drea 's Reviews > Frenchman's Creek

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
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Aug 15, 12

Read from August 12 to 15, 2012

This was a Homework Book, and so I went into it with all the Scrooge-iness that entails. Who is this Daphne du Maurier? I said. Rebecca? Bah! Never heard of it. (P.S. This was a lie.)

But then around page fifty I started feeling kind of like

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and I was ready to admit that maybe this du Maurier lady could stay. Because Frenchman's Creek is something that I didn't really think possible: a smart and intelligently nuanced pirate romance.

Dona St. Columb is the talk of Restoration-era London. When she's not donning breeches and playing highwayman, she's dining with her genial but oblivious husband and his friend in establishments that no other lady dares step foot in. But soon all the raillery begins to go stale, and Dona escapes with her two children to her husband's estate in Cornwall.

It's the first time anyone's inhabited the house since early in her marriage, so Dona's surprised to find that an impertinent servant named William has been living there full time, and there's evidence that someone else has been sleeping in the bedroom.

Dona sets herself to investigating, and soon discovers that the French pirate who has been terrorizing her neighbors has been stashing his boat in the small creek running behind her land. What's more, the French pirate is actually a former aristocrat who left his own life behind in search of grander adventure.

Pirate romancing obviously ensues. And yet, as traditional as the plot sounds, there are a lot of details that set Frenchman's Creek apart from the standard romance. Dona herself is far more jaded and complicated than you might expect, and du Maurier pays special attention to the conflict between her identity as a mother and wife and the identity she has apart from that, which is where most of the nuance comes in.

But the smaller character work is also great; Dona's friendship with William is delightful, and their tongue-in-cheek banter is an early highlight. ("I thought your ladyship would not be adverse to changing behind a tree?" / "How very considerate of you, William. Have you chosen the tree?" / "I have gone so far as to mark one down, my lady.")I also really liked that Dona's husband Harry is also not written to be a villain, just a little mundane and simple for the person Dona is maturing into. It's hard for me not to love someone who likes to refer most questions to his two Springer spaniels, Duke and Duchess, and frets constantly over their various maladies.

Most of all, though, I like that--with a possible exception for the aristocratic French pirate who hides out in creeks drawing birds all day (call me, Jean!)--Frenchman's Creek is a romance that doesn't ignore the realities of the world. The ending is bittersweet, and I have to give kudos to du Maurier for recognizing that, because anything else would have stretched the story too far.

A surprise escapist pleasure, and one that makes me regret my initial Scrooge-iness. Extra coal for everyone!

3.5 stars.
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