Beyond the Lavender Fields
by Arlem Hawks
1792, France Rumors of revolution in Paris swirl in Marseille, a bustling port city in southern France. Gilles Etienne, 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 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 perhaps 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 revolutionnaire and a royaliste can really be together or if they must live in a world that forces people to choose sides.
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Review by Melissa Dalton Martinez
In 1792, a Parisian royalist named Marie-Caroline Daubin travels to Marseilles to escape the turmoil in the nation’s capital, but she soon discovers the conflict is neither confined to Paris nor black-and-white when she meets a local revolutionary. Gilles Etienne is merely a clerk, who has been swept up by the winds of change and plans to march on Paris, but is halted by his encounter with Marie-Caroline, the daughter of his employer. Both have radically different ideas of freedom and power, and their conflicting life experiences cannot be easily reconciled.
The idea that “opposites attract” is put to the test as the main characters get to know each other, and ironically, the risks of trying to hold onto their beliefs during troubled times helps each to see the other in a more favorable light. I love that both characters are forced to confront and question their long-held beliefs, making the story a more real-feeling Romeo and Juliet style story. Arlem Hawks has a knack for drawing in the readers’ sympathy and concern for the characters—especially as the flame of revolution works its way south to Marseilles, threatening not only the characters’ love but their lives. If you want to read a period piece that makes you feel like you’re really there, be sure to check out Beyond the Lavender Fields from Shadow Mountain Press and the rest of Arlem Hawks’ novels.