I read Michele Phoenix's In Broken Places last Spring. That story made me want to cry, and it made me laugh, and it reminded me that Love is vital to life itself.
I wonder why I waited so long to pick up Tangled Ashes.
As you probably know, this is two stories in one. Or, to be more accurate, it is one story's beginning and it comes full circle to a revelation of truth.
It all revolves around a castle/manor in Lamorlaye France. This building is as old as the Middle Ages and as young as yesterday, and the walls have seen many faces and the floors supported many feet.
During WWII, this place was used as a Lebensborn, essentially a Nazi baby factory. Pregnant mistresses of elite SS men where housed there in comfort and care until they delivered their child, and then were sent on their way while the child was appropriated by a proper German couple.
It was all done in the service of the Reich. We get to see the repulsive strangeness of using new life and birth to further Hitler's agenda, of separating mother from child and encouraging men to father as many Nazi children as possible, through the eyes of two young girls.
Marie and Elise were French teenagers who needed money to help out at home. Now their work at the Lebensborn marks them traitors to their own people, and any hint of disloyalty to the Germans will cause harm to those they love.
Flash-forward to the modern day. Becker, a brilliant, alcoholic architect, is being exiled by his partner to complete a project in France.
Beck knows that sending him to a foreign country to restore a castle was intended as a type of intervention. He intends to have none of it.
He expects to be inconvenienced, but he has no idea how infuriating and maddening it will all be.
From Therese, the interior designer who may be old-maid-ish but who has a core of steel - to Mr. Fallon "Beck, my lad!" who owns the place and wants it looking lovely in time for his wife's 40th birthday - to the enigmatic Jade who works as the Fallon children's nanny - to Jojo, an elderly squatter on the property... they're all there for a reason known only to themselves.
Beck doesn't want them to care about him, and he doesn't expect to care about them.
This is a novel about a place (a place the author loves) and about the stories that such a place has lived through.
This is also a novel about people, and how every person has an inner world, a secret garden, that you can walk right by and miss noticing over and over again.
I honestly can't believe how much I learned from this book! Historical fiction is my favorite genre for such books as these. And when you add in the fact that this is a Christian book, it really doesn't get much better than a book like this!
This is the first book I have ever read by Michele Phoenix, but I hope it won't be the last. She added so many fantastic elements to this book that I could safely say she included something for everyone. She added a little romance, a little mystery, some 3-dimensional characters, solid Christian principles, and of course a good chunk of history. She writes with such passion and detail that you just can't get bored. I appreciated the fact that she went back and forth between WWII and modern times, and this only made the story more interesting for me.
If you love historical fiction like I do, I honestly believe you will enjoy this book. Don't be put off by the religious overtones. Phoenix handles this perfectly and with great sensitivity. This is one of the best WWII historical fiction books I have ever read!
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
I can tell you this: This book was not what I expected.
Anything World War II will instantly hits my radar and I'm especially intrigued by the history of German occupied countries. As I mentioned, it just isn't what I expected.
In Tangled Ashes, MichÃ¨le Phoenix weaves together a story of secrets, mystery and family. It kept me going because the mystery was far too intriguing to stop reading. What's Beck hiding? What happened from the prologue? And who is the mysterious person roaming the land?
As the story unfolded, not only did you see how it affected the characters lives, you gained insight into some different stories of WWII.
***Below is only one spoiler (if you can call it that, but it felt right to tell you guys)***
Now that part I didn't expect? Becker. It took me awhile to like Becker, and I still don't know if I like him. Every time he did something jerkish I wanted to yell "BRO, QUIT BEING A BUTT FACE!" Yes, Internet I just wrote that.
I would have liked the story to continue as well. Becker was slowly changing and I wish I could have seen more of that. It left a lot open (which I think was the intent), and since I usually prefer more closure, it was unexpected. But even with some of the story left untold, it's an intriguing tale of the present and the mysterious past colliding.
I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to others. The characters were quite unique and the storyline was very different from any other books I've read. I would certainly read more books written by Michelle Phoenix.
This fabulous mystery opens with a prologue: German soldiers guard a fire of burning documents while others watch the castle grounds as a girl grabs a baby, wraps her in a blanket and sheet and lowers her out a window, then jumps to the ground below. In Chapter 1 a business partner tells his friend Beck that for his own good, Beck must go to France to restore a castle in time for the 40th birthday party of Mrs. Fallon, his boss's wife. This contract might open doors to numerous other projects. To his horror Beck learns when he gets to France that he has 11 weeks to renovate a 12th century castle with high ceilings, ornate molding, ancient wallpaper, hardwood floors, some rotten boards, and a urine stench, as well as strange things happening. That night urine stench made Beck sleep in the hallway to be woken in the morning by a boy and girl followed by a lady he assumed was Mrs. Fallon, but was their nanny, Jade. Beck also had to work with Therese, an interior designer, who showed him around the castle. Unfortunately, Therese didn't supervise well the men installing a satellite dish, and a carved limestone cornice was destroyed when it broke off and fell, much to Beck's horror. He needed alcohol to ease the frustration he experienced. At night he woke hearing keening. He finds pipes in the wrong place, rat pups dead, and trash searched. He has horrible nightmares. A well is destroyed. As the modern renovation story proceeds, there are chapters in italics that tell what happened years ago at the castle as two young French girls, Maria and Elise, work for the Germans at the castle to get food and money for their families. They are stunned when pregnant girls arrive, and Elise questions Karl, the young German soldier she'd met. Karl tells her women come to deliver special Aryan babies to give to Hitler. Although Marie warns Elise not to be infatuated by Karl, she's determined, goes to a ball with him and gets pregnant. Why was there so much damage at the castle and who was doing it? Why did Beck leave the 40th birthday party early? What caught on fire? What frustrated Fallon and Beck's rescue plans? How did Jojo help? Who was rescued? What happened to Elise? What happened to Marie? What did Jojo tell them he learned from his long wait to meet his daughter? What caused the fire in the stable that nearly killed Therese? What did Beck urge Jade to do when he was leaving? Why is the title appropriate?