• Cherie Claire

Rewriting Evangeline


When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his epic poem, Evangeline, it was the first time American readers knew about the Acadian (Cajun) exile from the Maritime Provinces of Canada beginning in 1755. The story follows Evangeline who is set to marry her true love Gabriel. On the eve of their marriage, the British force the Acadians from their home in what was to become le grand dérangement or the great exile. Evangeline travels throughout America, including Louisiana, searching for Gabriel only to find him later in life on his deathbed. It's a beautiful and heart-breaking reunion.

In Louisiana and the Maritimes you will see references to Evangeline everywhere. Where I live in South Louisiana there's Evangeline Downs racetrack, Evangeline bread and Evangeline Thruway (not a misspelling). And no, I don't think Evangeline Lilly is Cajun.

When Kensington first contracted me to write the Cajun Series, my editor said, "It's like Evangeline but with a happy ending."

With a respectful nod to Longfellow, the Cajun Series is just that. The first four books in the series follows a family separated from their father during the Acadian exile. When the Gallant family — Emilie, Rose, Gabrielle and their mother Marianne — hears that their father may be in Louisiana, they head to the swampy colony and begin a years-long search to reunite their family and heal their hearts.

The first books in the Cajun Series concern the three Gallant sisters — Emilie, Rose and Gabrielle — who find love and adventure in this new frontier. As the series begins, strikingly beautiful and stubbornly defiant Emilie Gallant and her Cajun family have traveled to Louisiana in search of their father. The last thing Emilie has on her mind as she enters the rugged bayou country is marriage to her longtime companion, Lorenz Dugas. Emilie worshipped Lorenz as a child but having to fight to preserve her family has built a wall around her heart. But Lorenz is equally determined and his passion will prove that their love cannot be denied. As they make their way across the untamed Louisiana wilderness, hoping to reunite the Gallant family, Emilie learns that love has a way of healing all wounds — even in the most unusual places.

The story continues with Rose and Gabrielle's story, then Delphine, Gabrielle’s stubborn, pirating stepdaughter. The series then jumps ahead to the days when the Americans arrive with A Cajun Dream and its sequel novella, The Letter.

But back to Evangeline...I have collected copies of Longfellow's books, artwork of the sad heroine (that picture above looks over my shoulder while I write) and all kinds of items branded with Evangeline, which includes beer, underwear and soap. I have a poster from both the Nova Scotia and the Baton Rouge musicals, the latter cowritten by Jaime Wax, a cousin by marriage. Just this week, I wrote an article for the Lafayette Advocate newspaper about Sen. Dudley LeBlanc, who took a collection of "Evangeline Girls" to the White House on several occasions, all to bring about attention to the little-known Cajun history. You can read about it here.

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