It is 1704 when Genevieve Gaillain and her sister board a French ship headed for the Louisiana colony as mail-order brides. Both have promised to marry one of the rough-and-tumble Canadian men in this New World in order to escape religious persecution in the Old World. Genevieve knows life won't be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of beheading. But when she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer whose courageous stand for fair treatment of native peoples has made him decidedly unpopular in the young colony, Genevieve realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. And a secret she harbors could mean the undoing of the colony itself.
Gulf Coast native Beth White brings vividly to life the hot, sultry south in this luscious, layered story of the lengths we must go to in order to be true to ourselves, our faith, and our deepest loves.
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THE Pelican Bride
By BETH WHITE
RevellCopyright © 2014 Beth White
All rights reserved.
Massacre Island Mobile Bay, 1704
The fifty-six-gun frigate Pélican lunged as Geneviève Gaillain dropped six feet over its side before the canvas sling jerked her to a stop. Clutching the sodden rope above her head, she looked up at the dark-skinned mariners straining to keep her from plummeting into what they charmingly called "the drink." The sling swung with the motion of the ship, setting the sky tilting overhead in rhythm with the ocean's slap-slosh against the hull.
Queasy, she searched among the women still aboard until she found her sister leaning against the rail, cheeks as pale as the belly of a sea bass. If Geneviève yielded to her own terror, Aimée would refuse to get into the sling when her turn came.
And if her sister didn't get o$ that pestilential ship soon, she was going to die.
Geneviève looked over her shoulder at the scrawny, wind-twisted pines staggering along the shore like teeth in a broken comb. She'd begun to wonder if she would ever see this Louisiane that she was to call home—the New World, God help her.
She shut her eyes as the jerky, swaying descent resumed.
"Hang on, miss!" shouted the mate in the longboat below. "Almost down."
The seamen above chose that moment to release the rope, dumping her unceremoniously into a pool of seawater in the bottom of the longboat. Laughter erupted from the ship, but she caught her breath, ignored the merriment at her expense, and began the awkward business of untangling herself from the ropes.
The mate in the longboat reached down to help, grinning. "Welcome to Massacre Island."
She resisted the urge to jerk from his grasp. "Thank you," she muttered, recovering her dignity by scooting onto one of three narrow planks crossing the center of the boat. As the sling was hauled up, she looked up and cupped her hands around her mouth. "Aimée! Come on."
Her sister recoiled from the sailor waiting to help her into the sling. "I can't."
"Don't be ridiculous." Geneviève forced sympathy from her voice. "You can and you will!"
The sailors grabbed Aimée, stu$ed her into the sling heedless of petticoats and shrieks, and dropped her over the side. Geneviève supposed they had little choice, but it was maddening to see her little sister treated like just another item of goods for sale. Although, essentially, she was.
After swinging through the air like a sack of sugar on a string, Aimée fell into the boat with a solid thump and a muffled squeal. "My skirt's wet!"
The mate chuckled as he extricated her from the sling. "You'll get a lot wetter than this before the day's out, m'selle."
Aimée's blue eyes widened as she struggled to keep her balance in the reeling longboat. "What do you mean?"
"Sit down before you pitch us all into the bay." The sailor shielded his eyes against the sun and gestured for the sling to go up for another passenger.
"Geneviève, what does he—"
"Aimée, sit down." Geneviève grabbed her sister's clammy hand. "You're going to faint."
Aimée crumpled onto the seat. "I wish we'd never come," she whispered, leaning against Geneviève. "I want to go home."
Geneviève put her arms around her sister's quaking body. There was no home to go back to. Tolerance in France for Huguenots had come to a flaming end. Here in Louisiane there was at least the promise of marriage, a chance of gaining independence, a home and children. The pouch of coins in her pocket pressed against her thigh, reassuring her. So many unknowns about this venture. She had promised to marry one of the Canadians who had already come here to explore and settle, and Aimée, as young as she was, had promised as well.
Yielding herself was inevitable, part of the bargain she had struck, as was hiding her faith. She and Aimée would have to make the best of it.
Another girl landed in the rocking boat, displacing her anxious thoughts, then one by one, with varying degrees of noise and struggle, four more. Finally the mate in charge roared, "No more room! We'll get the rest on the next trip."
The sailors hauled up the empty canvas seat, tossed it onto a pile of rigging, and noisily saluted the departure of the longboat.
Thank God she and Aimée had been chosen to depart with the first group. They would have the choice of accommodations for the night—though who knew what that would be like. Massacre Island. She shivered. What a name for their landing place. But at least they would not have to stay here long. Tomorrow they were to travel up the river to their final destination, Fort Louis.
By the time they were halfway to shore, she and Aimée were both soaking wet from salt spray. Still, incredibly, her sister's cheek against her shoulder burned with fever.
Geneviève anxiously brushed her hand across her sister's damp, curly blonde head. Poor baby, she was lucky to be alive. One of the sailors had been buried at sea only yesterday. Geneviève herself still trembled from the fever they'd all picked up in Havana, but at least she was upright.
As the longboat drew closer to the beach, she lifted her hand to block the stark glare of sand as white as spun sugar. She began to make out human figures—male figures—gathered to watch their arrival. Her stomach tightened. Was her future husband among them? Some unknown Canadian with pots of money as they had been promised?
With every stroke of the oars she came closer to meeting him. Would he be like her father, a good man who had failed to protect his daughters? Or would he be like the rude and vicious dragoons who had been quartered in their home? Could she be so lucky, so blessed, as to find a man as kind and resourceful as Father Mathieu? As brave and principled as the great Réforme warrior Jean Cavalier?
Still several yards out from the beach, the boat grounded against sand with a bump. Aimée whimpered and stirred in her arms. Geneviève looked up and found herself encircled by grinning, bearded men standing hip-deep in the water. Her overpowered gaze took in a variety of faded, ragged clothing, sunburnt faces, and twinkling eyes.
The young man closest to her, the only one in uniform—the blue, white, and gold of the French marine—removed his tricorn and bowed, all but baptizing himself in the chopping surf. He rose, plopping his misshapen headgear back into place, and scanned the passengers of the boat as if surveying goods in a market. "Welcome, mademoiselles. We've come to carry you ashore."
Geneviève stared at the boy. He couldn't be more than nineteen or twenty years of age, his cleft chin emphasized by a dark beard still thin and fine. Indeed he was broad of shoulder but built on lanky lines.
They were all slender, she realized, looking around at the other men. Gaunt in fact. Another sliver of apprehension needled her midsection. "I can walk, monsieur. But I would be grateful if you would help my sister. She isn't well."
The young man transferred his gaze to Aimée, who lolled against Geneviève like a rag doll. "We'd hoped the fever in Havana would be gone by now." He slid his arms gently under Aimée's knees and around her back, lifted her with surprising ease, and turned to slosh toward the beach.
Ignoring the rough voices and equally rough, reaching hands of the men surrounding the boat, Geneviève hauled herself over the side.
And found herself underwater. She thrashed, tried to find footing as she sank under the weight of her skirts. Just when she thought her lungs would burst, a pair of steely hands clamped her around the waist from behind and hauled her into sweet, blessed air. She coughed and vomited.
"Let go!" Choking, she shoved at the sinewy arms around her middle. "You're squeezing the life out of me!"
"Stop kicking," the voice rumbled against her back, "or I'll let you swim."
"I can't swim!"
"Then relax and enjoy the ride." He hoisted her over his shoulder and turned toward the beach.
Geneviève shoved a hank of sopping hair out of her eyes. She had lost her cap in the water, and her braid had come loose. All she could see was a rough shirt of a faded, pink-tinged brown, plastered against hard lateral muscles flexing as her rescuer half waded, half swam with her. He gripped the back of her thigh with one large hand to hold her in place and extended the other for balance.
Lifting her head, she peered at the Pélican floating in the distance, sails flapping against the steely sky in a brisk northwest breeze. No more worm-ridden hardtack for breakfast. No more briny bathing and drinking water. No more malodorous cabin shared with three other fractious women.
She realized she had much to be thankful for.
A noise must have escaped her. The man halted. "Pardon. Are you uncomfortable?"
She hung upside down with her hair dragging in the water, her thighs tucked under a strange man's chin. "Oh, no, monsieur, I was merely wondering what time tea will be served."
A rusty chuckle erupted against her knees. "Forgive us, mademoiselle. No one thought to warn you about the sinkholes." He continued slogging his way toward shore.
Sinkholes. What other unexpected dangers awaited her in this alien land? As the water got shallower and clearer, she could see sea creatures swimming amongst bits of brown, foamy algae. The gentle roll of the surf was wholly unlike Rochefort's rocky, choppy seashore, as were the long-legged, wide-winged white birds swooping in the distance. They were big enough to carry o$ a small child.
The bay was big, the wildlife was big, the men were big. She and Aimée would be swallowed whole.
The man stopped. "You can walk from here," he said, shifting her into the cradle of his arms. He held her a moment, looking down into her face.
Boldly she returned his stare. His bony, angular face was outlined by a neatly trimmed dark beard and mustache, with black eyebrows slashing above a pair of fierce brown eyes uncannily like those of the boy who had carried Aimée ashore. Dark hair curled to his shoulders and blew back from a broad, intelligent brow.
"You should know," he said, "that I only came to pick up supplies. I'm not here for a wife."
* * *
It had been a long time since Tristan had held a woman in his arms. This one was thin, bedraggled, and exceedingly wet. But she held her arms clasped across a nicely shaped bosom and stared up at him with black-fringed eyes the color of the ocean sloshing around his legs.
Stiff as a wet cat, she fairly hissed. "As if I would want to marry a presumptuous oaf who hoists me over his shoulder like a barrel of flour and then insults me without bothering to introduce himself."
"I am Tristan Lanier," he said with as much dignity as he could muster. "I'm s—"
"Put me down. I'll take my chances with the sink holes."
And then he saw the tears. Pity curbed his initial impulse to dump her onto her curvy derriere in the sand. He released her legs but kept a steady arm across her back. "The sand is firm here. You'll be fine."
"Thank you." She would have stepped away, but her legs buckled. "Oh!" she gasped as he caught her, pulling her hard against him. "The ground is heaving up and down!"
"It will do that for quite some time. Give yourself a minute before you try to—"
But she had already pushed away, staggering onto dry sand, where she stood peering up and down the beach. She had to squint against the sun, which had abruptly come out from behind the clouds.
Tristan followed her gaze. "What's the matter?"
"I don't see my sister."
Each of the men who had flocked to the aid of the women in the longboat had collected a prize and headed for shade. The longboat was already on its way back to the ship for another load. Tristan and this woman were alone on the beach.
"Come," he said, softening his voice. "I'll take you to the warehouse. That's where she'll be."
She nodded and picked up her soggy skirts to follow him. As they rounded one of the large dunes lumped along the beach, he glanced at her. She looked like a woman who had just awakened from sleep to find herself face-to-face with her nightmare. The fine sea-green eyes darted right and left at the seagulls wheeling in search of food, and she visibly struggled to maintain her balance. Her small leather boots, cracked and thin, must be little protection against the hot sand.
Halfway up the beach, a tall stand of sea grass blocked the way. Tristan went ahead to hold it back so that she could pass without getting slapped in the face. On the other side of it, she stopped, putting a hand briefly on his forearm.
"Monsieur Lanier, I must beg your forgiveness. I have been unkind in the face of your assistance." She bit her lip, looking away. "My—my distress is no excuse for lack of gratitude."
"Apology accepted, mademoiselle."
A faint smile curved her lips and found her eyes, turning her from a pinched-face harridan into a starkly lovely young woman. Her hair was drying in dark waves that gleamed in the strong sun with umber and bronze lights, and there was a charming sprinkle of freckles across her straight nose. She couldn't be more than seventeen or eighteen years old.
She grabbed the blowing tresses with a self-conscious yank and twisted them into an impromptu knot at the back of her head. "In the absence of correct social protocols, m'sieur, I must introduce myself. I am Mademoiselle Geneviève Gaillain, late of Rochefort." She dipped a curtsey whose grace was marred only in the slightest by an unsteady step backward into the sea grass.
Tristan grabbed her wrist before she could go rolling down the hill. "It is my very great honor to make your acquaintance, ma'm'selle."
She peeked up at him as if gauging his sincerity, but allowed him to help her up and over the dunes. She was quiet as they trudged the remaining distance between the beach and the warehouse at the top of the rise. He could not fathom what had brought such a pretty, engaging young woman to the wilds of Louisiane to find a husband. Were the men in Rochefort blind, deaf, and dumb?
This largest of the structures erected during the French occupation of Massacre Island stood between two open-air sheds and contained, at any given time, varying quantities of consumable products such as flour, sugar, barley, molasses, wine, lard, and meat. Also stuffed under its twelve-foot-high roof one could find piles of wooden shingles, miscellaneous cooking pots, axes, guns, and butcher knives; available as gifts for the Indians were red stockings—the preferred color—as well as handbells and glass beads.
But as Tristan shoved open the warehouse's warped front door, his supply list fled his mind.
Holding court on a rough three-legged stool just inside the door, hands clasped demurely in her lap, was the most beautiful young woman he'd ever seen. She blinked up at Tristan's brother Marc-Antoine with eyes the color of gentian violets, her flaxen curls spilling onto her dainty shoulders from under a white ruffled cap. Her oval face was thin from illness, but the ivory skin gleamed with the purity of a cameo.
Then he caught Marc-Antoine's dazed eye. His brother looked like he'd run straight into a wall.
Geneviève rushed past him. "Aimée!"
The two women embraced for a scant second before the beauty squealed. "Ooh, Ginette! You're making me wet again!"
Geneviève pulled away, searching the younger girl's face. "Are you all right?"
Aimée nodded. "I've been well cared for, Sister." She pursed her sweet lips and flicked a glance at the male audience observing the exchange with slack-jawed interest.
"Indeed?" Geneviève tucked her arm around Aimée's shoulder and faced the crowd like St. Jeanne d'Arc confronting the English at Orleans.
Clearly Geneviève Gaillain was capable of taking care of her little sister, which put his responsibility for them at an end. And at the moment he had more pressing concerns to discuss with his brother.
Tristan slapped Marc-Antoine's shoulder. "Come, you promised to help me transport supplies to my boat."
Marc-Antoine blinked. "Ah. Yes." He bowed to the two young women, a jerky, little-used courtesy. "Mademoiselles."
Tristan grabbed his reluctant brother by the sleeve and towed him toward the open doorway of the warehouse. "You'll have all the time in the world to fix your interest, once the ladies settle in at the fort."
Marc-Antoine looked over his shoulder. "But what if some other fellow takes up with her before I go off-duty again?"
Excerpted from THE Pelican Bride by BETH WHITE. Copyright © 2014 Beth White. Excerpted by permission of Revell.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyed reading and reluctant to put down.
It jumps around a lot and some of the characters are hard to like. Some of the girls are just very stupid and annoying. Having a hard time finishing this book
The Pelican Bride by Beth White is the first book in a three-part series known as the Gulf Coast Chronicles. This breathtaking novel takes the reader on a journey through the perilous Louisiana colony in 1704. Fleeing religious persecution in France, Geneviève Gaillain arrives in the New World as a mail-order bride; however, she has a secret that may eradicate the peace she longs for. On the other hand, Tristan Lanier is a French-Canadian recluse who has no intention of opening his heart to any woman after his tragic past. When they meet, they must learn to trust one another in order to survive this treacherous land. I cannot sing this novel enough praise! As a Christian, a history buff, and a hopeless romantic, I became completely captivated by the compelling plot and the historic setting of Geneviève and Tristan’s love story. What makes this novel stand apart is the author’s attention to detail; the amount of historical research she put into this book is absolutely incredible, yet the historical aspects never bore the reader! I was also enthralled by the diverse characters that embody the different perspectives of New France in 1704. Finally, I loved the way White flawlessly incorporated Christianity into the characters’ lives. Geneviève’s conviction to God was so inspiring to me! I highly recommend this novel! I cannot wait to learn more about these characters and their legacy in The Creole Princess, the second novel in the Gulf Coast Chronicles!
There is history, romance, danger and secrets to be had in this book. An adventure from 1700s. Genevieve and her sister arrive in the New World with a promise to marry one of the men. They do not find it as they hoped. Tristan tries to avoid helping the French settle the colony yet keeps getting asked to aid. There are secrets in both Genevieve's and Tristan's lives. True love cast out fear. It brings hope and faith. A book hard to lay down.
The book was a little slow to get into at first, lots of characters to remember. It ended up being a very interesting book to read.
Dry, and boring didn't even finish
324 pages. This was a free book but very well written. Each character seems to have a hidden agenda. I liked that there were subplots but at the same time would have liked the romance and courtship to be more developed. The ending seemed a bit rushed and a lot of the story seemed to be wrapped up in the lasr chapter. Still,some plot questions remain.
Clean Christian historical romance.
Loved it. It made you feel like you were there. Can feel the writer has put research on that period. Great characters. Will recommend it to a friend
This book has every thing you want in a historical romance. History, romance, great characters and great plot with suspense. Really enjoyed. CB
A stunning read that transports the reader to early Louisiana with vivid descriptions and technical detail. With God as the center focus of each twist and turn, it is a wonderful trips thru the lives of the early settlers. Highly recommend
Excelkent historical fiction with romance...loved it!
Very good reading. I would recommend this story for those who like good clean story.
Great historical read! Beth White spins a story about the early settling of the Gulf Coast by the French. The Pelican brides were young women who came to marry the French soldiers in this early settlement which would one-day become the city of Mobile. She includes much historical fact that I, being a mid-westerner was not aware. I guess any historical fiction I read of this time period usually takes place in the early colonies. Many of the characters in this book are based upon historical figures from her research. Early in the book, I did not think these young women would be strong enough to survive the hardships that awaited them. I was drawn to the strength of character in Genevieve and Nika, the native women she befriended. This is a story of political and religious intrigue, romance and friendship. I look forward to reading the next book in this series.
This is a good well-written book. The history that is woven into the story is very enlightening and interesting. This writer holds your interest from page one to the end. I enjoyed it very much.
Canadian traders, French and British soldiers, Mobile and Alabaman Native Americans—all battling to stake a claim in early 18th century Louisiana Territory. This is history I never knew, but Beth White does a wonderful job painting the scenes in the first of her Gulf Coast Chronicles series. I found myself immersed in story—about a wilderness full of hardship, gritty settlers, brutality, drama, romance, and intrigue as French Huguenot Genevieve Gaillain carries a secret to this new land, one she must keep in order to survive. And when she falls in love with the Canadian, Daniel Boone-styled Tristan Lanier, she'll learn he’s got secrets of his own. Can they each learn to trust one another with the truth? Hmm, you'll just have to read the story and find out. :) The Pelican Bride is my first Beth White novel, and I look forward to reading more!
This historical fiction story was an easy read and well put together by the author, Betty White. Once I read the book, I was able to do some research and found that the events that take place could be quite plausible. Which had me giving her to thumbs up for that point alone. We are transported to a time when King Louie of France was colonizing the gulf coast's at Fort Louis in 1704. The main character, Frenchwoman Genevieve Gaillain and her sister; board the frigate Pelican with the promise to marry upon arrival While the reality of the harsh conditions set in Genevieve looks for a way to maintain her independences while her younger sister is more interested in landing the most prominent man at the fort. The author did have a balanced plot line that portrays the situation that makes you feel the heat, the mud and the tensions build around you in the land of liberty, there is jealousy, intrigue, and betrayal to make things all the more interesting to the pull the reader in the story. I would give this 4.5 stars out of 5. I did recommend this book to the local library. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and has be looking for more from this author. ** I received this ARC book through Revell Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion rather it be good, bad or indifferent. So as always understand that this is my opinion and doesn't reflect on anyone associated with the printing of this book.**
The Pelican Bride by Beth White was a refreshing change in historical fiction. Her research is accurate, the setting is what is now Mobile Bay in Alabama. The fort area is called Louisiane. The Pelican is a ship that brought French women to the French territory to wed the men there. The King wanted his men to stay, settle the area and new they needed families. The fort is close to hostile Indians (working for the British) and the British. Most of the women on the Pelican are referred to as Pelican Brides. The majority of them are from convents and Genevieve is saved from a death sentence by Father Mathieu. He helps Genevieve and her sister to get on board and leave France. One there its nothing like promised. Hardships, hostile Indians, never knowing when the British might attack, food shortages, uncertain weather and other dangers. Not to mention the temperaments of so many women trying to live in the same area and get along. Genevieve meets Tristan and not in the best light. They soon form a friendship just before Tristan is to go on an expedition with his brother (French soldier) to map out and explore the land. Also to make friends with some of the Indians in case of war. I wasn't expecting to like this book but I was proved very WRONG. I had a hard time putting the book down to do things for my family. Not many fiction books (romance especially) are set in this time. Being from Alabama I can attest to the accuracy of the historical details. We studied it in school. Some of the characters are based on real people. I won this book through The Book Club Network and simply said, "I loved this book" and its a "keeper". Looking forward to reading more books by this bright new author. All opinions are my own and no one asked me to leave this review.
Pelican Bride is a tremendous book. It is a historical romance set in the early 1700's, when women crossed over from France to become brides of men at Fort Louis in the south. It is an enjoyable book with alot of history immersed throughout the book. It is a hard book to put down. There is alot of romance, suspense, secrets being kept, and adjustments to the new environment needing to be made. I can't wait to read the next book in the series!I recieved this book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
This book holds so much in it. There is mystery, romance, intrigue, and history. Beth White creates vivid characters with rich opportunities to move beyond their comfort zones. Some I cherished and others disdained. What adds to the mystique of the book is there are many threads that weave throughout and come together in the end which is very satisfying. Suffering and joy flow next to each other and keep you wondering how people in the past could live such difficult journeys in search of freedom of expression and religion. One special romance shines all throughout and lifts hope into the often dark occurrences. I enjoyed The Pelican Bride and highly recommend it.