Love, War, and History Come Together in “Sister Marguerite and the Captain”
by James Coulter
Sister Marguerite lived a quiet and uneventful life at her convent in the French countryside during the mid-1700s. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she travels to New France (Quebec) and the country is beset by war.
The gallant Captain Antoine Dauphin first enters her life on her overseas voyage but continues through the war. A remarkable turn of events leads her to become a spy for General George Washington, and both she and the Captain must work together to unfurl the evil schemes of a treacherous predator.
“Will they keep their promises to God and country? Will their love conquer all? You’re in suspense until you turn the very last page, in this compelling story of love, war, betrayal, and sin,”the book summary on Amazon reads.
“Sister Margarite and the Captain” is the second historical novel written by Sebring resident Mark Barie. This local author always loved history, but his love became a passion when his wife, an expert genealogist, revealed that one of his ancestors fought in the Civil War.
“My wife came into the living room one day and told me that my great, great grandfather fought in the Civil War,” Barie said. “I found a diary of a man he served with, and that inspired me. I then discovered that I had ancestors in all of the major wars.”
Barie’s ancestors, who first came to the United States on the Mayflower, fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, and the first World War.
These revelations heightened his interest in history and triggered his current trilogy on love and war. Originally from upstate New York, Barie initially collaborated with his wife on several local history books.
“But I am a romantic at heart,” he said. “And I always loved history. Those two things prompted the series on love and war.”
He published his first historical novel, “War Calls, Love Cries,”three years ago. The story combines romance with adventure, detailing the romantic struggles of a young maiden and her love triangle with a soldier and his brother amidst the Civil War.
His debut novel more than exceeded initial expectations. It won national and international recognition. He received a gold medal from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association for Historical Fiction and was designated a Finalist in the prestigious Eric Hoffer book awards.
“It was my first effort at historical fiction,” he said. “I was deeply honored.”
Barie credits his success to meticulous research. “A writer of historical fiction must carefully balance fiction with history, ensuring that the finer details are historically accurate,” said Barie. That attention to detail often requires a detailed review of 40 to 50 history books and countless articles for research.
His most recent novel involves both real and fictional characters. Although his main character, Sister Margarite, was created for the story, real-life nuns did set up a convent in Quebec during that period. Another one of his real-life heroes was French General Louis Joseph de Montcalm, who died in battle and was buried in the crater of a fallen artillery shell.
“Even though it is historical fiction, a good author is obligated to stay true to history,” he said. “That requires a great deal of research. It takes me a year and a half to write a good book.”
“Sister Margarite and the Captain” took 16 months to write. The current COVID-19 crisis afforded the author plenty of free time to finish the story and still accomplish a series of speaking engagements
Currently, he is 47,000 words into writing his third novel. Set during the War of 1812, the story involves a young tomboy who decides to take on a man’s identity and enlist in the navy. She ends up on the “Saratoga”, Commodore McDonough’s flag ship during the Battle of Plattsburgh.
Growing up, Barie loved to read and write. He would read almost anything, and that would inspire him to write almost anything. Both his love of history and writing has now culminated into a passion for historical fiction.
“I love to write,” he said. “I’ve always loved to write. I would read voraciously as a child and all through school and college—initially, because my parents could not afford to fix our black and white television set.”
“Sister Margarite and the Captain” is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For signed copies and Barie’s complimentary newsletter, visit his website at: https://www.markbarie.com
Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Barie’s historical novel:
“Why are you here?” asked Sister Marguerite.
The nun’s head swiveled nervously as she looked about the courtyard. In her mind, everyone stared at the Novitiate and her male visitor. A Captain in the French army no less. It was too scandalous for her to contemplate. In fact, when she first learned about Antoine’s arrival, Sister Marguerite refused to leave her cell, in the convent. Antoine, too, refused to leave, and Mother Superior intervened, once again.
“Go, and tell the Captain, goodbye,” she ordered.
Antoine announced the purpose of his visit.
“I leave in three days. We are off to war,” he said.
Sister Marguerite studied his solemn face. Her anxious look disappeared, replaced with genuine concern that her gallant friend might never return.
“You will not be alone. The Lord is with you, always.” she said.
He motioned to a nearby bench, hewn from rock, and further away from the other visitors. She hesitated.
“Please?” he begged.
They sat on opposite ends, eyes straight ahead. He spoke softly.
“The Lord may be with me but it is you that I think of, day and night, without relief.”
She jerked her head in his direction and jumped to her feet.
“Captain Dauphin. You must not speak to me in this manner. I am married to our Lord and Savior,” she said, retreating several steps away from the still seated Captain.
He rose to his feet and reached for her hands. Her entire body spasmed and she stepped further away.
“Can a man deny his own heart?” he asked.
“I pray that you will be safe, Captain Dauphin. But I do not pray for your return.”
As she walked away, Antoine watched the gray habit float across the stone-covered courtyard and disappear behind two large wooden doors.