Bride of New France, Suzanne Durocher’s’ debut historical novel introduces us to the famous Filles du Roi, sent over to populate the French settlements along the St-Lawrence River of Canada in the late 1600’s. These women, either orphans, the destitute, criminals or prostitutes endured a perilous journey across the Atlantic ocean to marry—not the dukes nor high officials who live in comfort within the village walls—but the fur traders who expect their imported wives to settle the land single-handed at the mercy of the weather and dangers of the neighbouring enemy. Totally unprepared for the harsh Canadian winters and hardships of farming the wilderness, they must also deal with roving husbands who are more interested in the freedom of life in the woods than meeting their domestic responsibilities.
The main character, Laure Beauséjour, must give up her dream of being a seamstress in Paris and is exiled to New France where she eventually marries an older coureur des bois who leaves her to fend for herself in a rickety shack in the dead of winter where she almost dies of starvation. Laure must learn to reach out to others in order to survive these brutal conditions.
The characters could’ve been more developed. Laure is a self-centered young woman whose decisions throughout the story effects the lives of those around her. There is no growth at the end of the story, which, by the way, is a bit quick and concise. It is, with all its ups and downs in terms of plotting and character development, a very enjoyable read and one I would highly recommend for its detailed historical depiction of early New France.