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Saving Hundreds from the Guillotine - an Editorial Review of "Her Own Revolution"

Book Blurb:

A Woman Forges a Treacherous Path to Save Hundreds from the Guillotine

If Geneviève Fouquier-Tinville had the same rights as a man, she wouldn’t have to dress like one, which she does to attend University—forbidden to women. By swearing her commitment to the revolution, she succeeds in convincing her father, the Public Prosecutor who condemns thousands to the guillotine, to hire her as a court clerk. But she intends to earn passage to join her lover, Henri, in America.

Tasked with copying lists of names scheduled for execution, she reads Louis LaGarde, a fallen noble whom she despises for having exposed her as a woman when they both attended University. Believing him innocent, she replaces his name with one already dead, saving his life. But she realizes that unless she forges a treacherous path, hundreds more will perish at her father’s hands.

When a Revolutionary hunts her down, she must accept LaGarde’s help, yet she denies her attraction to him out of loyalty to Henri. She fights for her life and the lives of those she’s come to love, but she must face the truth of her own heart.

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Author Bio:

Debra Borchert has had many careers. She debuted, at the age of five, as a model at a local country club where her crinoline petticoat dropped to her ankles in the middle of the runway.

Since then, she’s been a clothing designer, actress (starring in her first television commercial with Jeff Daniels for S.O.S. Soap Pads), TV show host, spokesperson for high-tech companies, marketing and public relations professional, and technical writer for Fortune 100 companies.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Writer, among others. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and independently.

A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, she weaves her knowledge of textiles and clothing design throughout her historical French fiction. She brings her passions for France, wine, and cooking to all her work. The proud owner of ten crockpots, she is renowned for her annual Soup Parties at which she serves soups from different cultures. She offers her soup recipes on her website.

Debra’s debut novel, Her Own Legacy, is the first in a series that follows headstrong and independent women and the four-hundred loyal families who protect a Loire Valley château and vineyard, and its legacy of producing the finest wines in France during the French Revolution. Her Own Revolution is the second book in the Château de Verzat series.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and standard poodle who is named after a fine French Champagne.

Editorial Review:

In the tumultuous setting of Paris, amid the French Revolution, Borchert introduces us to Geneviève, a resilient and determined young woman who defies societal norms. The story begins simply, but quickly picks up as it delves into the intricacies of Geneviève's personal struggles, her political critiques of Robespierre's government, and the ever-present fear of being exposed for her unconventional beliefs - and for her crime of dressing as a man to get away with things that society deems unbecoming for a lady of her rank, such as attending university or working for her own financial independence.


If caught impersonating a man, any other woman would appear before the Public Prosecutor—my father—who would order her head shaved and sentence her to an insane asylum. But if I were arrested, I would disappoint my father, who would feel obligated to make an example of me. As he had recently sentenced Charlotte Corday, the first woman to be guillotined, I feared being dragged before him far more than eight months in a madhouse.”


One of the novel's strengths lies in its meticulous attention to historical detail, as Borchert seamlessly integrates the broader political landscape of the time and makes it feel relevant and urgent as we experience it through Geneviève’s eyes. The critique of Robespierre's government and the exploration of the stark disparity between proclaimed and actual rights for women feels personal. What’s more - her own father is a powerful prosecutor. In one of the first scenes of the novel, we see her musing over Charlotte Corday's execution, the first woman to be guillotined and sent there by her father.


Geneviève's decision to disguise herself as a man is portrayed as both a survival tactic and a courageous act of rebellion against the societal constraints imposed on women during this era. Borchert incorporates Geneviève's personal struggles into the broader context of political upheaval, offering a poignant commentary on the intersection of gender and power during this pivotal historical moment. The novel delves into her internal conflict as she grapples with the desire for independence and education, aspirations that clash with the traditional roles assigned to women.


Geneviève's feminist views are a significant aspect of her character, and indeed, a large part of what makes her so endearing and relatable to a modern audience.


The list was numbered but not alphabetized. I read each birthdate and name of men, women…a child of four years. I envisioned five-year-old Auguste’s round blue eyes and felt his chubby fingers grip my hand. A child, like my brother, sentenced to the guillotine? Had my father sentenced him? If not for Papa’s talents, many prisoners would go free. Did he fear the Committee for Public Safety would try him for conspiracy if he didn’t condemn the people they sent?


My gaze landed again on Comte Louis de LaGarde—a man I thought I hated. But had he not exposed me as a woman, Henri and I might not have fallen in love. And now LaGarde was condemned to death for the same crime Henri committed: being born a noble.”


The first stirrings of her moral dilemma occur when she encounters individuals marked for execution, their crimes ranging from political dissent to alleged counter-revolutionary activities. While working as a clerk for her father, she is given the task of copying the names of the men and women sentenced to death. Moral certainties blur, and the boundaries between right and wrong become increasingly ambiguous as she comes across a name she recognized from her time at university.


Geneviève's internal struggle intensifies as she grapples with the inherent contradiction of a revolution founded on principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity resorting to state-sanctioned violence. This internal conflict underscores her journey from passive acceptance of societal norms to an active interrogation of the moral fabric sustaining the revolution.


One of the central moral quandaries Geneviève faces is rooted in her commitment to justice and her evolving understanding of humanity's capacity for both cruelty and compassion. As she witnesses the arbitrary and often brutal judgments rendered by revolutionary tribunals, she becomes acutely aware of the flawed nature of the justice system. The dissonance between the ideals of the revolution and the harsh realities of its execution forces Geneviève to question the morality of adhering blindly to the letter of the law.


As Geneviève delves deeper into the mire, she finds herself at a crossroads where her convictions clash with the prevailing ethos of the revolution. The novel poignantly portrays her thoughts, emphasizing the weight of her decisions and the repercussions they might unleash.


The act of saving lives condemned to death becomes a profound expression of Geneviève's evolving morality. Her choices are not simplistic assertions of right or wrong but nuanced responses to the moral exigencies of the moment. The author paints a vivid picture of the emotional toll on Geneviève as she grapples with the consequences of her decisions, recognizing that her actions may not be universally praised but are driven by a personal moral compass, which makes her all the more endearing to the reader.  Borchert questions the costs of moral agency, portraying Geneviève's choices as emblematic of the wider ethical tensions intrinsic to revolutionary movements. Through her, we witness the individual's capacity to question, challenge, and ultimately shape the ethical contours of a society in flux.


Despite the heavy subject matter and the difficult time period, this is also a love story. The academic world, traditionally closed to women, became her refuge, offering a taste of intellectual freedom that fueled her revolutionary spirit. She spent an entire year there, disguised as a man. It was during this period that she encountered Henri, a meeting that would sow the seeds of a romantic connection. He has since left the country, but Geneviève keeps in correspondence with him and wistfully awaits his return and hopes that they may marry.


Borchert's nuanced storytelling ensures that the eventual resolution of the relationships in this novel is neither simplistic nor idealized. The novel does not shy away from portraying the messiness of human connections. To elaborate further would risk revealing too much. Suffice to say, it was excellently done.


The writing style seamlessly combines historical authenticity with a delightful French flavor, transporting readers to the heart of 18th-century France. The prose is imbued with a richness that captures both the elegance and tumultuous spirit of the era, offering a sensory experience that immerses readers in Geneviève's world while simultaneously maintaining a relatable, accessible tone through the dialogue and first person perspective. The author's research and expertise are evident in the immersive descriptions of clothing, architecture, and the social milieu, creating a sense of authenticity that engages the reader's sense of immersion.


"Her Own Revolution" is a triumph in historical fiction, offering readers a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of one woman's journey through a turbulent period in history. Geneviève is a glorious protagonist, and Debra Borchert has brought her story to life.


“Her Own Revolution” by Debra Borchert receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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