Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Book review of The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl

French Village Diaries book review The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl
The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl

The Secret of the Château by Kathleen McGurl

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…

French Village Diaries book review The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl
The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl

My review

Over dinner, five friends who met in their first week at university, now two couples, Lu and Phil, Manda and Steve, plus Gray, hatch a plan. They are all recent empty nesters and with the freedom from work and money issues they decide to sell up in the UK and buy a chateau in France together, and have fun in early retirement. At first, Lu gets swept up in everyone else’s excitement while secretly hoping one of the others will have second thoughts so the subject can return to one of ‘what-ifs’ over the dinner table. She won’t be the one though, and before she knows it, houses have been sold, years of memories are being sorted and packed, and life in France is real.

While Phil gets the gardening bug, and the others oversee the project of renovation, or get lost in rediscovering old hobbies like cycling, running and horse riding, Lu struggles to find her place in their new home. As a history teacher, it isn’t long before the mysterious tales of the last Comte and Comtesse de Verais to live in the chateau, Pierre and Catherine Aubert, are making her delve deeper into the past. 

As Lu does her best to uncover their story, we get taken back to watch events unfurl and I loved this split between life in the modern day and the past. Our time spent with Catherine and Pierre, first at the Palace of Versailles and then at their Chateau, highlights a difficult time for the noble classes of France. Catherine adores Marie-Antoinette and misses her life at court when Pierre whisks her back to the safety of the chateau. He can see the trouble ahead, but his young wife is too innocent and indulged to understand the danger they are in. Pierre never stops doing all he can to protect his wife and children, which at the end includes making some difficult decisions.

There is a lot to like in this book that gives so much more than then a new life in France novel. From the insights into a fascinating period of history, the mystery to be solved and the great fun the five friends have together as they settle into a new and different phase of life, I loved it, and the story stayed with me long after I finished the last page.

This would be a perfect holiday read, but this year it will work just as well as a great escape from lockdown.

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French Village Diaries book review The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl
Kathleen McGurl


Author Bio 

Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left home. 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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French Village Diaries book review The Secret of the Chateau by Kathleen McGurl
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