In Alys Arden’s book ‘The Casquette Girls,” New Orleans has been decimated by a hurricane and most of the city is evacuated. Only a few brave souls have returned. The roads and electricity are still down, and continued challenges getting milk, meat, and fresh food. Help is promised but slow, and all the dead have not been cleared from the condemned buildings and houses. There are few Police and First Responders. Looting, and crime in general, is mounting, and a rash of murders are occurring that don’t seem to be hurricane related.
This is the town, Adele Le Moyne, returns to with her father. Her father runs a well know and well patroned bar in the French Quarter. She is a 16 year-old brunette, who works at a bakery of repute and goes to a High School for the Arts. She has just returned after a forced evacuation to France that landed her with her mother she has not seen since she was young. She is desperate to stay in New Orleans. This is young adult fiction, and it is paranormal YA that includes vampires, witches, and werewolves on the fringe. Arden does a fantastic job of describing New Orleans and is able to juxtapose the city pre-hurricane and post hurricane.
To be honest, I am a bit weary of teenage paranormal romances, especially ones with vampires. I also, however, did read ‘The Twilight Series.’ They are not my favorite books but I enjoyed them for what they were. What got my attention her was the intriguing tie in to the historical story of The Casquette Girls. I wanted to see what Arden did with it, and she did pretty well. At one point in the book I got a bit unfairly annoyed and felt my eyes rolling back in my head at the romance, but I had to remember this is about a teenage girl. A big part of being a teenager is dealing with your feelings of attraction in a generally awkward manner. It comes with the territory. Is she attracted to a vampire? Yes. Is she attracted to a witch. Yes. The story’s main focus, however, is not on romance but on a young witch coming into her powers with a rash of murders that relate to the story of the infamous Casquette Girls. The minimal romance is just a bit of frosting to an intriguing mystery.
If you are unfamiliar, The Casquette Girls were orphans from France Louis XIV sent across the ocean to marry the young men of means and aristocrats he had enticed into settling New Orleans. La Nouvelle-Orleans up to that point had been settled by criminals and prostitutes. The name “Casquette Girls” came from the fact that the trunks or baggage that carried their dresses and dowry were in the shape of burial caskets. The Catholic Church came to the city to set up schools specifically for young women of any race at the same time. Their convent was the home to The Casquette Girls until they could find suitable marriages. As you can imagine this was not the safest of situations for young girls.
I am trying not to give spoilers but I will say this. The book is fairly well written. I enjoyed the modern and historical story of The Casquette Girls. I was pleased that Adele is not a frail girl in need of saving. I will say there was a point I got disgusted and nearly abandoned the book when I thought she was going to be “saved by the vampire,” but was pleased with how Arden resolved the story. I recently read an article that many young YA heroines are white brunettes because blonde’s are too trite and girls of other ethnicities to risky. I can’t speak to that but I will say there does seem to be a trend, and yes this book does have a young brunette heroine. Overall, I think Arden did a good job, and I would recommend it to teenagers or an adult in need of light reading.