Queen of Swords
I read a lot of fiction and romance set in the Regency, and besides the occasional storyline of a hero coming back from fighting Boney on the Peninsula, I never gave much thought to what else was going on in the world while Lady This and Lord That took a turn around the room. The War of 1812 and its battles are not mentioned much in my normal reading and I wonder why that is. Queen of Swords is Sara Donati’s fifth installment in her Wilderness series surrounding the lives of the Bonner family. The setting is New Orleans on the cusp of a great, and ultimately unnecessary, battle.
Queen of Swords picks up where Fire Along the Sky left off with the rescue of Jennet Huntar from the hands of pirates. Jennet along with soon-to-be husband Luke and his sister Hannah, flee the islands and make plans to rescue the baby Jennet had born Luke while in captivity. Jennet made a deal with a disreputable man to take her son away from the danger of her island prison. That man, Honore Poiterin, took the baby back to New Orleans and to his wealthy family ,who doesn’t intend to give the child back.
When Luke, Jennet and Hannah discover just what type of monsters they are up against, they all travel to New Orleans, separately, to try to steal the child back and find their way home to upstate New York. As with most fiction, things do not go as planned. Luke’s arrival is delayed when he is forced into service on a ship, and Hannah is struck down with malaria. They are eventually aided by the wonderful Jean-Benoit Savard and his extended family until the three are united again and try to find a way out of a city on the brink of battle.
These events take place in the first third of the book. This is also the section I found most trying. The pacing seemed off, going from edge-of-your-seat action to two pages of description of a New Orleans street. I had a hard time staying in the story and beating back the melancholy that Hannah and company inspired. But once the threesome reunite and their course shifts from getting back the baby to getting out of New Orleans during a war, something changed. The tone changed from depressing to dramatic, and I couldn’t put it down.
And then there’s Jean-Benoit (sigh…). I will say this: Hannah is a lucky, lucky woman. Jean-Benoit, affectionately known as Ben, is something close to utter perfection. He is tough and gruff, but can still smile. He teases Hannah and says the right things at the right times. He earns the respect of Hannah’s father and uncle even while he is sharing a bed with her at night. Kudos to Sara Donati for giving us a vivid romance – in the midst of a great piece of historical fiction – that is better than some straight romances.
Queen of Swords is centered on the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. There is a lot of history here but the actual scenes during the fighting are not overly drawn out as I’ve seen in some novels. I found the subject matter fascinating and even looked it up for a more in depth view. Not noted in the novel, but very pivotal is the fact that a peace treaty was signed before the battle, but word didn’t make its way to New Orleans till it was too late.
This is the first book I’ve read in the Wilderness series. It was a little daunting at first, looking at this almost 600 page book that has four books before it. I read the reviews and plot descriptions for the first four and found that I had no trouble getting into this one. I believe fans who have been with Hannah since she was a little girl in the first book will greatly enjoy this next installment. Others, like me, shouldn’t shy away because it’s in the middle of a series. Once past a rough, but crucial, beginning, you will be hooked.