About The Sworn Virgin
Hardcover: 352 pages
Published: August 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
Dukes’s gripping historical novel tells the tale of a desperate Albanian woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her independence and seize control of her future…even if it means swearing to remain a virgin for her entire life.
When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria.
Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing.
But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him…
“It’s hard to believe that the culture Dukes describes was ever real, but the amount of research she put into this book definitely shines through. The story remains fascinating throughout; readers will definitely find it difficult to put this novel down.”—San Francisco Book Review
About Kristopher Dukes
Kristopher Dukes was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has been a nationally published writer since she was in high school. Her work has been featured in the bestselling book series Written in the Dirt and fashion bible WWD. She has been profiled in Vogue.fr, NY Times.com, Fast Company, Forbes.com, and WWD. The Sworn Virgin is her debut novel. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California, with her husband, Matt, and Doberman, Xena.
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Eleanora meant for each day to be an adventure, whether she traveled on foot or merely in her mind.
I just love that quote from the beginning of the book. It shows the person Eleanora could have been, should have been, and maybe would have been if her life had been different.
I’ve been really excited to read The Sworn Virgin ever since signing up for the blog tour a few months ago. I haven’t read a good historical fiction in a while, but it’s a genre I typically enjoy quite a bit. The idea of Eleanora’s story was right up my alley – a woman who swears herself a virgin in order to escape a terrible marriage, who then (of course) falls in love. But, I was also a little skeptical. It’s easy for that kind of story to go horribly wrong. And while I won’t go that far, though I enjoyed it, ultimately The Sworn Virgin left me wanting more.
My biggest beef was the pacing. The first 50 or so pages dragged so slowly for me. There’s a lot of exposition that’s important, but there’s also a lot that isn’t. That said, once the story finally got going, staying engaged was easy.
I didn’t like Eleanora, exactly, but I rooted for her. She struck me as sort of an unlikeable Cinderella at first – spoiled by her father, then has her whole life turned upside down by his death. (Without the singing animals, of course!) In fact, let’s talk about Eleanora for a minute. She’s only 18 years old in the story, but it’s really easy to forget that and think she’s older. Often I caught myself rolling my eyes at her or thinking she was ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time she WAS being ridiculous, but that’s a lot easier to accept – and forgive – when you remind yourself she’s 18.
Back to the pacing, I thought Eleanora’s interactions with Cheremi were entirely too rushed. Dukes spent a lot of time building up Eleanora as this semi-self-reliant, strong-willed sworn virgin, only to rush through her transition into “woman/wife.” For me, that created a distinct lack of tension that felt at odds with the rest of the story. I also struggled to see Cheremi as a love interest, and never truly cared about their relationship. The conflict resolved hastily, and in my mind, left a lot of loose ends (what happened to Meria!?). I do have to give Dukes credit for her ending though – while in a way it felt like the book just sorta stopped, I also think the ending worked.
I’m glad I read The Sworn Virgin. I enjoyed getting back into the historical fiction realm!
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Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Wave for the chance to participate in this tour!