Twenty-three-year-old Christophé, the Count of St. Laurent, holds tightly to his quivering little sister as they hide in the dark, listening to the most horrific of sounds. Each thwack of the guillotine brings the sickening knowledge that their parents and brothers have been senselessly slaughtered, victims of the French Revolution. The two young aristocrats hide for days, finally slipping out into the night in search of a safe harbor. But for reasons Christophé does not understand, 12-year-old Émilie is caught before the night is through.
The following day, concealed by the crowd, he witnesses her brutal execution. With his heart shredded by unbearable grief, Christophé flees to an ancient, crumbling castle on France’s southern border. There he lives as a hermit, with only his painful memories and experiments to keep him company, and his ironclad faith to keep him alive.
Five years later, Christophé’s passion for math and astronomy are all that remains in the shell of a man who once embraced life, loved his family and reveled in the scientific possibilities for the future. But one day, on a predawn walk past a cemetery, Christophé sees someone who makes his ragged heart start beating again. Scarlett, a young, pregnant widow, sits at her husband’s gravesite watching the sun ease over the horizon. Their first unlikely meeting leads to another and another as love’s flame catches both by surprise. Scarlett’s sister and widowed mother like the new stranger in Scarlett’s life, enough to consider him a good match for Scarlett despite his obvious poverty.
For a brief moment in time, all goes well for our tattered hero and heroine, until Christophé discovers a letter that enlightens him as to Scarlett’s identity. She is the niece of his enemy. He runs from her house without explanation, knowing he cannot court a relation of the madman, Robespierre, who destroyed his family and now heads the bloody Revolution.
Through the gut-wrenching horror of losing his family, Christophé held tight to God’s will. But no more. Just when he thought there was hope, the love of his life was taken from him by the knowledge that she was a member of the Robespierre family, if only by marriage. Faith is replaced by revenge. Christophé flees to Paris to seek and destroy his enemy. Little does he know that Scarlett and her family are heading in the same direction. Down to their last penny, they seek an audience with Robespierre in hopes of financial assistance and finding a husband for Scarlett’s sister.
Action, passion, murderous plots and interesting twists pervade everyone’s time in Paris. Old friends reunite, as do old enemies. Scarlett’s baby is born in Robespierre’s home. Christophé is caught by his enemy and nearly killed, but rescued by an unlikely heroine. And one thought dead is very much alive. Through it all, Jamie Carie’s attention to period detail easily transports the reader to late 1700s France, where culture, education and passion have made way for hunger, fear and violence. Carie captures the reader with her tale of romance, but faith and family loyalty play just as big a role in this captivating story. From imagery and pacing to dialogue and setting, she grabs the reader with the first page and holds on tight until the end. Historical romance fans will love it, but so will those who don’t normally read this genre.
Carie’s talent for merging in-depth research into a variety of historical fiction novels is to be commended. Whether her books are set during the French Revolution, England’s Regency period or the early days of America’s frontier, Carie weaves a beautiful tapestry of historical fact, passion and multi-faceted characters into an engaging plot. Readers are sure to enjoy LOVE’S FIRST LIGHT, as well as WIND DANCER, THE DUCHESS AND THE DRAGON and the award-winning SNOW ANGEL.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on July 1, 2009