About the Book:
For Joan of Arc, it was about surviving in a man’s world. Nearly six hundred years later, at West Point, not much has changed. One of the greatest heroines of all time returns and reveals the wisdom she received from Archangel Michael. When you dare to commit to your deepest desires, your heart grows to accommodate the task at hand, no matter how daunting”, Archangel Michael advises Joan of Arc before she embarks on a mission that will change the course of history. With only eleven days left to live, she must take yet another leap of faith, surrender to the guidance of Archangel Michael, and set the record straight to ensure those in the future know the truth. Her legacy reaches across the veil of time to awaken the heroine in all women. And for one twenty-first-century woman, Jane Archer, a West Point cadet, it means finding the courage to expose a cultural crime that has been disempowering women for centuries. In the process, she must learn to trust her own inner guidance.
At first I was a little thrown by the back and forth of Return of the Heroine. The chapters alternate between 15th century France, where the story is narrated by Joan of Arc, and 1990s United States, where the story is told in the third person. For the first few chapters this alternating structure made it a little difficult to get into the story.
After a few chapters, though, I adjusted and found the story to be captivating. I knew the basic story of Joan of Arc, but this book made it come to life. I experienced every victory and every defeat right along with Joan, including the feel of the flames licking her feet at the end.(if you didn’t know Joan was burned at the stake I apologize for the spoiler
The parallel story, of Jane Archer, the West Point cadet, while not quite as compelling, is still a strong dramatic tale. Jane is dealing with the culture of rape and abuse against women at the illustrious military college. I was surprised by the anecdotal statistic in the book, so I did a little research.
According to the Huffington Post:
The Pentagon said it received 2,923 reports of sexual assault across the military in the 12 months ending Sept. 30 2008. That’s about a 9 percent increase over the totals reported the year before, but only a fraction of the crimes presumably being committed.
Among the cases reported, only a small number went to military courts, officials acknowledged.
The Pentagon office that collects the data estimates that only 10 percent to 20 percent of sexual assaults among members of the active duty military are reported _ a figure similar to estimates of reported cases in the civilian sphere.
So even though Return of the Heroine is set in the 90s, apparently this is a subject we need to continue talking about until it is taken seriously.
Again I seem to have stumbled upon a book with strong female characters, but for this I am grateful. Jane is an independent woman who has a loving and equal relationship with her boyfriend, Jack. They respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses and learn not to judge each other by a stereotype.
One of the biggest themes in this book was to listen to the “voices” in your head and not to let fear rule you. As my regular readers know, overcoming my fears has been a recurring theme on this blog (The Year of No Fear, No Punishment; No Fear, My One Word for 2013: Courage). Here are some quotes from the book that really struck home with me:
If you walk a path you know in your heart to be true and you encounter fear, it is showing you that your mind has not yet grown to accommodate your heart.
“Scar tissue is stronger than skin,” the doctor said…
…To her it seemed metaphorically true. When shit happens, we get stronger.
Fear will cause you to make choices that may not be in your best interest. Fear causes you to doubt and lose faith.
Return of the Heroine is a powerful read for fans of historical fiction and/or tales of strong women. I give it four stars!!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.