Charles-Henri Sanson has good looks, a fine education, and plenty of money: everything, in fact, that a stylish young Parisian could ask for. He also has an infamous family name--and he's trapped in a hideous job that no one wants.
The last thing Charles ever wanted to be was a hangman. But he's the eldest son of Paris's most dreaded public official, and in the 1750s, after centuries of superstition, people like him are outcasts. He knows that the executioner's son must become an executioner himself or starve, for all doors are closed to him; although he loathes the role and would much rather study medicine, society's fears and prejudices will never let him be anything else. And when disaster strikes, family duty demands that Charles take his father's place much sooner than he had ever imagined.
Miles outside Paris, high-spirited François de La Barre is the carefree teenager who Charles would like to have been, instead of the somber public servant, bound by the Sansons' motto of duty and honor, who carries out brutal justice in the king's name. François proves, though, in the elegant, treacherous world of prerevolutionary France, to have a dangerous gift for making enemies . . . and when at last their paths converge, in this true story of destiny and conflicting loyalties, Charles must make a horrifying choice.
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Susanne Alleyn has loved history all her life, aided and abetted by her grandmother, Lillie V. Albrecht, an author of historical children’s books in the 1950s and 60s. Susanne is the author of the Aristide Ravel historical mystery series, set in revolutionary Paris; A FAR BETTER REST, the reimagining of Dickens’s A TALE OF TWO CITIES; the nonfiction MEDIEVAL UNDERPANTS AND OTHER BLUNDERS: A WRITER’S (AND EDITOR’S) GUIDE TO KEEPING HISTORICAL FICTION FREE OF COMMON ANACHRONISMS, ERRORS, AND MYTHS; and A TALE OF TWO CITIES: A READER'S COMPANION, an annotated guide to the classic novel. Happy to describe herself as an “insufferable knowitall” about historical trivia, Susanne has been writing about and researching eighteenth-century and revolutionary France for nearly three decades. Read more at www.susannealleyn.com.Review:
"Alleyn's exhaustive research pays off handsomely in well-drawn characters and colorful historical context. In particular, her female characters are refreshing in their range and willingness to defy stereotypes. A sequel would be welcome to this deftly imagined tale of the years before the French Revolution. A well-researched, robust tale featuring an endearing executioner." --Kirkus Reviews
"Alleyn examines the clash of family obligation and individual freedom through the saga of Charles Sanson .... Alleyn is presenting a moral treatise, but it's one that challenges readers and provides an interesting historical perspective. Charles's personal crisis and clashing loyalties evoke Greek tragedy, and speak to the issues that will resonate with readers." (Starred review) --Publishers Weekly
"This deftly written story navigates the moral complexities of a rarely-explored aspect of European history with a keen eye for historical detail. . . . Charles's inner struggle is memorable." --Publishers Weekly (2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition)
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