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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
The Crimson Heirlooms by Hunter Dennis is set in France from 1776–1832, and in the West Indies. The story centres on two characters, Xavier and Jake, born at different times but loosely connected through their heritage. Xavier Traversier’s family had once been the most important in Nantes, but had since fallen on hard times. His mother had become a recluse and Xavier’s first venture into high society was a disaster. From that moment on, he vowed to rebuild their fortunes and, through sheer hard work and an excellent brain, he succeeded. However, one of the ways he achieved this was by transporting slaves. Jake was at school when he first took part in the riots in Paris and was only released from prison on the promise of finding the Crimson Heirlooms, one a valuable cross called the Cross of Nantes and the other the words to the devil’s song as he danced across the hills of France.
When I chose to read and review The Crimson Heirlooms by Hunter Dennis, I was expecting a historical tale of finding hidden treasure, but this is a completely different book. Firstly, I needed to brush up on the gaps in my French history as it’s not a straightforward account of the usual storming of the Bastille and Madame Guillotine. Both major characters, Xavier and Jake, become involved with the Freemasons and much is described about their organization and outlook. There are extensive discussions of philosophers, especially Rousseau and Montesquieu, and the ideas which underpinned the newly liberated American constitution. Part of the story takes place in the West Indies as the thread of the whereabouts of the Cross of Nantes is transported across the Atlantic. Jake also visits Northern Ireland and learns the history of those who were persecuted by the occupying English forces.
This book is literary, thought-provoking and covers the major social issues of the times, especially pertaining to the French clergy who paid no taxes yet received huge payments from a variety of tolls levied on the poor and middle classes, which were often gambled away at the tables in the chateaux owned by the noble ruling class. I was getting worried as I approached the end of the book as to how all the characters would tie up, and if the cross was found and with what ramifications... The quality of the writing, the excellent characterization, the food for thought, the extensive research and the informative and helpful maps throughout won’t allow me to give it anything else but 5 stars.