The heroine of the tale, Françoise Laurent, is a 15-year-old living in the slums of colonial New France, Canada. Even in the slums, her family is among the lowest and poorest of families. It’s a tough life, between her parents raging alcoholism and having to beg for rotten scraps of food, there really is not much Françoise has going for her.
Things get drastically worse when the measles sweep through the town leaving both of her parents dead. The future as a laundry woman for the neighborhood holds no attraction for her. Françoise believes if only she can become a lady’s maid, then her fate will be changed. When she reveals her grand plan, the local ladies scoff at her. But one of them makes it possible by calling in a favor to get the required letter of reference.
Françoise becomes a lady’s maid and settles into her new life after a rocky start. But her high-handed ways and her natural inclination to distrust anyone alienate her from the rest of the household staff. Her inability to foster friendship is ultimately her undoing. That and a purloined pair of gloves from her mistress.
Charged with stealing, Françoise is sent to prison with the sentence of hanging over her head. As luck would have it, there is no hangman, so she awaits her hanging until one can be found.
Françoise has a habit of concocting wildly imaginative stories. She uses this ability to ensnare a fellow prisoner into loving her, and ultimately becoming her savior.
I enjoyed this tale, even though at times the narrative felt a bit forced. According the jacket notes, this is based on historical accounts of the real-life events. The story ends where the historical records do, leaving the reader unsatisfied with a less than clear ending.
I felt as a character Françoise was not fully developed and much of her motivation was hidden behind her prickly personality. I would have liked to see more growth on her part. The character portrayed in the book was a conniving know-it-all without much in way of redeeming qualities to soften her and make her more likeable. I would have liked to see the something she possessed which made her co-prisoner fall in love with her, sight unseen, to take on the most reviled occupation in the colonies and make her his bride.
Good for an older teen as many of the scenes are quite graphic and disturbing in nature.
Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from NetGalley.