Set in the Louisiana Bayous in the 1800's, this was a charming love story about a man who had loved a girl from childhood, but she is now engaged to his best friend who is in love with another woman. Pamela Morsi writes the best historical fiction!
Set in the mid-1840s, this is the story of Aida Gaudet and Armand Sonnier, two Acadians who have known each other from childhood. Armand has been in love with Aida for as long as he can remember, but Aida is betrothed to his very handsome best friend - not because she loves his friend, but because she does not think any of the men in her community can see past her beauty long enough to know and love her for herself. However, Armand's friend is landless, so once married they will live on her family's land, which she hopes will make her husband feel grateful and perhaps his gratitude will eventually lead him to love her.
Her betrothed has been carrying on an affair with a married German woman - of which Aida is aware - a woman who has been abandoned by her husband and left alone with three children to care for, and no source of income. This scenario is presented sympathetically, and Aida is not resentful, rather she has decided that perhaps things can continue on exactly as is. After all, she reasons, her fiance does not love her, and how can she fault him for turning to another?
Meanwhile, Armand does not believe Aida could ever feel anything for him - for she is beautiful and sought after, and he is plain and short.
They are encouraged to look at each other differently, through the machinations of the local herbal healer, an old woman who purportedly hears the voice of Joan of Arc speaking to her from the river.
There are several sub-plots which are touched on - Armand's brother has lost interest in his pregnant wife; the priest assigned to this Acadian community does not understand their way of life and wants to expose them to more modern ways; the herbal healer has been waiting to find a trainee.
There is enough going on in this book that even if you tire of one character, the others will keep you reading. This could have easily been developed into a series of books that delved more deeply into each sub-plot, but the book moves along quickly and all the characters and their circumstances are treated with respect.
Good, relaxing read.
This unusual story is about the Louisiana Acadians of long ago. Pamela Morsi did a great deal of research and it shows in the realism of the sights and sounds of the bayou country. She did a wonderful job of explaining the customs of the Acadians (who, in more recent times became known as the Louisiana Cajuns).
At the start, I was absolutely underwhelmed with the heroine of this story -- Aida Gaudet. In todays parlance shed be called an airhead; although regularly forgetting to feed her father seemed beyond the scope of a mere airhead.
In case you miss the several hundred times it is mentioned, Aida is the beauty of the Vermillion River area. She is engaged to the most handsome man in the area, Laron. However, Laron is in love with a destitute German widow, who has 3 children. Laron keeps pushing the wedding further away; Aida is aware of her intendeds relationship with the German woman, but says nothing.
The first third of the book dragged; too much time was spent explaining that Aida was beautiful and all the guys (from 15 to 90) were in love with her -- even Laron's best friend, Armand. However, Armand is a man of small stature (due to a severe childhood illness), who has become the judge of the area because he is the most educated man.
Aida accepts the fact that the German widow is (and will continue to be) Larons mistress because Aida knows she is admired for her looks but will never be loved for herself. In a fit of jealous anger, Armand tells about Larons mistress and causes events to spin out of his control.
Because he is a good man, Armand tries to set things right again. But fate is uncooperative and Armand becomes ever more embroiled in Aidas life while trying to get Laron and Aida to the altar.
Fortunately, Aida grows and changes as she becomes the next designated treater a woman trained in the herbal arts. I was convinced the author could not grow Aida enough to match the strength and substance of Armand but I was wrong. This is a lovely tale of six interwoven lives that is very satisfying.
Interesting setting, well developed characters and a fun, humorous plot line.