This is my mother-in-law’s favorite book and she recommended it to me after I said that I had read and (mostly) enjoyed Rebecca. This is a very different book than Rebecca, which I think is something that should be said because I suspect that, like me, most people only know de Maurier from Rebecca.
As for which of these books are most representative of her canon, I do not know. The tone is the same in both, a stately and intense sense of repressed emotion. It is the subject that is the biggest difference.
In Rebecca, as you know if you’ve read it (or my earlier review of it) there is less romance than there is the ominous foreboding and mysterious ambiance that evokes something like Jane Eyre. In Frenchman’s Creek, it is a romance, almost completely uncluttered with other emotional elements.
In this book, Dona is a pampered rich aristocrat who takes her two very young children and flees London for her husband’s country estate on the coast. She is leaving because she has become bored with herself and her antics and disappointed with the choices she’s been making in her life.
Once there, she hears from the local gentry that there is a pirate that has been plaguing the coast. One night, she follows her servant into the woods and discovers the pirate’s boat. He finds her and thus begins a romance.
By the end of the book, they have engaged in active piracy together, a real plan has been formed and executed to capture the pirate and people have died terribly. She maintains the elegance of style throughout. The Gothic feel is pervasive.
It is a lovely book, and a sweet romance with more redeeming character and literary value than you normally see in romance novels.