The Chateau on the Lake

Written by Charlotte Betts
Review by Val Loh

The date is 1792, and the French Revolution is at its height. Madeleine Moreau has lived a sheltered life teaching at her parents’ Academy for Young Ladies in London. Her father’s family is shrouded in mystery, but she knows he came from near Fontainebleau. Tragedy strikes when her parents die and she makes a decision to travel into France to search for her relatives. When an acquaintance, the Comte Etienne d’Aubrey, offers to accompany her, she eventually takes up temporary residence at his home, Chateau Mirabelle. The chateau is a place with many hidden secrets.

This is a romantic story set against the cruelty of the French Revolution. It is a time when everyone fears for their life. However, the politics of the country are complex, with war having been declared, and the injustice of the tax system. The author manages to show the politics from both sides. It explores the peasants’ desire for equality and their poverty, whilst the nobles wish to keep their beautiful affluent homes that have been in their families for generations.

There are a number of well-drawn and engaging characters: the two love rivals for Madeleine’s affection, one a man of noble blood, the other his friend; Sophie, who is Madeleine’s close friend; and the unpleasant and pompous mayor. At times, the book has a very gentle pace, reflecting Madeleine’s growth of character as her adventure begins, and her contentment in her new life, but it quickens, leading the reader to a clever twist, as she uncovers the secrets of the past and her love for the future. The book is an enjoyable and gripping read, impeccably researched, which presents some interesting insights into this very violent period of history.