• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 8, 2017)
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
HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
During the early 20th century in Albania, the Law of Lekë ruled. Women were under the strict authority of men and men could shoot each other for honor with no consequence. However, if a woman wanted to swear to live as a virgin for the rest of her life, she could live with the freedoms of a man including the style of dress, carrying a gun, and killing another man for honor. Eleanora has lived a privileged life for a young woman in a small mountain Village of Albania. She has spent most of her life traveling with her father who works as a healer. This life has given Eleanora extended freedom, a different skill set than most other women and a passion and talent for art. Eleanora's father, Francis believes he can secure a place for his daughter at an art school in Venice. While traveling, Francis is recognized and killed in the street as an honor killing. With no other choice, Eleanora makes the trip back to her village with her step-mother, Meria. Believing she is doing what's best, Meria arranges a marriage for Eleanora with Edi, a cruel man from a neighboring clan. Rather than become a subservient wife, Eleanora declares herself a sworn virgin. When an injured stranger enters their life, Eleanora fears breaking her vow.
This is an amazing story that introduced me to a culture that I knew nothing about. The writing transported me to the mountainous villages of Albania. The rich culture, vibrant landscapes, houses, food and clothing came to life for me. Eleanora's character was captivating, I loved her passion for art, her unwavering spirit and following her on her journey to find out how she can fit in. The gender roles and Eleanora's place within them was an intriguing journey that carried throughout the story. I was very interested to see if she would thrive in her role as a man when she was a sworn virgin or enjoy her role as a traditional woman. I was not surprised at the outcome. The suspense created by the many different feuds and the effects they caused on the families was very direct and created a dangerous web that Eleanora fell into which led to a very different ending than I suspected. Overall, a unique and vibrant tale about a woman's life in early 20th century Albania.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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.
Connect with her on Facebook.