27 May 2018

Review - The Stolen Girl by Zia Wesley

Title: The Stolen Girl (The Veil and the Crown #1)

Author: Zia Wesley

Synopsis:

The legend of Aimée Dubucq de Rivery, has survived on three continents for more than two hundred years. The Stolen Girl tells the first part of her extraordinary story, her adolescence on the Caribbean island of Martinique, and her voyage to Paris where her hopes of finding a husband are shattered. Resigned to live as an old maid at the ripe age of eighteen, she decides to become a nun and sets sail to visit her relatives on Martinique one last time. On the journey, she meets and falls in love with a dashing young Scotsman. But fate had other plans for Aimée, ones that were foretold by an African Obeah woman when she was fourteen years old.

My Thoughts:

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The legend of Aimée Dubucq de Rivery is quite extraordinary. She was a distant cousin of Joséphine de Beuharnais (Empress Joséphine later) with whom she spent her childhood together on the island of Martinique. 

According to the story both their futures had been foretold by a wise obeah woman and everything she said came to pass up to the last detail. The woman had said they would both become queens one day. The teenage girls squealed and clapped taking in the thought first, but the rest of the tale the woman told them began to trouble them as time went by. It seems neither of them could avoid what fate had in store for them eventually.

Aimée's destiny didn't lie in Paris as she first wished and imagined, although after she visited the city she didn't mind it very much after all. She didn't become a nun either, no matter how much her young mind had pondered the idea. Instead she was abducted by Turkish pirates and was gifted to the Sultan to be the jewel of his seraglio (harem). Tough luck, you'd say. Well, according to Zia Wesley and her book Aimée didn't have a miserable life in the harem at all. Interestingly Aimée's new way of life suited her sensual nature, excited and challanged her at the same time. What a twist!

Obviously the tale told in this book is romanticized to no end. Not by the author only, but by many other storytellers before her and by history itself. We are talking about a legend (there are theories that say that Aimée died on sea when the ship she was travelling with sank), and legends are very often sweetened up as time goes by. Let's not forget that the original happenings of this story took place short before the romantic era, so yeah... rely on the people of the 19th century to come up with fantastic stories about a beautiful white girl who gets abducted by pirates and gets to live an actually very comfortable life in an exotic place among hundreds of naked women.

Anyway, I live for heavily romanticized fiction (it's a weakness of mine...) and therefore it felt like this book was written for me. There's a lot of adventure in it: Aimée is born in Martinique where she is friends with Joséphine, she goes to France, visits Paris, lives in a convent, gets stolen by pirates, is taken to Turkey to be put in a harem... So much travelling, so much danger, so much... fun! She is also a virgin and a deeply catholic girl and it is interesting how she sees the situations she ends up in. 

Aimée starts out as an extremely naive character. With her willingness to obey everyone and her obsession with religion made her a bit annoying first, however later I warmed up to her a lot because she learns and accomodates easily to whatever goes on around her. The way she slowly pushed her christianity in the background and took on muslim habits was a bit surprising however, given how much her earlier years were determined by the religion she grew up with. She doesn't turn away from God completely I guess (no one asks her in the harem to give up her religion and she is often troubled by how much what she is asked to do goes against the word of the Bible), but she makes a conscious decision to adopt to the new habits of the people around her in order to survive.

The writing flows so well, I was lost in the story. The exotic setting and the rich descriptions delighted me. There was a lot of research put in this project, you can feel it while reading the book. I learned a lot about how a harem functioned at the time, what the women had to do, what they weren't allowed to do, how their days passed there. It was very fascinating.

I'm grateful this novel drew my attention to Aimée and her connection to Joséphine. I'll definitely read the sequel to learn how Ms Wesley imagnes Aimée's story continued.




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