THE SPICE TRADER’s DAUGHTER: FRAN ORENSTEIN
Sometimes our destiny is not in our own hands but in the hands of others or just plain fate. Jean Dubois learned at an early age that he would have to care for his young brothers, go on a journey that would cause him to leave his home not knowing that he would never return. Jules Dubois ushered his three sons into the backroom of his shop and what he would impart to them would change all of their lives forever. As a spice trader with a sterling reputation, he sold the best and freshest spices to his elite clientele. But, France was undergoing great religious tension and wars and King Louis XIV did not allow people to worship as they pleased. Many fled and some were executed. Jules wanted to make sure that his sons would have a good life and decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and send them to live with their uncle and aunt in Prussia. Accompanied with papers, money that would secure their future, and coins and their mother’s jewelry, the three would set off on a journey that would take them permanently away from the security of their father and their home.
Religious persecution, prejudice for those not in the same social or economic class was prevalent in the 16 and 1700’s and many like King Louis created situations making it difficult for people of different religious backgrounds and classes to make a living and live without fear. Once again award winner author Fran Orenstein brings to light many issues that were still front and center in the headlines today as we read about Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Iran and so many countries fighting for their freedoms each in a different way and each for a different reason.
As the three children make their way to the ship awaiting presence, Jean Claude takes control leading his two brothers Luc and Paul to safety. But, anger is very present as Jean Claude verbalizes his feelings about King Louis referring to him as the Dark King not the Sun King and asking out loud but not expecting a response: Why have your brought torment to the Huguenots because they are Protestant? But, sometimes the most difficult situations can prove amazing and good things happen when you least expect them. Captain Van Sickles is both kind and understanding and is impressed with both the demeanor and actions of all three boys. Treating them like family and introducing them to Mr. Maarten, they learn more about the ship, his friendship with his father and gets a glimpse of a new passenger that would enter his life and change it forever. Marie Pinot is the daughter of Martin. This young man, his manners and his actions immediately take Marin and his wife. But, shy and not wanting to seem out of line it takes him time to feel comfortable in her presence. The relationship comes along and they both agree they would make a great match for each other. But, will her parents agree and will they be able to restrain their feelings until the big day? A father’s permission, a decision that was not handed down right away and the meeting of his aunt and uncle who were more than delighted to have the three young boys living with them. Acceptance is one issue that his book brings out as the two youngest are not part of their Uncle and Aunt’s family, Jean-Claude is accepted as a future son-in-law in the Pinot family and all three seem to be making strides but for how long?
Although the captain of the ship agreed to marry them Marie declined his offer explaining they wanted a proper wedding presided by a real Protestant minister. Jean-Claude with Marie’s help would become a successful spice trader but not without what his father sent along with him. Aunt Gabrielle and Uncle Charles are quite amazing and although they could have taken the money and wealth that came along with the three boys the uncle chose to give Jean-Claude his shop and create an entirely different one to sell tea and cakes for himself.
Getting to know His aunt and uncle we also get a closer look at Jean-Claude and Marie as their wedding takes place with both aunt and future mother-in-law in wedding mode as the author shares more information about what the uncle plans to do for him giving over the spice shop, opening something for himself and then learning about his own brother’s interest as a baker. Then, his life would change as his daughter Katy, son Jules and daughter Lise. But her thirteenth birthday would change it all as a young spoiled aristocrat named Charlotte entered her spice shop with her lady Frau Gerta. From the moment Charlotte met Katy she knew that she had to have her with her at all times. Using the excuse that she would teach her French, learn to ride horses and be her constant companion, plus providing her with many luxuries her father could not, she hoped to convince Jean-Claude to send his daughter to France as her tutor you might say and her friend.
As his father gave him and had no choice but to send him away Jean-Claude gave her any other option. His decision final and her fate sealed and no matter what her arguments they went on deaf ears. Imagine entering a mansion and being showered with many luxuries, a room that anyone would want, new clothes, given an education, books and even riding lessons. So, why was Katy so sad? What about her brother and sister? She would miss so much about them that she would never get back? Working in the spice shop Katy she filled small silk bags with dried flowers, measured some dried lavender and loved just working there. But, things would change, as her father’s decision to send her away was final. The margrave and the Margravine Von Klaus would be in charge of her life as we hear their offer to Jean=Claude and his acceptance. Reminders of King Louis and the violence in France were front and center in Katy’s mind as her mother tries to convince her father to let her remain at home. Life becomes a challenge in some respects and different in others as Katy is often the object of rudeness from the maids and the cook. Charlotte is short tempered, can be mean and nasty but for some reason she and Katy hit if off with the aid of her governess who tutors them both they develop a kind of rhythm in their lives as Charlotte requires tutoring in French for her upcoming wedding two years away. But, Katy feels isolated and not really part of the family she lives with, misses her sister and brother, resents her father for sending her away and finds herself at times alone. When the maid and the cook’s actions become too hard to bear, she finally speaks out and things turn around. Enter Franz Von Klaus, Charlotte’s brother who seems married to the liquor bottle and is besotted with Katy. As the story moves ahead we learn more about Franz, his obsession with women, what happens when rejected and the final outcome that could costs their family a grave embarrassment. Imagine a wedding at the Palace of Versailles. Imagine the gowns, the jewelry and the preparation as Katy by chance during a riding lesson meets a blacksmith named Giles and sets off a chain of events that endangers both her life and his. Jealousies arise, cruelties ignite and Franz puts his family in harms way. A wedding that anyone girl would dream about and an audience with King Louis that Katy would never forget. How does she deal with meeting him and keeping her heritage a secret? What happens when honesty wins and deceit and lies are buried? What happens when things get out of hand with Franz and Katy needs to fight back? Will his family learn the truth about what happened in the barn? Will Charlotte defend her friend? Who will she believe her best friend that stood by her for so long or her brother? An ending that only author Fran Orenstein can write and story that will bring tears, smiles and joy to your heart as you learn the fate of Katy and Giles when danger threatens? Will they remain in France? Will they go to her parents or will they explore the New World? Characters that are realistically depicted, issues of social class, acceptance, tolerance, love and understanding highlight this outstanding FIVE GOLDEN SPICE NOVEL.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer