I really don't want to admit this, but I put off reading Chateau of Secrets. I looked at the cover and the plot and I thought, Nope. Don't ask me why, I just didn't think I'd connect with this story. I was very wrong.
I ended up soaking in this book over a period of time that was quite sad, with my Grammy in the hospital. I really needed a reminder that no matter how broken, tough, and dark the day might be, our own Author delights in good endings. (Not easy, bloodless, tearless, painless, but GOOD.)
This novel reminded me of that.
Basic Plot: Chloe Sauver is nine weeks away from marrying the man she's given her whole heart to. Other than a few small blips on the radar, everything seems just right. Then the offer/request comes out of the blue: Chloe, come to France, to your ancestral home, and tell us about your grandmother Gisele's involvement in WWII. Come to the Chateau L'Epines, and help us film a documentary.
Through circumstances you'll just have to read about, Chloe ends up on that plane, with bags packed and life in a whirlwind.
Her co-adventurer is Riley Holtz, the documentary filmmaker. He's a guy who looks like the last thing Chloe needs. When she looked him up online, she saw photos that suggested an inflated ego and a devotion only to partying. The Riley she meets has a whole different aura.
Melanie, Riley's story tied so well into Chloe's, and you brought them both into a lovely resolution. It had me teary. His life story, and the way he revealed it, added so much more depth and transformation. Riley and Chloe are bound for a spot on my Favorite Characters 2014 List.
Grandmother Gisele's life also comes into sharp focus- a brother in the French Resistance, a baby that needs loving arms and a new last name, and circumstances that force you to decide what you can lose and still live. I mean literally keep alive, and also live with yourself.
As in all good past-meets-present novels, Chloe finds perspective and fresh courage when she encounters Gisele's life. Gisele was truly devoted to protecting her loved ones, and keeping true to God and country.
Gisele and for Chloe both worked on something bigger than themselves, learning to make choices that will give tomorrow a chance for hope and as much healing as possible for themselves and others.
I also loved the presence of the Church in this novel, both the old chapel and those who sought sanctuary there. Well done in crafting a story that handles faith in the best way possible. I'm proud of Howard Books for publishing novels that touch the ragged edges of life, and the ragged edges of Jesus robe, and reach for both reverently.
Reading this story was like seeing a puzzle put together. At first, it was all tumbled in front of me, offering glimpses of beauty and lots of unanswered questions. As more of the picture developed I found myself leaning into the story, eagerly watching it come together.
Right off, I was drawn in to the story of these two characters, Gisele and Chloe, whose genuine and sensitive nature pop off the page, making you identify with them both, the feelings of loyalty and wanting to be loved, the fear of being lost and the uncertainty of sometimes having to live each day without assurance of the future, I loved author Melanie's way of describing the scenes so that I felt I was right there, in France.
The chapters are short enough that the hopping back and forth between the two timelines isn't too difficult. There were times I found myself wanting more before jumping to the other storyline but all in all, I enjoyed the rhythm of the story and connecting the characters lives.
Melanie does a fantastic job weaving an underlying theme of redemption and hope even in the midst of two unimaginable trials... WWII and a relationship betrayal, and the terrible challenge of choosing how to survive in the war. I hardly felt able to pass judgement toward the characters where their compromises are shown (Lisette and Josef Milch).
Every once in a while a book comes along that I think would make an intriguing movie. Chateau of Secrets is one of those books. Not only is the story full of twists and turns, but it also contains a piece of history that isn't widely known. During World War II there were a group of Jewish men that fought in the Germany army. They had many reasons to do so. Some were forced into service and some volunteered in an effort to save their loved ones.
Another thing that sets this historical fiction book apart from others is the way the story unfolds. Chapter by chapter the reader is taken from the present then back into the past. As modern day Chloe is discovering the secrets of her family at the ChÃÂ¢teau d'Epines in one chapter, then the tale of her grandmother GisÃÂ¨le during the German occupation is playing out in the next chapter. This made the story read like a fast-paced suspense thriller.
The most amazing thing about this book was that it was loosely based on the real life story of Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke. It is completely plausible to think of this story as a work of fiction, but to understand that someone actually went through and survived all that this novel contains is just mind blowing. I enjoyed reading all of the follow up notes about the story at the end of the book just as much as the novel itself.
What struck me the most about this account is how much we really don't even know about our own stories. Vague memories that we have as children may have one meaning to us, but if the truth were completely revealed it would have another meaning entirely. This story will cause you to think about how important our past is in relation to what our future will become. If you are a fan of historical fiction you are going to particularly like this one!
I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Melanie Dobson in her new book, "Chateau Of Secrets" published by Howard Books takes us into the lives of GisÃÂ¨le Duchant and Chloe Sauver.
From the back cover: A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family's abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past.
GisÃÂ¨leDuchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family's medievalchateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler's army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.But when German soldiers take over the family's chÃÂ¢teau, GisÃÂ¨le is forced to host them as wellÃ¢â¬âwhile harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend's baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child.
A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, GisÃÂ¨le's granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler's army. Riley wants to research Chloe's family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is flooredÃ¢â¬âher family isn't Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn't know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover_
With emotion and intrigue, Melanie Dobson brings World War II France to life in this beautiful novel about war, family, sacrifice, and the secrets of the past.
In WWI France stopped the German Invasion at The Maginot Line. The Nazis wanted to make up for that humiliation and roared across the Maginot Line taking Paris and occupying France. For four years, fearing retribution, France willingly allowed The Occupation. Well not everyone! There were a small but brave group of individuals across France that fought against the Nazis that were called The French Resistance. Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke was a real life Resistor. Ms. Dobson has created the character of Gisele based on some of her adventures. Make no mistake this is a WWII actioner that will make your heart pound and your breath stop as you get involved in the action. Danger, action, adventure suspense thriller all rolled up in a very exciting read. Ms. Dobson has given us a story that belongs up there with the terrific movies that have come before. These are wonderful characters that live and breathe on the pages and you care deeply for them. This book does not disappoint at all. I enjoyed it and I am sure you will also.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."