Dukes’s gripping historical novel tells the tale of a desperate Albanian woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her independence and seize control of her future…even if it means swearing to remain a virgin for her entire life.
When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria.
Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing.
But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him… (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
This was a very intriguing book in that I’m not sure that it was like anything else I have read. That being said, I found it very difficult to relate to Eleanora and was frustrated by her decisions to be extremely selfish at times. It was tough, because Eleanora was trying to be an independent and strong woman, but really tripped up multiple times throughout the book. She is quite young, and does manage to grow throughout the story. I was expecting the book to go in a different direction based on the description, but instead we follow Eleanora over two years in her life and she is forced to decide if she'll reject or embrace her cultural heritage.
What I did enjoy about the book was the imagery and exploration of a culture and geography that I know nothing about. In 1910, it’s interesting to hear how Albania balanced the old and new ways of life, like so many other countries at the turn of the century.
Warning: Contains repeated violence and sexual content.
Rating: 3 stars!
Who should read it? Anyone interested in historical novels.