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.
Thank you Howard Books for my review copy!