak much, and is a professional mystery.  Yet the narrator kept me focused on Tancred’s story. I loved the narrating voice and the style that Alexis wrote this book in.

This is in essence a puzzle book, and that’s what drew me to this book in the first place. I loved the puzzle in this book. The pieces of the puzzle are absolutely fascinating and I loved learning how they fit together. The puzzle pieces were beautiful and the descriptions were so well done that I fell in love with every piece. The puzzle did have some drawbacks, however, as it was not overly difficult. I also felt like the narrative didn’t really allow me to ponder over what the answers might be as they were delivered quite quickly. While the mystery in the book might have been lacking, it balanced out with how interesting the puzzle was.

The Hidden Keys is a book I might never have picked up, but I’m really glad I did. It is intriguing, has beautiful descriptions, and it made me think. The book is written in a style that was new to me, but also spoke to me, and I’m definitely interested in reading more of Alexis’ works and exploring this narrating voice further. If you love slower paced puzzle books filed with interesting characters, check this one out.

Rating: 4 / 5

Quotations:

“During their months in Japan, they had – when both were free – travelled around the country together, taking trains to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Tokyo. She could still recall the small towns along the way, the baseball diamonds, the fields and houses, the tall buildings and neon lights. It was on these travels that Willow discovered her love for the painted screens of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Japan: gesso, gold leaf, a season coming to life panel by panel as the screen is opened. Leave it to her father to remember her enchantment and remind her of the works she’d loved.” (p 23)

“It was odd, being in that place. The mausoleum seemed to bear a message. The place itself meant something, but it felt, to Tancred, as if its meaning were just out of reach. Clearly, the mausoleum pointed to the idea of home or family. But, all the same, Tancred did not feel he had taken in the place’s full significance. He was not convinced he ever could. The mind behind this room was so foreign to him.” (p 133)

“Simone remembered the night still. The moon above them was white and full – not a crescent, as Michael remembered. There had been the smell of tar and pine. And then, of course, there had been the music itself: each note clear, the piano stopping and starting unpredictably, then going on for long stretches, like magic.” (p 118)