A Cajun Dream

Rose by Cherie Claire
(Zebra Ballad, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6716-X
Rose, the second installment of The Acadians trilogy, is a sweet romance set in the Louisiana bayou country of the mid-1700s. Rose Gallant and her family have traveled to Opelousas Poste in search of their father, Joseph, who was separated from them thirteen years before. The horror of that separation has left scars on the family. For the Gallants are Acadian, driven by the English from their Nova Scotia home and forced to settle in Maryland. The last years have not been easy. But now Joseph Gallant has been spotted in Louisiana, and the family is determined to find him and be reunited at last..

Rose and her sisters, Gabrielle and Emilie, arrive in Opelousas Poste with their mother, Marianne, and Emilie’s husband, Lorenz. A torrential downpour forces them to seek shelter at the home of a well-to-do Creole planter, Andre deClouet. The penniless family offers to work in exchange for food, lodging, and a bit of cash. Andre soon has his eye on Rose, whom he offers to wed in order to gain an inheritance. She’s tempted -- it would mean her family’s struggles would be over. But there’s one roadblock…

Rose’s heart is otherwise engaged. She is in love with Coleman Thorpe, an Englishman she met when her family made a temporary stop in Natchez. Coleman’s ancestry makes him anathema to the Gallants, who despise all things English. Coleman, for his part, despises his father as much as any Acadian, and he’s spent years trying to escape his family legacy. When Rose discovers Coleman living on a farm just across the fields from the deClouet place, trying unsuccessfully to make a go of it as a planter, their romance is rekindled. But will her family ever accept him?

Rose and Coleman are likable, sweet characters, and if their romance doesn’t ignite flames, they at least have a warm glow about them. Rose, as the baby of the family, must fight to be recognized as an independent-thinking adult, and her confrontations with her sisters and mother ring true. Coleman fumbles his way along as a farmer, over his head, and it’s refreshing to see a hero who falls flat on his face before he succeeds.

The story was based on a coincidence that was difficult to accept. This is frontier Louisiana, one step above wilderness. Rose and her family have traveled many miles from Natchez, where Rose last saw Coleman, and yet Rose finds Coleman living a few yards away from the house where she’s staying? This alone was nearly enough to make me want to close the book.

What kept me most interested wasn’t the characters at all, but rather the Cajun flavor that the author weaves into the story. Cherie Claire has obviously done her homework. The references to the Acadian lifestyle, love of music, family patterns, etc. are richly detailed and absorbing. I learned a lot, and that’s a fine compliment for a romance novel. If you’re looking for a historical romance with some actual history in it, Rose may be just the right read.

--Cathy Sova

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