[713]: Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

Today’s post is my stop for Genevieve Graham’s latest, Promises to Keep for Simon & Schuster Canada’s Timeless Tour. For more details, follow the link here.


Promises to Keep
by Genevieve Graham

One of the best things I love about Historical Fiction is that it awakens a hunger in me to learn more. It’s an appetite that forces me to go beyond the storylines and seek the basis of the novel.

After devouring this in practically one sitting, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know much about the history of this great nation. I didn’t go to school here; even though I’ve been living here for 20+ years now. Other than the brief history I needed to learn in order for me to get my Canadian citizenship status; the current events, political or otherwise, my knowledge about this great country of mine is pretty paltry. Thanks to this book, I’ve developed an interest in the Expulsion of the Acadian people in the 17th century. 

On the surface, Promises to Keep is a story about the romantic entanglement between an Acadian and English soldier. But on the large, it’s about the resiliency of the Acadian people at a time when they were forced out of their land and imprisoned in a ship on their way to exile. It is also about the fierce relationship between the Mi’kmaq people and the French Canadians. This was an especially curious interest to me the most.

Over the course of history, all we’ve ever known about the relationships between the indigenous people and the invaders of their land was how it was ripe with contempt and ill will. But the Mi’kmaq people and the French had developed a friendship that left the English confounded. Perhaps it was in this resulting uncanny camaraderie that the Acadian hoped for a better outcome of the invasion.

The Acadian people wanted to believe that they can live in harmony with the English soldiers. They showed little to no resistance; they fed them even. But they would soon realize that the dictates of war offer no such euphony. The English would leave them homeless first, then confined in the bellows of a ship sailing the perilous Atlantic Ocean towards the South.

Before the invasion, Genevieve depicted the idyllic life of the Acadians set in the backdrop of a lush farming land and the giving sea. There were conviviality and togetherness in the small population of Grand Pre. Unfortunately, the serenity would not last. Through her words, she also conveyed their hardship during the invasion. The more often hopelessness of their situation: the hunger, the filth they had to wade through, and their resolve to see through their plight no matter how desperate their situation. 

And amidst this struggle, was the budding and tremulous romance between Amelie and Connor MacDonnell. It’s one that’s forbidden, dangerous but all the more important because their entanglement was the flint the Acadian needed to spark their resistance. MacDonnell was first burdened with a choice between doing his duties as a soldier and doing what’s right for Amelie’s people. But given his history with the British Army, this choice soon became less of a burden but more of the end justifying the means. 

He was once a victim of the English invasion as well. He’s a Scot who had seen and tasted what the English were capable of when they marauded Scotland. After his entire family was killed during the war, he was left with no other choice but to become a soldier in service of the Queen. Even if he was full of hatred for the English. Which is why the decision to betray them even it means his death came to him easily. 

Amelie was a strong woman who had to make hard decisions as well but never did she wallow or second guessed herself knowing what was at stake. She had a fierce love and loyalty to her family; a sense of belonging with the Mi’kmaq people, and love for her land that had given them so much over the years.

I started reading this book at noon on a Sunday. I finished reading it on my ride to work the following day. If you’ve ever considered Historical Fiction boring, Promises to Keep was far from it. Genevieve Graham rendered the most romantic landscape of the East Coast amidst the imperious haze of a brewing war. This book was a measly 300+ pages. But it offered so much perspective and connection to the characters and the history.


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  • Oooh… sounds like this was an addictive read Joy!

  • I love historical novels for that exact same reason! I learn so much while being entranced by amazing stories.

    I hadn’t heard of this before but it sounds like a good romance!

  • I knew nothing of the Acadian people until now, but then I know little about Canada’s history. I love when reading a book ends with you actually learning history. The Nightengale was one of those for me. I ended up reading about all sorts of background after I finished the book. Glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for sharing-very interesting review Joy.

  • I love when you’re able to dig deep into a historical event and also teach people about the situation while at the same time there can be a lighter storyline running alongside it. It sounds like the author really knows how to balance the two, and it sounds absolutely amazing to me. Great review x You certainly have me interested now.

  • I didn’t even realize you live in Canada! High five for snow in April.

    I love a good historical fiction, but I’m often disappointed by the lack of Candidan offerings that are actually set in Canada. This east coast setting sounds awesome! Acadian culture and history is so fascinating; I took a class on it in undergrad but I think a novel would make it come alive in a different way.

  • Be still my beating heart. No one can excite me more about historical romances than reading one of your reviews Joy. I don’t know much about the history of Canada and the Indigenous people apart from the few reviews you’ve posted where you’ve spoken about it, but this sounds like a wonderful introduction to immerse myself and so brilliantly written. I think my mum would love this one too. Who doesn’t love a star crossed lovers story set to a beautiful backdrop. Fabulous review Joy, really enjoyed it <3 <3

  • sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books

    I’m always wary of historical fiction for some reason, though the ones I do read are usually pretty amazing. This one does sound quite interesting! And I like how it inspired you to learn more. 🙂

  • RO

    Wow! The way you share this review makes me want to know a lot more. It’s weird that when we’re in school learning about some of the history of the world, we may have paid attention to past exams, but once we get older, I think we understand more of the importance of knowing more about the past. Hugs…

  • It’s always nice to have stories like that I agree

  • It sounds like a very solid read! History was my worst subject after math, but historical fiction always makes learning about events more interesting and easily absorbed.

  • I do enjoy historical fiction. I don’t know much about Canada’s history at all so this would make for interesting reading.

  • shootingstarsmag

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one! I like historical fiction here and there, but it depends on the time period. I’ve definitely never read one that focuses on Canadian history. Sounds interesting!

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

  • Karen

    I don’t think I’ve read any historical fiction that’s about Canadian history. Not that I read a lot of it lol but still.

    For What It’s Worth

  • It has been a while since I read a good historical fiction that has not dragged. I don’t know much about Canadian history either. I am curious if I can find this in the USA

  • I know very little about this period of history and learned quite a bit from your review alone. It sounds riveting. I have a few friends who love historical fiction and will pass this title along to them when we meet up next month.

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I’ve been really loving historical fiction off late so I definitely need to check this one out! I love that this explores a part of history I don’t know much about either and the diversity explored in this sounds wonderful as well. Thanks for putting this on my radar, Joy!

  • Yes! I love how historical fiction makes me want to learn more about history. This one sounds really good! I’m super keen on that forbidden romance especially!
    Great review!

  • This sounds interesting. I can not say I know a lot about that period

  • I like some historical books too 😀 Lovely review Joy. <3 So glad you enjoyed this one. It do sound interesting 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweet girl. <3