This book combines a contemporary inspirational plotline and World War II via two stories that come together at the end. The current-day story is about Marshall Becker, an unlikable alcoholic bully who is a contractor/architect. Subcontractors won’t work with him anymore in Connecticut, so his partner sends him to Lamorlaye, France, to renovate a castle and perhaps turn his life around. In France, Jade, an evangelical nanny to the castle owner’s children, stands up to Becker, but in a kind way.
Chapters in all italics tell Marie’s World War II story. Marie is a housemaid for the Nazis at a Lebensborn in Lamorlaye, where SS out-of-wedlock babies are born. The infants are then sent to Germany to be raised in Nazi households. Marie’s closest friend, also a maid, falls for a Nazi soldier, something that seems unlikely to end well.
Author Phoenix has a good feel for Lamorlaye. She grew up the daughter of evangelical missionaries there. On their way to finding wholeness, Phoenix’s characters reject the Catholic Church, agreeing it offers only a “secondhand connection [to God].” Being offended by fictional characters’ biases is silly, but if the prejudice feels like it comes from the author, that’s different. Another challenge is that Phoenix often tells what she’s already shown, so the book is longer than it needs to be. The characters’ ages at the denouement are also hard to believe. In the book’s favor, the castle owner’s wife has memorably loving advice, and Jade is a strong, likable character. Her scenes with the children are really well done.