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A French Huguenot and a Mystic Healer - an Editorial Review of "The Muse of Freedom"

Book Blurb:

A French Huguenot apothecary’s legacy of secrets, a mystic healer’s inspiration, a fateful decision.

"Brilliantly told, a story that will stick with you long after you've turned the last page . . . fresh and compelling, as relevant now as it was then." ~ Janet Wertman, award-winning author of The Seymour Saga trilogy.

"Jules Larimore's lush, vibrant prose and sharp eye for historical detail at once transported me back to Occitan haunts and castles. This is a must-read for anyone who loves novels set in that alluring region of southern France." ~ Glen Craney, award-winning author of The Fire and the Light, The Spider and the Stone, The Cotillion Brigade and more.

“This story will capture you and not let go. History and deftly-crafted storytelling rolled into one.” Rozsa Gaston, author of the award-winning four-book Anne of Brittany Series

IN THE MYSTERIOUS CÉVENNES MOUNTAINS OF LANGUEDOC, FRANCE, 1695, Jehan BonDurant, a young nobleman forcibly held in a Dominican prieuré as a child, comes of age only to inherit a near-derelict estate and his Huguenot family’s dangerous legacy of secrets. While he cherishes his newfound freedom apprenticing as an apothecary, his outrage mounts over religious persecutions led by King Louis XIV’s Intendant Basville, who is sent to enforce the King’s will for “One King, One Law, One Faith”.

The ensuing divisions among families and friends and the gradual revelation of his own circumstances lead Jehan to question his spiritual choices. A journey, deep into the heart of the Cévennes in search of guidance, unfolds in a way he least expects when he enters the enchanting Gorges du Tarn. There he discovers his muse, Amelia Auvrey, a free-spirited, mystic holy woman who reveals ancient healing practices and spiritual mysteries.

Together they quest for peace and spiritual freedom by aiding the persecuted until the Intendant’s spy reports their activities and the King’s dragoons are sent out after them. To retain their freedom, they must choose to live in hiding in a remote wilderness, join a festering uprising against the persecutions, or flee their cherished homeland with thousands of other refugees in search of hope.

Inspired by the true story of Jean Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac, distilled and blended with Cévenole magic lore, this is a vividly told coming-of-age adventure and family saga of courage, tenacity, and the power of love.

Fans of Poldark, Magic Lessons, The Lost Apothecary, The Huguenot Chronicles, and The Alchemist will find thematic elements from those stories melded into this thrilling and obscure slice of French history.

Author Bio:

As an author of emotive, literary-leaning historical fiction bringing past cultures to life, Jules Larimore’s mantra is to impart hopeful human stories that are not only entertaining, but also inspire positive change and encourage an intimate relationship with the natural environment.

Influenced by a love for history and anthropology—from ancient times through the Renaissance and Enlightenment—Jules uses captivating historical settings, then distills and blends them with a dose of magic, myth, and romance to bring to life hopeful human stories where courage, tenacity, transcendent vision, and the power of love are called upon to overcome oppression and dangerous divisions. “She is an alchemist, drawing on the poetic power of words, assembling a colorful combination of characters to authentically explore the landscape of the human heart; its yearnings, boundaries, expectations and limitations” ~ Elijah Alexander, actor.

Though her career path has taken a crooked road, it seems she was preparing for writing her debut novel, The Muse of Freedom, all along the way. At University, she studied medieval history, ancient Greek culture, anthropology, folklore, narrative composition, and architectural design. Her years in the design field taught principles of balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and unity—all important aspects of writing a novel. She also spent many years in marketing—an early outlet for creative writing, romancing brands with mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life—and writing freelance narrative non-fiction for print and online publications.

But over twenty years ago she decided, someday, she would write about her 8th great-grandfather, French Huguenot Jean Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac, (Jehan BonDurant as he is called in the novel), a nobleman and descendant of many royal European bloodlines. Jean Pierre’s motivation to give everything up and flee France always intrigued her, and she knew there were many sides to the story during this divisive period that needed to find a voice.

She began two years of intensive training in novel writing, including under writing geniuses Libbie Hawker / Olivia Hawker and Roz Morris, all while studying late 17th century Languedoc customs and politics with a deep dive into research on the Bondurants. She found many surprising details along the way, including old recipe books (grimoires) in Occitan commonly used in the Middle Ages and Renaissance with recipes for herbal cures and word amulets.

Jules is a board member of the Historical Novel Society of Southern California and a member of France’s Splendid Centuries French History Writers’ Collaborative. She lives primarily in Ojai, California, (where she is better known as Cynthia Louise), with time spent around the U.S. and in various countries in Europe gathering more treasures in a continued search for authenticity.

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Editorial Review:

You can lower yourself to the level of the beast, but you can also be reborn as a divine creature by the free will of your spirit.

In a slice of compelling and obscure French history, this novel “The Muse of Freedom” delves into this conflicts between the Catholics and Huguenots (French Protestants) of the late 17th century. Historically, the Edict of Nantes was put into place by King Henry IV of France to ensure that Calvinist Protestants could practice their religion without persecution and to instill civil unity between religions. However, with the revocation of the edict in later years, the persecution grew and many children were taken from their families, housing them in abbeys and convents, in order to raise them into the Catholic faith. This story, based on the actual historical story of Jehan (Jean Pierre) BonDurenat dit Cougoussac, begins when young Jehan is released from his “training” and returns home to his family and inherited estate in Cougoussac, which is nearly in ruins. While Jehan reacquaints with his family, questions about his own faith as well as his misunderstandings about being 'left' by his parents at the abbey come to the forefront. He is desperate for freedom yet as secrets bubble to the surface about his Huguenot family, and his desire to learn more about healing and the craft of apothecary, this story becomes a quest for his search for ultimate peace, an Eden to discover his true leanings without fear of persecution by the King's dragoons and his intendent, Nicolas de Basville.

Surely most of you know,” Sollier continued, “I fervently beelive it our right, as free men, to make all our own choices. The Edict of Nantes was put in place by the King's grandfather for that very reason, to have equality for all regardless of how one worships.”

But now the King's Recovation of that edict has taken away your freedoms,” said Fallere, “with the noblesse told they should no longer worship in their chateau chapels unless they are Catholic. Are you not all upset by that?”

As Jehan watches the politics, the spying, and the oppression rage into a heated crucible, he encounters the ethereal holy woman, Amelia Auvrey. Her free-spirited ways, and her love for healing and practicing the 'old ways' reminiscent of the Celts, helps him to heal in more ways than he expected, and also helps him to discover what he truly believes deep in his heart. Yet, with all their good intentions and desire to reach spiritual enlightenment, the shadows of the persecutions force decisions that neither want to make... decisions which might part them forever in order to save their lives.

I do not understand this world of divisiveness and intolerance, or the motivations that drive such severity. Is it that one man's hatred breeds hate in others?” Benat hesitated, as if he were weighing the words he was about to speak. “We can never truly understand this world. We can only take heed of the dangers and the secrets, and do our best to survive.”

The beauty of this book is the way the author melds the meaty historical aspects with the very spiritual, airy breath of Amelia's personality which is like a healing thread throughout the narrative. She is very Eden-like, a place of paradise not only for Jehan but as a necessity for the story as she depicts freedom in the midst of the confining constraints of Catholicism and Protestantism during that time. The characters are well-developed and likable, forming easy connections with the reader, and the structure of the book, itself, flows brilliantly, providing a well-defined combination of history and escape. Not only that, but the themes of love and acceptance stream through, along with a very enjoyable depiction of noble and rural life in 17th century France. Very highly recommended.

We are alike in that way, Jehan. We both want to help others. Yet there is a connection between this urgent need to heal others and the need to heal yourself.” Her eyes were a little weary, but they penetrated his being. “You are searching for a way to heal your very soul. You and I both suffer from the tragedy of having lost our parents at a young age, and we cannot heal if we pretend we are not hurting... if we constantly feign strength and vigor. 'Tis noble to heal others, yet you avoid the need to look inside and heal your own soul.”


The Muse of Freedom” by Jules Larimore receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence by The Historical Fiction Company



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