The Lost Castle
This ambitious novel covers three time periods. The first begins during the French Revolution in Paris and in the Loire Valley with the engagement of an educated and progressive daughter of the nobility, Aveline. Although engaged to a duke’s heir and set to become the mistress of a fairy-tale castle (nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty”) and its vineyards, she questions the inequality and extreme poverty of France’s “Third Estate.” Then she is scarred in a fire set by peasants who burned much of the castle. During her recuperation, she falls in love with her fiancé’s younger and more egalitarian brother. The next and most convincing narrative concerns a young Englishwoman, “Lady” Vi, a linguist who is sent undercover to occupied France in 1944. Protected by and assisting resistance fighters who live near that same castle, she falls in love with their leader, Julien. The third story takes place in the present, when a young American, Ellie, travels to France to uncover the hidden story of her gravely ill grandmother, the same Vi, in France. There Ellie faces the stubborn opposition of the handsome young grandson of the current owner of the vineyard.
This is a complicated novel with three seemingly unrelated narratives. Even within each time period, there are unexpected, confusing flashbacks, so the reader must pay close attention to exact dates, but it does cause the story to drag in the middle. Eventually, though, the reader gets the gist of all three narratives and as expected, two of the three heroines marry the men of their dreams. No spoiler alert needed.
Much research went into this novel. While the happy, somewhat predictable outcomes live up to the fairy-tale nature of the castle, the narrative picks up with exciting action, especially during the WWII storyline. For careful readers, Francophiles and those looking for plucky heroines.