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New Orleans, 1795. In the wake of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, Alix de Morainville Carpentier—a former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, now married to her gardener—seeks peace and security in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. But her journey into the man-eating swamp called Attakapas reopens the wounds of her old life in France. Alix is forced to reckon with the choices that saved her life at the cost of her honor—and perhaps her soul.

In revolutionary France, the Old World is dying; the quest for liberty, equality, and fraternity has become a nightmare where the price of dissent is blood. In the wilderness of Spanish Louisiana, a new civilization is beginning to emerge—but in this budding New World, the slave trade perpetuates the systems of oppression that sparked the revolution. Caught between old and new, scarred by trauma and grief, will Alix ever find a home where she can truly be free?

To Crown with Liberty is a historical novel based on riveting legends from George Washington Cable’s Strange True Stories of Louisiana (1888).


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16 reviews for TO CROWN WITH LIBERTY

  1. Barb Szyszkiewicz

    With the dual settings of Paris during the French Revolution and Louisiana only a few years later, To Crown with Liberty by Karen Ullo brings to life two periods of European and American history I wasn’t very familiar with. Alix de Morainville lives a charmed but complicated life as a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette—and the author doesn’t skimp on the details of palace intrigue as she spins a tale of forbidden love, danger, and fear as French government and society implode in scenes of unimaginable terror, anguish, violence, and loss. The story, told in split time, alternates between these scenes and a journey through the bayous of southern Louisiana as Alix and a party of settlers seek to make their way in an area of the South that depends on the slave trade and all the oppression that implies. Louisiana also holds the key to reconciliation for Alix, provided she can survive the trip and forgive herself for events and situations in Paris that she wasn’t entirely responsible for. A beautifully written story I didn’t want to see end.

  2. Desirée Vignola-Hung

    Ullo’s magnificent handling of storytelling makes “To Crown with Liberty” read like a movie. Paris and Louisiana have smell, color and feeling; smoke, sweat and mosquitoes; beautiful dresses and luxury, as well as suffering and death. Historically well researched, it immerses us in the streets of Paris before and during the French Revolution, and in colonial Louisiana at the end of the 18th century. Human, deep and complex fictional characters interact with real historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and Queen Marie Antoinette. The story of Alix de Moranville captures and intrigues, and shows a view of an already well known story like the French Revolution, from another angle, and that is the triumph of “To Crown with Liberty.”

  3. Neliana Ferraro de Mitchell

    I love a good historical fiction read, and To Crown with Liberty definitely fits the bill.

    We follow Alix, a super rich and naive upper class girl, who has a heart because of her more modest childhood. The book goes back and forth between Alix present day and Alix French Revolution. I would have enjoyed a more linear telling, mostly because there was so much hype towards the start of the revolution.

    I liked how real this book was. Originally, I was like, “Man, this girl has no agency. She’s just letting everything happen to her.” But honestly, that’s probably how it would actually happen. If war broke out in the United States right now, I’d probably act exactly like she did (annoying survivor’s guilt and all). I’d probably be hiding, depressed in my house. Let alone that women had no rights back then anyway!

    In addition to fun historical details like the horrible smells of Versailles 🤣, the book includes a bunch of real life people.

    In the story, you’re fully immersed in the horrors of the French Revolution. I was getting mad about the injustices hundreds of years after the fact! While it was definitely horrifying, I loved the details about the priests who were martyred. Their faith was so powerful to read about and really inspired me.

    Basically, this book made me feel something. I cried. I worried. It was a compelling story!

  4. Maggie Rosario

    With lively, colourful writing skills, Ullo tactfully brings to life a dual-timeline story.

    Following the life and experience of one woman, who lives through both the French Revolution, with its bloody Reign of Terror, and the struggles of life in the early days of the United States of America, Ullo crafts a multi-dimensional story, rich with various characters. The heroine, Alix de Morainville is a wonderfully complex character, haunted with visions of her past and guilt over things done or omitted. The supporting characters also serve as images of real sin and suffering, but also of hope, virtue, and beauty.

    Ullo’s writing is not one of clean, clear-cut answers. Her characters and their various situations are difficult, forming a novel that I would by no means recommend to a young audience. But there is a lot of good and real artistic taste present in the blend of light and dark, hope and despair, life and death throughout the novel. Whether amid the perils of angry French mobs or the dangers of Louisiana swamps, Alix’s character is tested and formed through the difficulties she experience.

    Thank goodness I waited until my Reading Week break to start this novel! Otherwise I am sure the fast-paced, enthralling story would have swept me up and completely distracted me from schoolwork! Once I did start reading, it only took a weekend to blow through the entire novel. Even the level of historical accuracy and detail was fantastic and left nothing wanting in my mind.

    I highly recommend this novel for other college age readers – such as myself! – as well as older audiences. Anyone in search of a beautifully Catholic, historical, or just plain engaging work would much enjoy what Ullo has to offer in “To Crown With Liberty.”

    DISCLAIMER: I was provided with an complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. All above thoughts and opinions are my own.

  5. Carolyn Astfalk

    To Crown with Liberty is a well-written split-time historical novel rich with detail. Set in France during the Revolution’s Reign of Terror and the undeveloped swamps and budding farms of Spanish Louisiana, both timelines follow former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, the noble Alix de Morainville Carpentier, who must make peace with the violence of the revolution and the harshness of life in Attakpas swamp and how she has fulfilled her obligations as a daughter, wife, friend, citizen, and faithful Catholic.

    Karen Ullo’s writing is always a pleasure to read, and the story is personal and compelling, which brings life to the history in a way that is not only memorable and understandable, but relatable to present struggles involving liberty, loyalty, principles, and fidelity to God.

    Having re-read the classic Gone with the Wind back-to-back with To Crown with Liberty, I was surprised at the similarities – not in character but in theme. Both portray a way of life erased by violent revolution or war, and the difficult choices made by those caught in its midst. Characters must choose between honor and capitulation, often a life-and-death decision.

    To Crown with Liberty, while not the saga of Gone with the Wind, succeeds in a way that the American Civil War novel lacks, and that is in the role of personal faith. Many of the characters of To Crown with Liberty demonstrate courage and conviction that is lacking in nearly every character in Gone with the Wind.

    Both novels also provide much for the reader to contemplate about personal freedom and human dignity, each depicting human slavery and contrasting it with cultures that give lip-service to freedom yet, in practice, dehumanize.

    To Crown with Liberty also includes elements of romance, suspense, betrayal, and familial and fraternal love and friendship. There’s a lot there for the reader to enjoy.

  6. Kathryn Pfeifer

    Where to begin? Karen Ullo’s To Crown With Liberty certainly defied my expectations. History, danger, sacrifice, love, war, and adventure all worked in harmony to create a story that held me spellbound. With the French Revolution as a backdrop, Ullo whisked me away to a time that caused my heart to ache and my head to spin. Her characters were true to life and entrenched themselves in my soul, telling a tale that I will not easily forget.

    Redemption, faith, forgiveness and restoration fill the pages of this book. Ullo can certainly weave a story that resonates!

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

  7. Taryn

    You’re going to want to read this book!

    “To Crown With Liberty” is an exciting, romantic (and clean!), and beautifully told story about the French Revolution and what it did to the Church and to human beings. It’s also the story of love, adventure, and mercy.

    I love historical romance but struggle to find novels in this genre that I feel good about reading. “To Crown With Liberty” is much more than a romance, but it does have a romance in it, and I found it aligned with my Catholic values without hitting me over the head with it.

    (Disclaimer: I received a free e-book in return for an honest review.)

  8. Talita

    A very interesting read!

    This was my first novel by Karen Ullo and one of the reasons I signed up for the launch team was because I find the French Revolution interesting. It is well written and the storyline kept you reading. It has a split timeline and it took me some time to get used to it, but once I made sure to check the date and location at the top of each chapter I got into the story.

    It is well-researched and I learned a lot about the French Revolution. I was aware that it is a Catholic novel, but I did not expect as much Catholic jargon and although it does fit in with the historical setting, as a Protestant, a lot of it went completely over my head.

    I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, especially the French Revolution, and I feel that it is a well-written, excellently researched, and well-thought-out novel with a beautiful story and interesting characters.

    I was given a complimentary copy of this book, but the views and opinions are my own.

  9. Anonymous

    An artfully written masterpiece! Mesmerizing and beautifully written, To Crown with Liberty filled a need for a read I didn’t realize I had. Karen Ullo brings to life oft-forgotten places and time. I saw a gilded and tottering France, and a frightening frontier. I smelled the perfume and excrement of Versailles, the raw terror and stench of the Revolution, the fear of a new beginning in the swamps of Louisiana. Karen Ullo brought me into the life and heart of Alix. I felt her joy and despair, saw her crumbled dreams and hopes, and wished to weep with her. This book invoked a sense of longing for times and places I have never been and people I have never met. The dual timeline meshed perfectly as I watched Alix break and heal simultaneously as her old and new lives collided. To Crown with Liberty will bring you an experience you will not soon forget or wish to forget.

    Content warning: Makes mention of marital intimacy, prostitution, leering gazes, several kisses-not detailed. One kiss and touch- semi-detailed.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

  10. Laura C

    Full of rich and heartbreaking history, this story takes the reader from the halls of Versailles to the swamps of early Louisiana.

    I love the way the author wove this story together, exploring events from the past side by side. The dual timeline was genius.

    The characters were well-developed and, despite tragic circumstances, held onto their faith. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a great read.

    Thank you to Chrism Press for a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  11. Carol Graft

    I really enjoyed this novel by Karen Ullo. It is a story that weaves past and present. Pre and Post revolutionary France as well as the tale of immigrants trying to forge a new life in the Louisiana Territory.
    While the view is past and present, I wouldn’t consider this a split time.

    It follows the aristocracy pre-French Revolution and some of the drawing room conversations. Our heroine, Alix is unloved by her mother owing to a difficult birth and subsequent birth injury, but much loved by the caretakers family. Until she comes of age and is sent away to a convent for schooling and then into an arranged marriage.

    She witnesses life at the French court as a lady in waiting as well as the stirring of the revolution due to her husband’s political leanings.

    We watch the revolution rise and fall through her eyes and the effect on her family, friends, and other loved ones, the Royals, as well as the Church.

    It is a tale of wrestling with faith and beliefs, sacrifice and loss. Alix eventually comes to terms with her past, acknowledging her inner strength and finding forgiveness, love, and peace in her future.

    I received a complimentary copy this book from the publishers. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

  12. Megan

    This book will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Before reading it I had only a cursory knowledge of the French Revolution, more the broad strokes of it than any of the finer details. I really appreciated how the author brought such historical detail to her story while keeping me completely immersed in the characters and their story. I also really appreciated the Catholic faith woven throughout the story as well, not only does it ring true historically but it added further depth to a somewhat heavy storyline.

    The novel goes back and forth between just before the French Revolution, the years leading up to it, and the years after it was over when Alix and Joseph had fled to Louisiana. I appreciated seeing a story take place in a time period that not many stories feature. The author did a great job weaving it all together into a very compelling story. I kept turning the pages, needing to find out how it would all end.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction. There is some romance involved, though is not the main focus of the story necessarily. The author paints the picture of how dark a time the French Revolution must have been for those living through it, without becoming overly graphic about it either.

    I received a free advanced copy of the book from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

  13. Dina

    This is my 1st book by Karen Ullo and I was pleasantly impressed by her descriptive
    writing. Based during the French Revolution and ending in Louisiana, it’s filled with gorgeous details, making you see the beauty of France, feel the terror of the revolution and the challenges of the journey into the untamed nature of Louisiana.
    The Catholic historic detail gave a sense of the importance in the story. The gradual unveiling of the story is well done, keeping me engrossed in the book, wanting to know how she came to be where she currently was. While very sad and heartbreaking due to the time period, it also gave hope and healing with love and faith as the catalyst.
    I would strongly recommend this book to those who are looking for well written book based during the French Revolution from a woman’s perspective with a faith based approach. It will keep you engrossed to the end, engaged with the characters and leave you with a hopeful end.

    I received a complimentary copy this book from the publishers. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

  14. Jeanette Durkin

    Wow! This is an amazing book! It should be made into a movie, it’s that good! There’s intrigue, suspense, murder, espionage, and a sweet love story! The imagery is fantastic! I truly felt as if I was in Paris, wandering through the halls of the palace. I could also feel the heat of Louisiana.

    The characters are written brilliantly! My favorite is Joseph. He’s compassionate, loving, and gives of himself over and over. Alix suffered much heartache, but she grew and matured as a woman.

    There are some difficult circumstances in the book. The murder situations are descriptive, there’s abandonment issues, and a really intense accident that leads to death. I feel like these parts don’t take away from the book; they are part of history. The theme of liberty rings true throughout the book! Liberty to be who you are meant to be, liberty to have freedom of religion, and liberty to live life free!

    I was provided a complimentary copy of the book from the author/publisher via Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  15. Sarah C

    This book is beautifully written. The alternating timeline was well-done and only made me more curious to know how Alix got from point A to point B.

  16. Kendall Hoxsey

    I have never read a Karen Ullo novel before and this knocked my socks off! Her writing is immensely descriptive and lyrical. I’ve studied the French Revolution but this was the first historical fiction novel that truly made me ‘feel’ the anguish and terror that such a revolution wrought upon its people. There is a small amount of romance but it is not the main focus of the novel. Rather the heroine’s journey from a life of privilege to what it means to stay alive and maintain your faith and dignity during an inhuman period. For anyone interested in the French Revolution I highly recommend this novel. Ullo will truly transport you and evoke a depth of emotion not always achieved by authors.
    Disclaimer: I requested an ARC from the publisher and author. All opinions are my own.

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