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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
The Painted Cross by Hunter Dennis is the follow-on book from The Crimson Heirloom which ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. We meet up again with Jake, Xavier, Estelle and Jeannine against the setting of Nantes and Paris in France and Haiti and North America. This second book picks up from the days of 1776 – 1832 and takes us from 1789 – 1833. Jake is released from prison and sails to Haiti in search of the precious necklace but fails to find it. He escapes to North America where he hopes he will be safe. Meanwhile Estelle, in possession of the necklace, is in France and falls in love with Xavier Traversier, who has successfully integrated back into high society. She is aware that she is far below him in status, but could never have imagined she would be so cruelly betrayed. Beau Brave (Guillaume Guerrier) is a bit of an enigma. From a wealthy family, he makes his way to Paris with the intention of becoming a famous playwright.
The Painted Cross is not a book to pick up and put down over several weeks. The characters are many and complex and the background moves swiftly from one side of the Atlantic to the other. We learn a lot about life in Paris at the time of Louise XVI – the last king of France before the fall of the monarchy – and the politics of the day in an age of ‘Enlightenment’. The wrangling over the composition of the Etats General and the inequalities between rich and poor are discussed at length. The character of Beau Brave opens the door on the state of the theatre of the time and the hold both church and state had over the entertainment that was permitted. The discussions about the state of Haiti once the French had left mirrors current comments on today’s emerging nations. I enjoyed reading this book. It’s thoughtful, packed with information, with many philosophical conversations between the characters on the life and times of 18th century France. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are a delightful addition.