Searchers in Winter
June 9, 2021

Book Review

Searchers in Winter

The story is set during the War of the Fourth Coalition (1806-1807), a tumultuous period when under a new French Empire, Napoleon seeks to consolidate his power.

1806: Colonel Andre Valiere serves his conscription by leading Napoleon’s efforts in Germany and Poland. A man of honor, he volunteers to serve Napoleon in exchange for not listing the young farmers who work for him and thus saving their lives. While serving his conscription and before being able to return home to his family, his situation gets complicated when he is presented with an offer to help uncover an unimaginable fortune, which would bestow glory and wealth upon whoever delivers it to Napoleon. Will he be lured into a plot to seize a hidden fortune? 

1805, France. Jean-Luc St. Clair is a lawyer and widower with two children who comes to Paris to deliver a message from Mayor Bergasse of Marseille to Joseph Bonaparte. Jean-Luc makes such flattering first impression on Joseph that he is offered a position in Paris. As a lawyer, he is a servant of the State, and as a man he holds himself to the highest standards. But he learns that the message that he delivered in a letter also held another message written in invisible ink. He was warned against the one who reveals that information to him. He is offered a deal of providing certain information when needed in exchange for information necessary for the execution of his daily duties. Is he being deceived? And by whom?

1806, France. Sophie Valerie is left to manage the estate while her husband serves his conscription. She receives an offer from a Count to help her manage it as her estate is overpopulated and farmers are in a state of rivalry. Both estates might profit from mutual friendship and cooperation. But the so-called friend makes also advances on Sophie. Is he honest with offering his help?

As the story alternates among three POVs, it continually builds in suspense and throws small hooks, with intriguing characters who meet challenges and have to make moral decisions. They value humanity against those lusting after power and greed, but you don’t always see clearly who is telling the truth and who is not. The descriptions are animated which are the highlight of the story before progressing it. Humanity is a distinct characteristic of all three main characters whose paths are marked by perseverance against terrible odds.

The historical background which was inspiration for this story brings the mysterious origins of the Rothschild’s fortune, the presence of the “outlanders” on fictional estate who are refugees and combatant from Brittany, and the character of Alicja Jarzyna is loosely inspired by Maria Walewska, “the Polish noblewoman who presented herself before Napoleon and became his mistress while he campaigned in Poland and Prussia,” later leading to creation of the Duchy of Warsaw as Poland did not exist on the map at the time.


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