Heaven in His Arms by Lisa Anne Verge

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Bookbub Synopsis: Fiercely independent fur trapper André …

That’s all I needed. As a Canadian, how could I resist that historical romance introduction? The promise (unfulfilled) of beaver viscera and the potential for freezing to death were too tantalizing. I don’t know what your knowledge of the fur trade is, but voyageurs, while badass, aren’t exactly a romantic group, unless you are one of those people who wants to eat rocks for breakfast and live off the grid in an especially harsh climate.

Originally published in 1995, Lisa Ann Verge’s Heaven in His Arms tells the story of the sassiest street urchin that ever sassed and the fur trader she finds herself married to. Desperate to escape the Paris workhouse, Genevieve Lalande trades places with a “King’s Girl” for the chance to travel to the New World in 1670 and make a life as a wife and mother with one of her compatriots. She doesn’t care which one, she just wants out. When she arrives in Quebec, Genevieve falls ill and is married off in a fevered stupor to André. He is seeking the ultimate marriage of convenience: New statutes require him to have a wife to get a trapper’s license, so he chooses the bride he thinks will die the fastest. Imagine his surprise when she shows up at his lodgings and insists he take her into the bush with him. She’s neither going to die and use the burial plans he set for her, nor will she agree to being deposited as a governess with his business partner. And away they go…

Growing up Canadian, we are raised to:

  • respect winter
  • look askance at the United States
  • treasure socialized medicine
  • understand World War I helped define us as a country
  • admire our pioneers

Heaven in his Arms hits a couple of those squarely on the head. The conditions that André lives with and Genevieve has to accustom herself to are rough. They set out in the spring and plan to reach their destination before the snow flies (October) so they can set up camp for a winter’s worth of forays to trade for pelts with local tribes. I hope this map will give some sense of the scale of what they will be undertaking by canoes and portaging to get from Quebec City to the southern shore of Lake Superior. It’s the world’s largest freshwater lake and roughly the size of Austria. Also of note is the fact that the north shore of Lake Superior in the fall is one of the most beautiful things I have ever and will ever see; however, while it may be making me misty and homesick to think about, it doesn’t mean I want to winter there.

Where were we? Ah yes, the map. Does it give a good sense of how far they are going?

Heaven Map.jpg

For additional perspective, when you cross the border from Manitoba into Ontario, it is still an 18 hour drive to reach Toronto because Canada is HUGE.

So Genevieve who is hella intrepid, André who is made of steel, and his team head out into the wilds for a seemingly endless slog through rapids, forests, and blackflies to reach Chequawegon Bay. Genny and André fall for each other en route, but decide on an “everything but…” marriage. Since they are in love, young, and healthy, that doesn’t really last. After a happy winter in a poorly insulated cabin in an aboriginal village, they head back to civilization where there is a giant pile of complications poised and ready to hit the fan.

I suggest you read Heaven in His Arms if a grand adventure in the wilderness is your cup of tea. The challenges and lifestyle are presented as matter of fact in keeping with how the characters would have responded to them. Genevieve takes to her new situation like a duck to water and embraces every moment of the experience. As a city person reading about another city person, I wondered if she was too accepting and cheerful about her lot, but since her background is 17th century France and mine is 20th century Toronto, she might be a little more comfortable with hardship than I. As a partner to André in his endless quest for the unexplored and life outside of civilization, they make an excellent pair. If they can overlook how incredibly tough their lives will be and the likelihood of dying young, I guess this reader can, too.

Fun aside:  The original 1995 cover is a Gouda wheel of cheesy magnificence.

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Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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