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Savage Lands, By Clare Clark

As Clare Clark's third novel so lushly illustrates, Louisiana has never been the safest place to live. In the early 18th century, when the novel is set, the colony's French pioneers had to endure, floods, hurricanes and famine.

Elisabeth Savaret is one of 23 Parisian women sent out to the colony to marry men they have never met. With little expectation of happiness, Elizabeth is surprised to find herself falling in love with infantryman Jean-Claude Babelon. The fact that he's a slave-dealing scoundrel of the highest order doesn't seem to dim her desire for him.

The novel's characters may not convince, but this eye-opening account of Louisiana's early history conjures up a nicely gothic landscape where murder and miscarriages are the order of the day.