I am so excited to share a review of Arlem Hawks’ upcoming novel Beyond the Lavender Fields. This novel will release on February 1st, 2022. I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
I was incredibly intrigued by this novel for several reasons.
1. The French Revolution setting
2. Protagonists on opposite sides of the struggle
3. I enjoyed Hawks’ novel Georgana’s Secret so I was excited to see how she created this story
My knowledge about the French Revolution is based mostly on college literature and history courses and what I learned from reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (which is incredible!) so I was so excited to read another book set in this time period.
This book started slow and then became a book that I couldn’t put down. As the action intensified, our star crossed lovers found everything they believe in questioned. And their decisions became more about doing what they felt is right regardless of what others believed the consequences should be.
Book Summary: “1792, France. Rumors of revolution in Paris swirl in Marseille, a bustling port city in southern France. Gilles Étienne, a clerk at the local soap factory, thrives on the news. Committed to the cause of equality, liberty, and brotherhood, he and his friends plan to march to Paris to dethrone the monarchy. His plans are halted when he meets Marie-Caroline Daubin, the beautiful daughter of the owner of the factory.
A bourgeoise and a royalist, Marie-Caroline has been called home to Marseille to escape the unrest in Paris. She rebuffs Gilles’s efforts to charm her and boldly expresses her view that violently imposed freedom is not really freedom for all. As Marie-Caroline takes risks to follow her beliefs, Gilles catches her in a dangerous secret that could cost her and her family their lives. As Gilles and Marie-Caroline spend more time together, she questions her initial assumptions about Gilles and realizes that per-haps they have more in common than she thought.
As the spirit of revolution descends on Marseille, people are killed and buildings are ransacked and burned to the ground. Gilles must choose between supporting the political change he believes in and protecting those he loves. And Marie-Caroline must battle between standing up for what she feels is right and risking her family’s safety. With their lives and their nation in turmoil, both Gilles and Marie-Caroline wonder if a révolutionnaire and a royaliste can really be together in a world that forces people to choose sides.”
Marie-Caroline was a fascinating protagonist. Her deeply held royalist beliefs were intriguing to learn about. I have found that the French Revolution has often been taught as an obvious, one sided war. If you sided with the King you must be entitled and incredibly wealthy yourself. While Caroline is well off, she also believes in true justice, freedom of religion, and rights to the common man–regardless of their beliefs. I appreciated learning more about this side of the conflict. And I admired how she fought for what she felt is right. From her desperate attempts to practice her Catholic religion to her understanding of her father’s fine soap factories processes, Caroline is intelligent, strong, and passionate. I admired her character and her deep beliefs.
Gilles is in some ways her opposite but in others quite similar to Caroline. He also holds strong beliefs for freedom and a new democracy. He wants equality for all and power to the common man. His journey is fascinating throughout the story because his beliefs are questioned and debated. He must grapple with the choices and actions of the Jacobins as they differ from his ideals. I loved how well he takes care of his mother and how his relationship with his father changes as the story progresses.
Their love story is passionate and beautifully difficult. It seems obvious that they can’t be together from the moment they meet (in a rather hilarious and witty awkward encounter). They see the world so differently. They value different things. How can they fall in love? But of course, they do. I appreciated the slow build of their relationship. As they get to know each other better, they understand that they aren’t as different as they expect. They want a free France. They want equality for all men and women. They love their families. They want to learn and make the world better. I loved how they both start to realize how far their feelings have come as they struggle to stay true to what they thought they believed. Their kiss in the lavender field is magical and the ending brought tears to my eyes.
I also appreciated how much I learned about the French Revolution from these characters and this novel. The details were compelling and thought provoking. From seeing a guillotine used in front of you to the desecration of a Catholic church to the mob violence in civilian homes. These images were chilling and intense. The complexities and ethical dilemmas are fascinating. How far should you go to achieve revolution? Who is your enemy? Do people deserve to die because they believe differently from those in power? Should religions be banned or condemned? Can you quench faith through law? How does obsession, power, love, or desire fuel your actions? And is there a limit to how far you should go for power, love, or revolution? I loved the potential discussions this book creates. And I thought Hawks’ writing style lends itself well to these complex debates.
I have read a lot of proper romances set in especially the Regency England time period. This was my first proper romance set in the French Revolution and I loved it! Hawks’ does a superb job balancing a complex time in French history with a slow burning romance. I especially enjoyed the well developed characters and fascinating time period. A great addition to this genre!
Have you read any books set in the French Revolution?
Which time periods are most fascinating for you to read about?
About the Author: ARLEM HAWKS began making up stories before she could write. Living all over the western United States and traveling around the world gave her a love of cultures and people and the stories they have to tell. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications, with an emphasis in print journalism, and she lives in Arizona with her husband three children.