Growing up, there was this commercial for mints showing two packages of breath mints smacking against each other, while the announcer said “Two, two, two mints in one.” Reading this story reminded me of that commercial, although in my head the announcer was saying, “Two, two, two stories in one.” Tangled Ashes, indeed has two stories going on at the same time, but in two different time periods, one in the present, and the other in the 1940’s. Both are captivating stories that don’t seem to have anything to do with each other except their location. What is the connection that makes these two stories work together? I can’t tell you without destroying the ending for you, so you will just have to see for yourself.
The present day tale contains the story of architect Marshall Becker, who is an alcoholic with a past that drives him to the bottle. On the whim of his business partner, Becker is sent over to Lamorlaye, France to see to the reconstruction and refurbishment of an old castle. His partner really is sending Becker there to deal with the demons of his past and dry out from his need for alcohol. Will Becker ever find out the secret of the castle? Will he ever find out what is wrong with Jade that makes her so pale and weak? Will Becker finish the renovations on time, or will his drinking get the best of him? Who is this mysterious man, JoJo, and what is his connection to the castle?
Jade is the nanny to the two 6 year olds who belong to the castles new owner. Native to the Lamorlaye area, Jade has heard the rumors of the castle and yet she thinks the only demon roaming the halls of the castle is the architect, Marshall Becker, but she has to admit there are some strange things going on that can’t be attributed to the angry, bitter, drunk architect. Will Jade ever be able to break through that hard shell that Becker has built around himself? What is this illness that leaves her drained? Is she connected to the mystery of the castle?
Therese is the interior decorator that the owner hired to help Becker with the work. She is also familiar with the area of Lamorlaye and brings connections with her that will help them finish the castle. Although she is timid and distrusting where the castle and its mysteries are concerned, Marshall Becker has also found that Therese can be a shrill-voiced, irritating coworker, who seems to have a way of getting in good with the boss. What does Therese know about the castle that she is not telling? Will Becker get through this job without getting rid of Therese? Or will he have to suffer through with her until the end? What is it that Therese is hiding from him, and from everyone else?
The second story is from the 1940’s, during the time of the Nazi Occupation of France. Lamorlaye Castle is being used as a S.S. Headquarters and a for the Nazi “Lebensborn” program, where the Nazis were trying to create a pure race. The native townsfolk look down on the program and the Nazi occupation, so working at the castle is barely acceptable to them, but being part of their Lebensborn program is considered the same as being a traitor to the country of France. The main characters are two French maidens, Marie and Elise, who come to work for the Germans at the castle as maids. How will these girls handle their families’ attitudes toward their work? Will working for the Nazis put their lives in danger? What is the secret that forever binds Marie and Elise to Castle Lamorlaye?
I would highly recommend this book to readers. If you like historical romances or not, it will draw you in to both stories. If you like adventures or mysteries you will also like this book. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger people because of the situations that it deals with, such as having children outside of marital bliss, racist attitudes and alcoholism. I do believe that men and women will find this an interesting, even exciting read.
Michele Phoenix did a wonderful job drawing the reader into the mystery of the Castle Lamorlaye, and with making the characters come to life. There were times I wanted to yell, “Watch out!”, or give the lead character Becker a good smack to the head for his behavior especially towards the children of the owner. I felt like I was reading two books, yet I knew they connected in some way and found myself completely longing for that time to arrive the more the story unfolded. “Tangled Ashes” was well worth the read, and was like having two books in one. I really enjoyed it for how it taught me more about the period of time of the Nazi Occupation of France, and how it drew me into the mystery that connected the present day story, and the story from the past. As far as it translating in my mind to a stage script or screen play, I could fully see it on the Silver Screen as a movie, and it would be well worth the price of admission. A movie made from this book would surely garner at least one, if not more, Oscar Awards, because of the beauty of the story and the twist and turns that made the plot thicken.
Rated PG: Because of the subject matter handled, I don’t think this would be an appropriate book for young teens or children.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Thank you!