Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Review of Chateau of Secrets

Here's a description of the book from Howard Books:

"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.

Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau 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 château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while 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, Gisèle’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 floored—her 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."

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

With my preference for a good dose of sweet romance in a book, it's a sign of wonderful writing when a story can engage me despite the fact that the romance doesn't really kick in for a while. Not to worry - it's certainly there in Melanie Dobson's latest, fellow romance fans! In fact, it comes in a double dose, but perhaps isn't as prevalent due to all the intriguing and devastating history and situations that rightly consume the characters' (and reader's) attention.

The first chapters introduce us to relatable heroines while setting them up for difficult times, and I was caught up in all of the uncertainty and dilemmas and danger. In the end, it's hard to say which story line interested me more: the historical (WWII) or the contemporary. Both had me curious for their own reasons.

While I'm a big fan of historical fiction, I really liked reading the contemporary plot. I think the first-person POV, as well as Chloe's internal battles regarding her future and the fact that it's in my own time, made me feel more invested in her story. I just wished for more...not necessarily in terms of word count, but just more depth to the latter portion of her scenes and relationships. I wouldn't have minded a bit more emphasis on the developing romance in this section. But the focal point seemed to be the past and how it reached into the present, and overall, I really was pleased with how things turned out.

As for the historical line, the third-person POV - in contrast to the first-person for the contemporary - created a bit more of a disconnect. That's not necessarily such a bad thing, though, as the different tenses help in making the voices of the alternating settings and scenes clear. I really appreciated the honesty in the characters' struggles as they tried to live out their faith in a time where its application seemed hazy and they didn't always know the best thing to do.

Chateau of Secrets harbors mystery, a tangle of secrets both past and present, and characters seeking light in painful and all-too-real situations. Dobson writes with skill, understanding, and heart, and I'm quite impressed by this bold offering.

*With thanks to the author and Howard Books for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

4 comments:

Christy said...

These "past-present" books are some of my favorites, so I'll have to give Melanie's newest a try. I've never been disappointed with anything she's written! :)

Amber Stokes said...

Christy,

The back-and-forth, if done well, really is engaging! It offers a contemporary connection while satisfying the love of historical fiction. :) One that I remember really finding intriguing was Susan Meissner's The Shape of Mercy. I'll have to re-read that one someday!

I think you'd really enjoy this one. It's very good, and Melanie is a talented author, for sure! Thanks so much for stopping by, Christy. :)

~Amber

Kara said...

You've definitely intrigued me! Past/present stories are fun to read and this one sounds great. *off to find a copy* :)

Amber Stokes said...

Kara,

Oh, yay! I hope you enjoy it. :) Due to the historical time period (and even the premise of the contemporary plot), it's a more serious read, but there are some sweet moments and mystery - plus, it's just very well constructed. Happy reading!

~Amber