The year is 1720. In Mark of the King French midwife Julianne finds herself unjustly convicted of murder. Branded and married off to a fellow convict, she is shipped off to the primitive French outpost of New Orleans, where a delicate balance exists between the natives and the settlers.
One ray of hope in her exile is Julianne’s hope of finding her brother, a soldier who had been sent with the army to New Orleans. Another silver lining is the French military officer Marc-Paul who takes a special interest in making sure she is protected in a colony where she is marked as a criminal.
But conditions in New Orleans are difficult at best. Tensions run high with the threat of starvation and war ever present. Will Julianne find the answers she seek? Will she ever overcome the king’s brand marking her as a criminal?
Author Jocelyn Green makes history come alive in Mark of the King, her newest story of a woman who faces extreme hardship. Many history books, novels and films tend to focus on the pre-Revolutionary colonies of the northeast, neglecting the southeastern seaboard and Gulf Coast. After two trips to New Orleans this year, I loved reading about the earliest beginnings of the famous city. Green wove historical facts into the story so well, that I could feel the desperation and deprivation of the colonists, the sticky heat and whine of mosquitos irritating my skin, the frustration of those in charge attempting to make the settlement a success with little support from their home country. I was struck by how even the simplest of conveniences becomes a luxury, when resources are scarce.
“Then she spotted the bearskin rug on the floor…even through her stockings, she relished the luxurious softness.”
The horrors and despair that Julianne had to endure were so vividly painted. As I read I often wondered how any human spirit survives such injustice and loss. Marc-Paul’s character presented another conundrum. As a soldier originally trained for the priesthood, he holds a high value on adherence to the law. But he sees that many times the law is actually gray, not black and white. And that upholding the law can come at great personal cost to innocents.
I really appreciate how this dichotomy between law and grace is woven through both Julianne and Marc-Paul’s story. Julianne struggles with condemnation because of the convict’s brand she wears on her skin. But through their experiences in New Orleans and their conversations together, they both start to see that grace is the only rule that imposes no burden.
Julianne also has the opportunity to practice this lesson and extend grace to someone who has done her great wrong.
Love your enemy, Julianne, and that poison in your heart will disappear…You behave like you love him – even if you don’t care for him -and your heart will release its bitterness. You practice grace.
Practice grace. It’s a lesson we can all benefit from. Grace does not come just because we want it too. We must practice both receiving and giving it.
Mark of the King is a small masterpiece with historical details, fascinating character and valuable lessons all woven together by an expert storyteller. It is a tale which I know will stick with me for a while specifically for these reasons.