Sue Ingalls Finan: The Cards Don’t Lie



Author Sue Ingalls Finan talks with Big Blend Radio about her debut novel, “The Cards Don’t Lie,” that was inspired by the contributions of citizens during the Battle of New Orleans.

Three hundred years ago, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded the Crescent City along the banks of the Mississippi River. Not even 100 years after its founding, the city of New Orleans experienced the battle of a century, when Major General Andrew Jackson won a decisive victory at New Orleans, the last major engagement in the War of 1812. But this period in American history was about more than the birth of cities and battles against the British.

In her new novel “The Cards Don’t Lie,” historical fiction writer Sue Ingalls Finan gives voice to the marginalized stories of this period in American history, showcasing the diversity of our country’s most unique city. Borrowing from real-life accounts from women during the Battle of New Orleans, Finan tells of three women essential to the city’s defense: Catherine, a free woman of color, voodoo priestess and noted healer personally summoned by General Andrew Jackson; Marguerite, a pampered Creole plantation mistress prone to out-of-body experiences; and Millie, a plucky, patriotic prostitute inspired by her pirate lover to serve in the most dangerous capacity of all.

All readers, no matter their gender, will love Finan’s novel for its heroism and hope in the face of brutality, and its stories of love and connection in the face of betrayal.

“This portion of American history is not well-known, and through my research, I found fascinating  information about the females of the city and their contributions to the battle,” Finan said. “And besides being involved in the political agenda, their lifestyles were also captivating, which added intrigue to the subplots.”

The overall theme is overcoming the odds, not only with the city’s battles against the mighty British army but also each woman’s personal struggles with loss, betrayal, and courage. The tones vary, adjusting to the situation, and can often be deduced by the revelations of each chapter’s tarot card. Andrew Jackson’s portrayal is always forceful, confident and assertive, whereas the battle scenes are solemnly true to history. Millie’s scenes are occasionally playful, Marguerite’s are often impassioned, and Catherine’s are pensive. The conclusion is optimistic, again displaying the exuberant characteristics of the city’s people.   

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