Laure, an orphan from the streets, lives in the Salpetriere, a prison for the poor of Paris. She has dreams of becoming a wealthy seamstress with the help of her friend Madeleine but due to her own bad decisions is chosen to become a Fille de roi, one of the women sent to Canada to marry and bear lots of children with a stranger in a dangerous country. New France is full of bachelors, but light on eligible women. For a successful colony, the King needs to populate the country with his own loyal subjects.
Armed with a dowry from the King, Laure and her friend Madeleine cross the ocean to meet their destiny in the Canadian wilderness. There are plenty of men, but either they have little interest in Frenchwomen, since they’ve been with the native women for years, or they lie about their own circumstances. The men have been given land but farming requires different skills from soldiering. Most of the men have little more than a tent to offer their new wives. As an incentive, if the new families produce some tiny French babies, they’ll receive more money from the King.
As the title suggests, Laure becomes a bride, but things are far from Happily Ever After.
I knew a little about the Filles de roi from my high school history. They breezed over that bit because ladies, am I right? If you aren’t a dude putting a flag in something, who cares? The Filles de roi only populated New France, after all.
Desrochers starts Bride of New France in one of the worst places in 16th century Paris, the Salpetriere, where Laure works as a lacemaker. A girl literary dies of scurvy. SCURVY. Still, no one wants to go to Canada. It’s like moving to Mars. The plot at this point moves about as fast as a herd of turtles. There were details that didn’t advance the plot, like the prayers and such. I had to speed up the narration on the audiobook or I would have fallen asleep.
Once Laure gets off the boat (not a cruise ship), things get a little quicker though not much happier. Death, starvation, general terribleness continues. Some of the characters suffer from Helen Burns Syndrome; they’re too good to live. As for Laure, she’s sort of a jerk, which would be okay if she was interesting, but she wasn’t. She is awful to a dying girl and manipulates her friend into going to Canada with her. There is a reason no one likes you, Laure.
Although I had issues with Bride of New France, it’s a valiant attempt to fill out a little known piece of history and the unknown women who were an important part of it.
About the Audio: Emma Bering does the narration. She has a lovely accent but she’s slooooooooow. I increased the speed and barely noticed. She also over pronounced certain words, like prostitute, and it made me crazy.