Review: The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl

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1789. Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais, have fled the palace of Versailles for their château, deep in the French Alps. But as revolution spreads through the country, even hidden away the Auberts will not be safe forever. Soon they must make a terrible decision in order to protect themselves, and their children, from harm.

Present day. When Lu’s mother dies leaving her heartbroken, the chance to move to a château in the south of France with her husband and best friends seems an opportunity for a new beginning. But Lu can’t resist digging into their new home’s history, and when she stumbles across the unexplained disappearance of Catherine Aubert, the château begins to reveal its secrets – and a mystery unsolved for centuries is uncovered…

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and HQ Digital          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Lu and her husband have been friends with the same trio for many, many years and as the group has begun to age, each has also begun to think about their respective future.  One night, after entirely too much wine and conversation, the group collectively decides to sell everything they can’t live without and buy a wonderful new home, big enough for all of them and their grown children, in the heart of France. 

Of the group, Lu is the most hesitant, yet she sees how truly happy everyone else is with the plan so resolves to make her way and make the best of the monumental change in her life.  Upon reaching France, Lu finds settling in to be more difficult than she imagined.  As her friends begin to find their way, find new hobbies, and new interests, Lu struggles to find her place.  That all changes when Lu and her son find an unexpected mystery in the great tower.  As one thing leads to another, Lu finds herself wrapped in research and taken back several centuries to the late 18th century.  Lu’s discoveries will not only solve the mystery of the tower, but it will also lay to rest many questions related to local history and legend.

Lu’s research takes her back to the time of the original owners, Pierre and Catherine Aubert.  The Aubert’s, once welcomed and loved members of the French court, found it necessary in the wake of revolution to escape to their home in the French Alps.  While their escape is initially successful, Pierre and Catherine are members of the aristocracy and the revolution is raging on.  Though they both hope they are far enough from Paris to remain undetected, each knows their escape and existence could be discovered at any moment.  As Catherine goes about her days hoping for a return to the splendor and grandeur of Paris, Pierre secretly works out plans for their escape from France should the need arise. 

Though their lives aren’t perfect, Pierre and Catherine do find some measure of peace in their chateau.  Catherine bears their children and manages the house while Pierre maintains the laborers and lands attached to the chateau.  For a time, the two are blissfully happy, but all good things must come to an end and before Catherine can even wrap her head around the danger, Pierre is ordering her to safety in the face of invasion.

Back in the present, Lu becomes somewhat engrossed in her research and what she uncovers is disturbing.  The fate of the Aubert’s and their descendants has largely been lost to history, but Lu is like a dog with a bone and she refuses to give up on her task.  As she works, she discovers great and terrible secrets as well as parts of the chateau and surrounding property that have been forgotten in the interceding centuries.  What Lu brings to light doesn’t just inform she and her housemates, but the community as a whole. 

The Bottom Line:  I quite liked this read and while I usually gravitate toward the historical side of these types of books, this time I found myself more completely enjoying the present.   Lu and her friends and their various activities really bring the setting to life in this book and I found that to be the most enjoyable bits of reading.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the bits in the past because I most certainly did.  The crashing together of the past and the present is always one of my favorite genres and in this instance, I was not let down.  This is a hard thing for an author to do properly and if it isn’t done properly, the whole read is a failure.  The blending here is excellent, and the transitions are smooth.  In all, a fine read.

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