With “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” the theme of the March 2018 Women’s History Month, I thought it fitting to give credit to two of the female characters in my DarkHorse Trilogy—Antoinette DuVallier and Marie Brussard French —and the pivotal roles they play in the story lines of all three books: The Lies That Bind, Honor Among Outcasts, and soon Something in Madness.
As I was writing the novels, I consciously tried to balance the importance of the female and male roles, but when pressed, I’ll usually identify Durksen Hurst as the protagonist. And certainly, the trilogy revolves around Durk, a flawed yet inventive man who befriends a group of former slaves during a chance encounter in the swamps of Mississippi, as told in The Lies That Bind. They subsequently follow him to Missouri to fight for the Union (Honor Among Outcasts), and return home with him to Mississippi during Reconstruction (Something in Madness).
Antoinette DuVallier: Brave, Fragile, Proud
By Durk’s side through all these travels has been his love, Antoinette DuVallier, a complex, smart and savvy sophisticate from New Orleans, hardly the demure, stereotypical “Southern belle.” Would any of Durk’s ideas have flowered without Antoinette’s wisdom, guidance, and gumption? Is she the glue that holds the trilogy together?
Does this sound like another case of the “woman behind the man,” with the man getting all the glory? I tried not to fall into that old trap. Writing Antoinette within the context of history, though, I had to make her a woman of her time, yet with depth and dimension, who had the courage to stand her ground, to fight for what was important to her, to persist, as so many women did, and do, without acknowledgement.
Marie Brussard French: Manipulative, Powerful, Conflicted
Of course, every heroine needs a nemesis and the character of Mrs. Marie Brussard French could not be more fitting. As the matriarch who controls her family estate, as well as the economy of the entire town, Mrs. French is smart and shrewd when it comes to finance, although less so in her personal life, as Antoinette learns to her horror.
In fact, Mrs. French is the character who adds the Southern Gothic hot sauce to The Lies That Bind. She’s a complicated woman who leaves you asking, is she evil or is she tragic? Can one be both?
Persistence is Key
So who is the protagonist of the DarkHorse Trilogy? Maybe that’s that the wrong question? For, as one person does not define a family, a government, or a company, can one protagonist define a novel? Or does the DarkHorse Trilogy revolve around its women, who, like actual women throughout history, had the gumption to stand up and fight for what they wanted? No easy task in 1860s America, and no easy task still.
More over, Durk, and make room for the women!
Learn about National Women’s History Month:
Look for another strong female character coming your way later this year—Miriam Solomon, the love interest of David Greenberg in my new futuristic mystery/thriller, The Antiquities Dealer!
Honor Among Outcasts Book Launch May 10 in St. Louis
If you're in St. Louis on Thurs., May 10, plan to stop by Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop at 7 pm, where I'll be presenting "Civil War Missouri: Facts + Fiction," giving background about the history and reading excerpts from Honor Among Outcasts (DarkHorse Trilogy, Book 2).