Arlette Gaffrey’s Behind the Columns is a well-written, compelling historical novel about the romance between a young Creole belle and a handsome, charismatic New Yorker.
New Orleans, 1847.
Having lost both her parents at an early age, Désirée Bordeaux lives with her grandfather, a man with a weakness for drink and gambling. When he suddenly dies, Désirée finds herself in a desperate situation as her beloved plantation Chêne Vue must be auctioned off.
Philippe Jaunet, a hateful man–also a heavy drinker and gambler–who used to know her grandfather, is intent on marrying her, getting the plantation for himself and use it to pay his own debts.
To add to her unhappiness, the man she thinks she loves and whom she believes promised her marriage when she was but a child of ten, has married another woman.
Enter handsome and wealthy Lance Van Buren, who immediately is mesmerized by Désirée’s stunning beauty and feisty, proud personality. At first, she despises him, even though he evokes in her the most sensual, unsettling feelings. Then, to her surprise, she discovers that he has won the auction and is the new owner of Chêne Vue. But nothing prepares her for the next shock: he proposes marriage.
Behind the Columns is an entertaining, fast-paced read. Passion and intrigue abound as the novel follows the lives of Désirée and Lance as they marry, move to New York for a while, and have their first child back in New Orleans. Philippe Jaunet remains a villain until the end, haunting Désirée and filling her nights with nightmares. In New York, she must face another villain in the shape of Inga, Lance’s sister in law. Love, passion, lies, jealousy–readers will find their share in this book, and then some.
Gaffrey does an excellent job in bringing the old South and the Creole society to life: the food, the fashion, the way of life, the values and beliefs, etc. There’s also a lot of interesting information about Creole history which I found fascinating. In short, if you love historical Southern romances a la Gone with the Wind, you’ll enjoy Behind the Columns.
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