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Book Review of Along a Breton Shore by Arlem Hawks
Besides reading Les Misérables several times, I do not know much about the French Revolution. I know a lot about the American Revolution, but I haven’t spent much time studying the French Revolution. Along a Breton Shore by Arlem Hawks tells the story of two different sides of the French Revolution. This novel is stand-alone, but is a spin-off from Beyond the Lavender Fields, also by Arlem Hawks. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Maxence and Armelle in this story!
A soldier and a young woman, on opposite sides of the revolution, must run for their lives across a war-torn France in this gripping novel of friendship, love, and survival.
Maxence Étienne, a soldier for the République, believes fiercely in the revolution that is bringing liberty to France. But even though the monarchy has fallen and Maxence is part of a great cause, he is still searching for a place to belong.
Armelle Bernard is a young woman from Breton whose father was sentenced to death for hiding counterrevolutionaries. She decides to confront the priest who betrayed her father, and as the conflict escalates, she herself is ordered to be executed—an order to be carried out by Maxence.
Maxence has seen his share of violence and bloodshed, but he also carries a tragic secret and can’t bring himself to carry out his assignment. In allowing Armelle to escape, he is forced to combat a fellow soldier, who dies in the struggle.
Though Armelle and Maxence are strangers and on opposite sides of the revolution, they find themselves united as fugitives of the new republic. Now they must find a way to trust each other as they search for a path to peace, and to freedom.
My Book Review:
In Along a Breton Shore, Ms. Hawks seamlessly weaves together the lives of Maxence Étienne and Armelle Bernard. Maxence is a soldier who believes in the cause of the revolution, and Armelle’s father helped hide counterrevolutionaries before being caught and sentenced to death. Their feelings of, and about, the revolution are opposite. They are essentially enemies. They do have one thing in common, though—their humanity. This one thing sets them up for danger, difficulty, deception, heartache, trust, mistrust, loyalty, and disloyalty. It also sets them up for a possibility of seeing things from a different perspective, and maybe even a fledgling romance.
Ms. Hawks must have put a lot of research into this story. Her hard work shows through and pays off with a story that seems factually accurate (to my uninformed mind). Each detail, from clothing descriptions to ship facts, adds greatly to the reader becoming immersed in the story. I’ve never been to France. I know little about the French Revolution, and yet I felt as if I were right there with these characters.
In Along a Breton Shore, Ms. Hawks uses her talent to create characters that jump off the page. Her character development shines through as the reader finds herself best friends with Maxence and Armelle. Each character seems real, authentic, unique, and has a distinct voice. It’s kind of funny because they are both quite stubborn and feisty in their own ways. Neither one of these characters has trouble speaking his or her mind, and both of them know (or think they know) exactly what they want.
I loved the descriptions of the land, the towns, the buildings, the food, the people, and the country. The story is well written, well researched, flows well, and has some great lessons. Two people with opposite viewpoints can listen to and learn from each other. Family and friends should have great importance in our lives because relationships matter. Sometimes life takes us in a different direction than we planned on, and it’s ok because many times it’s better than we could have imagined. Of course, it also sometimes takes us down some difficult and rough times, but we can learn from those as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed Along a Breton Shore. The craft Ms. Hawks put into this book is evident as you read, and I loved becoming a part of the story. Have I been inspired to learn more about the French Revolution? Ummm…maybe? There are lots of things I want to learn about, and I’ll add this to the list.
Content Rating: PG-13
- Profanity: None
- Intimacy: None (Brief Kissing)
- Violence: Moderate (A character is killed and there is some fighting–it is a war.)
Age Recommendation: YA and up
My Rating: 4/5
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.