“We are made to be connected – to be intertwined with others. We are made for belonging. Unless we have that – unless we allow that – we have nothing,” one of Michele Phoenix’s characters explains in her novel, "Tangled Ashes." At three hundred and seventy-one pages, this paperback book has a young woman with a large castle in the background on the front cover. With the book having no profanity or overtly sexual scenes, the topics of alcohol abuse, abortion, prostitution and pregnancy may be appropriate for a more mature teenager or adult who is interested in a romantic story about World War II and renovating a French castle. There are minor conversations about God, faith and Christianity in the story and in the discussion questions at the end of the book. This tome is a tragic love story in more ways than one that flashes back and forth between decades at a French castle through italicize and normal print. Young teen Marie is a French girl in the small town of Lamorlaye that earns her keep at the Nazi occupied Meunier manor with her friend Elsie. When Elsie falls in love with a German stable boy, she must decide where her loyalties lie while Marie is forced to make the ultimate promise during the end of the war. Meanwhile in current times, Becker is a well-established American architect whose partner has arranged for him to renovate the well-worn castle for a client’s wife’s fortieth birthday party. Due to his tumultuous past, Becker has a problem with anger and drinking both professionally and personally. When Becker arrives at the mansion to start work, Jade, a young but fragile woman who watches the client’s two twin six year olds, derails and pines away Becker’s emotional shell as she struggles with her own insecurities. At the same time, the strange JoJo, who has squatter rights to the nearby carriage house, has been showing up at the most unusual times while Therese, the refined interior designer, makes a fuss and flurry over the chateau’s past and present arrangements. Will Marie be able to handle her promise to Elise? Will Becker break away from the bottle long enough to help himself and support Jade in finding her inner strength? Will JoJo find the answer he has been waiting for years while Therese deals with acceptance? Although the ending can be easily determined about half way through the novel, the author writes with such descriptive detail of the castle’s comings and goings both during World War II and when it is renovated that one is captivated in the romantic but heart-rending storyline. This review will be posted on http://www.bookpleasures.com and http://www.amazon.com.
Marshall 'Beck' Becker has arrived in Lamorlaye, France. Overseeing the remodel of a Renaissance-era castle hadn't exactly been his idea - or his choice. When it turns out that he has a mere eleven weeks to execute this miracle, he considers executing his partner instead. If that weren't enough, Beck is saddled with a cast of curious characters: a nervous, moody interior designer; the owners, their children, and, Jude, their 'feisty' nanny; and a mysterious gatehouse resident. And his own, personal demons. There is more to this book than one man battling alcoholism and painful memories. Interspersed with Beck's story is a history of Lamorlaye: the lives of two local girls, working at the castle during the Nazi occupation. When Beck starts hearing strange noises in the night and vandalism plagues the reconstruction, is the strange man in the gatehouse responsible? Or is a monstrous past haunting the castle? Well-written and rich with details, this is a serious page-turner. What impressed and fascinated me the most are the truths behind the fiction. ChÃ teau de Lamorlaye exists and was occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War. While records were destroyed by the fleeing Germans, the account of the Lebensborn program is based in fact. Add in that the author lived and went to school in Lamorlaye, at the castle, and the fine line between fiction and history blurs. In the capable hands of Ms. Phoenix, the novel fascinates, amazes, and shocks the sensibilities. Although somewhat unexpected, in hindsight, there could have been no other ending. This is a story that will stay with you, long after you turn the final page.