Sue Ingalls Finan comes to the blog today with a story set in the Battle of New Orleans, tied by Tarot and narrated by multiple people from different stations and circumstances in the city. Please read on for my review of
The Cards Don’t Lie
The synopsis would lead readers to think this is a story simply about the lives of three very different women who are trying to live, love and survive the dangers of war, and their interconnected paths. But this was so much more – with narrative voices of men attached to the women, the voices of soldiers on the battlefield, a young man press-ganged into the Royal Navy and rescued by Laffite’s men, slaves and free men of color serving under Andrew Jackson, as well as a young slave boy, a prostitute, a Creole woman married and desperate for a child, a free woman of color known for her healing powers and lastly, a sister of the Ursulines. Interconnected through ways unexpected, everything here starts with a childhood experience of Andrew Jackson, a gypsy fortune teller foretold of his big battle where the ‘trees had beards and soldiers of many languages would serve under him to victory”. Jackson’s dispatch to New Orleans by Madison to fight off the threat from Britain – a major shipping port and the most important and strategic stronghold to access sugar, cotton and other goods- all high value cargo while being highly desired goods.
But Jackson’s arrival is simply one cog in the many wheels that are turning, as lives are lived, choices are made and love is lost and found. Catherine, a free woman of color is renown as a midwife and for her generous spirit. She’s raised her child to her own plaçage, (or Quadroon ball) where she will (hopefully) find a Creole man of means to protect and support her as his second family. Suzanne is besotted and falls instantly in love with René, and despite convention, marries him: his thoughts and beliefs having outgrown the system of his parents, or even Catherine, and Suzanne is utterly besotted and soon pregnant. But, despite Catherine’s worry for and her growing distance from Suzanne, her services and skills have been requested by two very different people: Andrew Jackson himself, the general ailing with dysentery and weight loss and Marguerite, the wife of Suzanne’s father from Catherine’s own plaçage some years earlier. Marguerite has suffered several miscarriages, and is also experiencing what can only be described as a series of psychotic breaks, out of body experiences, arguments with a disembodied voice, all which play on her own sorrow and perceived failings. Marguerite has come to Catherine for a potion to aid pregnancy, and now, with her time near, wants to avail herself of Catherine’s skills again to deliver her child.
Lastly there is Millie, daughter of a prostitute and working in the only option left to her. A regular client and flirtation is had for her with Pete – a young man press-ganged into the Royal Navy and later escaping only to sign on with Laffite’s men as a privateer. A carpenter by trade, he and Millie have a special bond – he sees the woman without all the prejudices of her profession, answering questions and being surprised by her boldness: she’s prone to leaving the brothel in men’s clothing to wander the street and experience life in the city. She only wants to have a friend, and be a ‘normal woman’ in the city that would see her as neither. But, a gathering of the women of New Orleans to plan and prepare for the upcoming invasion and war with the British allows Millie, with help from Pete, to take part and do something useful – changing the impression of her and her future, giving her new opportunities unexpected, particularly after her work driving wounded and supplies from the battlefield to hospitals and homes throughout the city. One of her stalwart companions is Suzanne, befriending Millie when no one else would, and coming to trust her when things hit her personal rock bottom.
A story of lives, consequences, choices and opportunities heretofore unknown, told in moments after and around battlefield moments that are unlike others I have ever read. Using actual history and people, accounts of the time and battles and not an unhealthy dose of imagination the story starts out disjointed, but soon the characters and their tales, their worries and growth take over and it is quickly engrossing. The sights, scents and attitudes of early 19th century New Orleans come clear – from privateers who fight to defend their city, the influence of the catholic church and the ‘gods of the ancestors’, prejudices, class and color lines and the ability of such disparate people coming together to protect their homes and way of life becomes a testament to the spirit of New Orleans. The one that still beats, somewhere, inside the city even today.
Title: The Cards Don't Lie
Author: Sue Ingalls Finan
Genre: African-American, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Multi-Cultural, Setting: American, War of 1812
Published by: She Writes Press
Published on: 9 October, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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Three desperate but spirited women of New Orleans—a voodoo priestess, a plantation mistress who has out-of-body experiences, and a prostitute—forge a unique partnership in order to save their city from the British juggernaut. But their endeavors are compounded by secrets and sacrifices necessary for survival.
1814: It’s the third year of the United States second War of Independence. The British are on the verge of capturing the strategically important port of New Orleans. In the midst of the Americans’ chaotic preparations for battle, three women play key roles in the defense of the city: Catherine, a free woman of color, voodoo priestess, and noted healer personally summoned by General Andrew Jackson; Marguerite, a pampered Creole plantation mistress prone to out-of-body experiences; and Millie, a plucky, patriotic prostitute inspired by her pirate lover to serve in the most dangerous capacity of all. These three women’s lives and fates become intertwined as they join forces to defend their country. Inspired by the contributions of real-life women during the Battle of New Orleans, The Cards Don’t Lie is a story of love, rebellion, intimacy, betrayal, and heroism in the face of terror and barbaric brutality.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.