The Secret of the Château
Everything is about to change…
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…
Author Bio –
She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway.
Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers. After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019. When she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.
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As a fan of historical fiction and Kathleen McGurl, I had super high hopes, and was not disappointed. I loved the dual timeline, especially The French Revolution aspect. Combining the story of the family Aubert with the adventure of the British retirees made for a fascinating read, connecting the past and the present through the château in the Alpes-Maritime and the village it overlooked.
The story of the Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais begins at the Palace of Versailles, as members of the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoniette. As the Revolution takes a hold, Pierre and Catherine flee to his family castle and live a relatively quiet life, raising children, and supporting their tenants and the villagers alike. When revolutionary forces move out of Paris in search of Louis’s supporters, the family is placed in danger again. Someone has betrayed them, and they must flee to safety once more.
If only it were so simple. Baying crowds descend upon the château before they are ready to leave. Will they make it to safety? What becomes of the castle?
In alternating chapters (between the events of the 1780s), the author tells the tale of five Brits looking to start a new life together as retirement beckons. During a boozy evening together, the idea is raised about clubbing together to buy a place in France. Was it an alcohol-fueled pipedream, or could it become a reality? One member of the group, Lu, is less enthusiastic than the others but does not want to be the one to shatter everyone’s dreams. And so, the château is purchased. With its many rooms, outlying buildings and towers, there’s a lot of work to be done, but they get stuck in and start renovating. It’s not until Lu’s son Tom comes for a visit that the window without a room is spotted. Lu’s intrigue is piqued. While her husband tends to the garden with his new pet goat, she starts to research the castle. As they settle into their new life, the secrets of the château are gradually revealed.
The opulence of the French Court and the exceptionalism of the nobility is set against the poverty and anger of the working classes. In the modern setting, the village is harmonious and beautifully depicted. The story explodes at great pace, keeping the history alive as the modern-day residents delve further into what might have happened to the castle’s original owners.
If you love a touch of history with your mystery, then this is the book for you. The pages fly by as each chapter reveals a new layer to the characters and their stories.
Another winner for me from Kathleen McGurl.
Thanks to NetGalley, Rachel’s Random Resources and HarperCollins for a review copy which I have reviewed willingly and honestly.
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