Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The Rocheforts

Author Christian Laborie on Tour April 6-15, 2015 with


The Rocheforts

(fiction / saga) Release date: May 5, 2015 at Open Road Integrated Media 484 pages ISBN: 978-1-4804-6120-8


Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal. Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business. The Rocheforts’ neighbor Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own. When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter. With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land.


I have always loved historical fiction and family sagas, so I really looked forward to reading The Rocheforts.   It did not disappoint!

I really enjoyed the story of the intertwined Rochefort and Rouviere families.  The Rochefort patriarch, Anselme, is not a sympathetic character, but his actions play an important part in the story.   I found the characterizations in the book varied and interesting. 

The Rochefort dynasty is financed by denim.  One of their major clients is the Levi Strauss Company in America.  The passages about the denim industry were surprisingly fascinating.

This is a long book and a big read, which I find very satisfying.  (I am a fan of big books.)  It moves from 1898 (prologue) to the 1930's in France.  The historical details are fascinating.  

I would recommend this book for other fans of family sagas.  It is engrossing, and would make a great vacation read.


Nîmes, January 1898
The night sky was pitch black. The air was freezing, and the darkness absorbed all noise. Nîmes was plunged into the heart of a harsh winter, the kind that rarely happened more than once in a decade. The amphitheater was frozen under the dull glow of the moon. Church steeples rose up like giant crosses in a gloomy, unmoved sky. The world was petrified. Yet the narrow streets and wide boulevards were not covered in snow. The dry, icy winds had swept everything away, even the nauseating stench that usually rose from the seedier parts of town.

Only the hungriest of the light-footed night cats dared to venture under the streetlamps. Their mournful mewing died out in the basement windows where they sought refuge. Occasionally, a stealthy shadow brushed the walls and slipped into a mysterious alcove. On other nights, beauties in the brothels entertained disloyal husbands, men passing through, and soldiers on leave. But now even the brothels showed little signs of life.

Nestled in the hilltops, Nîmes jealously guarded its secrets, which were sealed in the thick walls of its ancient ruins. Centuries after the end of Roman rule, the city’s upper class had made Nîmes a center of prosperous industry and trade. Several dynasties had taken root, achieving renown in finance, textiles, and the wine trade. As a result, opulent homes were numerous, despite a certain modesty imposed by the Protestant ethic.
A carriage coming from the train station broke the silence of the night. Hooves hammered the cobblestones. Their clip-clop echoed eerily between the walls of the sleeping houses. The vehicle, entirely covered in black leather, turned onto the Avenue Feuchères, heading toward the esplanade. It went around the amphitheater and climbed the Boulevard Victor-Hugo before pulling up to the curb a hundred or so yards from the Maison Carrée. A few seconds later, a man stepped down nimbly. He was dressed in black and wore a wide-brimmed hat. He tied the horse to a railing and walked to the rear door of a mansion. Nobody answered. Showing no signs of impatience, the man used the bronze knocker a second time.
The pounding drew the attention of an elderly fellow living across the way, an insomniac for whom the night was bad company. Curious, he approached his window, candlestick in hand, just in time to see the man in black disappear into the mansion.
“What is it?” grumbled his wife, torn from a deep slumber.
“Nothing. Go back to sleep. A coach stopped across the way.”
“And nothing. A strange man got out. Then he disappeared.”
“Come back to bed.”
A few minutes later, the man in black reappeared. Under his arm, he carried a large basket wrapped in dark cloth. He carefully placed the basket in the carriage, untied the horse, and climbed into his seat. At a crack of the whip, the animal started moving.
The man then drove the carriage around the outside of the city at a slow trot, as if he didn’t want to wake up the sleeping residents. The coach turned onto the Arles road, and only then did the driver crack his whip three times to pick up the pace. With its nostrils giving off steam in the icy air, the animal obeyed and galloped into the shadows.
Behind the convent walls, the Sisters of Charity prepared for Matins. The chapel bells rang three times to remind them of the day’s first duty. In the strictest silence, they left their cells and walked along the cloister ambulatory with their hands together and their heads down in prayer.
Before starting the liturgy, the mother superior always counted her flock to make sure no one was still lost in Morpheus’s arms. Although there weren’t many nuns, Sister Angela felt compelled to check, just as she counted the children at the orphanage every morning. She ran the institution with a firm hand.
The outside world accessed the chapel via a windowless vestibule that had a small door fitted with an elaborately carved grate. Sister Angela jealously guarded the keys, as if they opened the way to heaven. In her God-fearing eyes, however, the door did not lead to heaven, but to a world of temptation, covetousness, and sin—Satan’s world. Girls who entered the convent with the intention of taking their vows seldom used this door again. Once in the convent, they stayed, and most of them had taken their vows years earlier.
A second door led to a large slightly sloped hallway that was completely dark. The smell of incense and wax wafted from the chapel into this passageway after every service. It had seeped into the woodwork and impregnated the walls and ceiling. Sister Angela considered it a purifying bath for the young souls crossing the threshold for the first time. At the end of the hallway, a final door opened to another world, one offering redemption to those beings who had begun their sorry lives on earth in the gravest of sin: that of not being wanted.
There were nearly sixty Sisters of Charity orphans. Some were the bastards of highborn families. Others were poor children abandoned by hard-pressed mothers and fathers. The parentage of still others was entirely unknown. They all carried the misery of the world on their frail shoulders. Yet the world knew nothing of their existence. The nuns gave them a basic Christian education. Girls learned domestic work—sewing, cooking, and cleaning—while the boys tended the convent orchards and vegetable garden. The boys and girls crossed paths only in the chapel, where they attended daily Mass, and the classroom. They were not allowed to communicate or even look at each other. When they left their near-monastic existence, the orphans were expected to face the world without straying from the Lord’s sacred path.
At the time, the city of Nîmes had no secular orphanage. As a result, the convent orphanage was at capacity, and the sisters were always worried that they would have to turn away a homeless child.
When the Matins liturgy ended, the nuns would return to their cells in silence to delve into Bible reading, contemplation, and supreme communion with God. Then, after a frugal breakfast, they would set about their respective tasks. Some were assigned to housework, others to gardening. Those with the most education taught the orphans, and still others were responsible for administrative duties. The day was punctuated by periods of group prayer and the daily office—Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline—which occupied them from predawn until deep into the night.
Sister Agnes was the last to pass before the mother superior as the nuns made their way back to their cells. When five knocks on the vestibule door echoed throughout the entire chapel, the young novice stopped and turned to Sister Angela. “Who could that be at this hour?” she said, looking worried.
Sister Angela maintained her stoic calm. At her age, nothing disturbed or frightened her. She lifted her left index finger to her lips, signaling silence.
Three more knocks resounded.
“Go see,” the mother superior said to Sister Agnes.
Sister Agnes didn’t move. She was scared to death. “You want me to . . . ”
“Yes,” Sister Angela answered tersely. “You heard me. Go see. Open the grate, and see who it is. The devil is not going to jump out at you.”
“Oh, Mother!” Turning pale, Sister Agnes signed herself three times.
“What are you waiting for? Go on, child. Toughen up.”
The novice did as she was told. She crossed the chapel, her hands hidden in the sleeves of her ample white habit. She mouthed a prayer. Fear made her muddle the words.


Rocheforts - Laborie Christian Laborie was born in the North of France but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes for more than twenty years. The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English. *** Follow Open Road Integrated Media on Facebook | Twitter Subscribe to Open Road’s Newsletter Buy the book: Amazon *** You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.


Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 5 winners will receive 1 digital copy of The Rocheforts


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I received this book from France Book Tours and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks for your very neat review. I'm glad it was a good saga for you. Emma at FBT