The Laced Chameleon
The year is 1862 in New Orleans, and newly married Francesca Dumas witnesses the death of her husband Joachim. Francesca is troubled with what to do next since she is a quadroon and has not been manumitted. Her only freedom, thus far, has come through a plaçage arrangement, a union between a white man and woman of color. Amid her precarious circumstances, she determines to avenge Joachim’s murder and undertakes her own investigations. Francesca’s investigations come to the attention of Major Stone, who hires her as an undercover agent to spy on Confederate sympathizers. She agrees to the position only if she is able to complete her private investigations. It is a matter of time whether or not Francesca will complete her missions, as well as gain her freedom.
Rising author Bob Rogers takes readers back to the early years of the Civil War. His third novel may be a work of fiction, but as he states, “the mores, economic and social options of women of color depicted in New Orleans, and historic events of 1862 are real.” Rogers’ impressive nonfiction cast, which includes New Orleans political, military, and religious figures, various artists, and entrepreneurs of that era, are surrounded by a host of fictional characters, including the protagonist of his story, Francesca Dumas. Francesca is undoubtedly a dynamic character. She is beautiful and intelligent, yet naive. In order to survive, Francesca often refers to Alexander Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo and wonders “What would Edmond Dantes do?” Francesca also utters prayers for strength and direction that begin with, ” Mary Mother of God,…” These repetitions woven throughout the narrative are a constant reminder that Francesca needs all the help she can get to beat the societal odds. But her help does not stop there.
Rogers’ well-developed characters include of host of highly skilled yet still enslaved African Americans as well as aristocratic Yankees (whites) who serendipitously come to Francesca’s aid. Great examples are Edna and her excellent cooking skills and wise advice; the dazing gown that Emily’s parents made for Francesca to wear to the octoroon and quadroon ball; Sarah Butler and her influence to help Francesca and her enslaved friends; and Major Stone, who hired her to sleuth. Chapters are replete with Francesca’s many encounters with friends and her ongoing investigations that at times are juxtaposed with Joachim’s murderer and Emily, his captive. Rogers balances his narrative by incorporating lighthearted and comedic moments, especially as Francesca and her friends plan for Francesca to outwit condescending aristocrats, such as Edouard and Maria Buisson.
The Laced Chameleon is a highly recommended read that incorporates a strong element of truth in that readers cannot and should not overlook. Rogers succinctly captures it when he states, “In America, race matters. Within the artificial construct of race, color and class have mattered for centuries, and still matter today.”
|Page Count||256 pages|
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