"She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart, until she became a martyr."
"We have followed the history of Marie Antoinette with the greatest diligence and scrupulosity. We have lived in those times. We have talked with some of her friends and some of her enemies; we have read, certainly not all, but hundreds of the libels written against her; and we have, in short, examined her life with– if we may be allowed to say so of ourselves– something of the accuracy of contemporaries, the diligence of inquirers, and the impartiality of historians, all combined; and we feel it our duty to declare, in as a solemn a manner as literature admits of, our well-matured opinion that every reproach against the morals of the queen was a gross calumny– that she was, as we have said, one of the purest of human beings."
"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely there never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like a morning star full of life and splendor and joy. Oh, what a revolution....Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fall upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look which threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded...."
~Edmund Burke, October 1790
A Note on Reviews
Unless otherwise noted, any books I review on this blog I have either purchased or borrowed from the library, and I do not receive any compensation (monetary or in-kind) for the reviews.
Western writer Richard S. Wheeler gives us the latest novel in his Barnaby Skye series, The First Dance, which deals with border conflicts in Montana in the 1880’s. Barnaby’s son Dirk, half English and half Shoshone, is abandoned on his wedding day by his bride, the enigmatic Métis girl, Therese. Crushed and mystified by his wife’s rejection, Dirk returns to his job as a civilian translator with the United States army. He finds himself in the unenviable position of having to participate in driving his wife’s people the Métis, who are a tribe of mixed French Canadian and Native American heritage, back over the border into Canada where they have already suffered persecution. When his commanding officer sinks to unconscionable acts, then Dirk objects and loses his livelihood. He decides to help the Métis, many of whom are starving and freezing in the wilderness with their families. In the course of his adventures he is befriended by Pap Reilly, an Irish hog farmer with a shady past, who gives shelter to the beleaguered immigrants. In the meantime, Dirk encounters his wife Therese, who claims to have had a vision of St. Teresa of Avila, and is determined to build a church for the Métis. Still reeling from Therese’s desertion, Dirk dedicates himself to her cause nevertheless, and protects her from the hostile locals, until his psychological “dance” with her reaches its climax. Written with both tender pathos and blunt insights, Wheeler plumbs the souls of his characters even as he captures the harshness and majesty of the Montana landscapes. Filled with humor, tears and intriguing historical detail, it is impossible to go away from the book without having learned a thing or two about the West, and about human nature as well.
(*NOTE: This review was originally published in the November 2011 issue of the Historical Novels Review. The First Dance was sent to me by the Historical Novel Society in exchange for my honest opinion.)
The fact that a link is provided here in no way constitutes an endorsement of everything on the other end of the link.
Comments are moderated. If a comment is not published, it may be due to a technical error. At any rate, do not take offense; it is nothing personal. Slanderous comments will not be published. Anonymity may be tolerated, but politeness is required.
I would like to respond to every comment but my schedule renders it impossible to do so. Please know that I appreciate those who take the time to share their thoughts.