Renovating a Renaissance-era castle in France, Marshall Becker unearths a dark secret from World War II. From the virtually mute gatekeeper to the feisty nanny of the owner's children, all of the chateau's inhabitants seem to have something to hide. Will Becker solve the mystery, or will midnight disturbances and acts of vandalism dissuade him? Approx. 250 pages, softcover from Tyndale.
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I read Michele Phoenix's In Broken Places last Spring. That story made me want to cry, and it made me laugh, and it reminded me that Love is vital to life itself.
I wonder why I waited so long to pick up Tangled Ashes. As you probably know, this is two stories in one. Or, to be more accurate, it is one story's beginning and it comes full circle to a revelation of truth.
It all revolves around a castle/manor in Lamorlaye France. This building is as old as the Middle Ages and as young as yesterday, and the walls have seen many faces and the floors supported many feet.
During WWII, this place was used as a Lebensborn, essentially a Nazi baby factory. Pregnant mistresses of elite SS men where housed there in comfort and care until they delivered their child, and then were sent on their way while the child was appropriated by a proper German couple. It was all done in the service of the Reich. We get to see the repulsive strangeness of using new life and birth to further Hitler's agenda, of separating mother from child and encouraging men to father as many Nazi children as possible, through the eyes of two young girls. Marie and Elise were French teenagers who needed money to help out at home. Now their work at the Lebensborn marks them traitors to their own people, and any hint of disloyalty to the Germans will cause harm to those they love.
Flash-forward to the modern day. Becker, a brilliant, alcoholic architect, is being exiled by his partner to complete a project in France. Beck knows that sending him to a foreign country to restore a castle was intended as a type of intervention. He intends to have none of it. He expects to be inconvenienced, but he has no idea how infuriating and maddening it will all be.
From Therese, the interior designer who may be old-maid-ish but who has a core of steel - to Mr. Fallon "Beck, my lad!" who owns the place and wants it looking lovely in time for his wife's 40th birthday - to the enigmatic Jade who works as the Fallon children's nanny - to Jojo, an elderly squatter on the property... they're all there for a reason known only to themselves. Beck doesn't want them to care about him, and he doesn't expect to care about them.
This is a novel about a place (a place the author loves) and about the stories that such a place has lived through.
This is also a novel about people, and how every person has an inner world, a secret garden, that you can walk right by and miss noticing over and over again. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
I honestly can't believe how much I learned from this book! Historical fiction is my favorite genre for such books as these. And when you add in the fact that this is a Christian book, it really doesn't get much better than a book like this!
This is the first book I have ever read by Michele Phoenix, but I hope it won't be the last. She added so many fantastic elements to this book that I could safely say she included something for everyone. She added a little romance, a little mystery, some 3-dimensional characters, solid Christian principles, and of course a good chunk of history. She writes with such passion and detail that you just can't get bored. I appreciated the fact that she went back and forth between WWII and modern times, and this only made the story more interesting for me.
If you love historical fiction like I do, I honestly believe you will enjoy this book. Don't be put off by the religious overtones. Phoenix handles this perfectly and with great sensitivity. This is one of the best WWII historical fiction books I have ever read!
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
I can tell you this: This book was not what I expected.
Anything World War II will instantly hits my radar and I'm especially intrigued by the history of German occupied countries. As I mentioned, it just isn't what I expected.
In Tangled Ashes, Michèle Phoenix weaves together a story of secrets, mystery and family. It kept me going because the mystery was far too intriguing to stop reading. What's Beck hiding? What happened from the prologue? And who is the mysterious person roaming the land?
As the story unfolded, not only did you see how it affected the characters lives, you gained insight into some different stories of WWII.
***Below is only one spoiler (if you can call it that, but it felt right to tell you guys)***
Now that part I didn't expect? Becker. It took me awhile to like Becker, and I still don't know if I like him. Every time he did something jerkish I wanted to yell "BRO, QUIT BEING A BUTT FACE!" Yes, Internet I just wrote that.
I would have liked the story to continue as well. Becker was slowly changing and I wish I could have seen more of that. It left a lot open (which I think was the intent), and since I usually prefer more closure, it was unexpected. But even with some of the story left untold, it's an intriguing tale of the present and the mysterious past colliding.
This fabulous mystery opens with a prologue: German soldiers guard a fire of burning documents while others watch the castle grounds as a girl grabs a baby, wraps her in a blanket and sheet and lowers her out a window, then jumps to the ground below. In Chapter 1 a business partner tells his friend Beck that for his own good, Beck must go to France to restore a castle in time for the 40th birthday party of Mrs. Fallon, his boss's wife. This contract might open doors to numerous other projects. To his horror Beck learns when he gets to France that he has 11 weeks to renovate a 12th century castle with high ceilings, ornate molding, ancient wallpaper, hardwood floors, some rotten boards, and a urine stench, as well as strange things happening. That night urine stench made Beck sleep in the hallway to be woken in the morning by a boy and girl followed by a lady he assumed was Mrs. Fallon, but was their nanny, Jade. Beck also had to work with Therese, an interior designer, who showed him around the castle. Unfortunately, Therese didn't supervise well the men installing a satellite dish, and a carved limestone cornice was destroyed when it broke off and fell, much to Beck's horror. He needed alcohol to ease the frustration he experienced. At night he woke hearing keening. He finds pipes in the wrong place, rat pups dead, and trash searched. He has horrible nightmares. A well is destroyed. As the modern renovation story proceeds, there are chapters in italics that tell what happened years ago at the castle as two young French girls, Maria and Elise, work for the Germans at the castle to get food and money for their families. They are stunned when pregnant girls arrive, and Elise questions Karl, the young German soldier she'd met. Karl tells her women come to deliver special Aryan babies to give to Hitler. Although Marie warns Elise not to be infatuated by Karl, she's determined, goes to a ball with him and gets pregnant. Why was there so much damage at the castle and who was doing it? Why did Beck leave the 40th birthday party early? What caught on fire? What frustrated Fallon and Beck's rescue plans? How did Jojo help? Who was rescued? What happened to Elise? What happened to Marie? What did Jojo tell them he learned from his long wait to meet his daughter? What caused the fire in the stable that nearly killed Therese? What did Beck urge Jade to do when he was leaving? Why is the title appropriate?
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Review 5 for Tangled Ashes
Date:July 30, 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book. The author did a really good at making the book visual to the reader, and when ever there is a flashback the script changes to help keep you focus on present and the past.
In Tangled Ashes, Becker is an American working in France to help restore a mansion that was once used by the Nazi’s to build up the Aryan race. Volunteers would come to the mansion pregnant with babies from SS officers that would be adopted and raised by German families all in the name of Hitler. Becker is a tormented man who uses alcohol to try to escape from the pain of his past. He meets Jade, who is serves as a cook and caretaker of her employers’ children. Jade and Becker, though tending to butt heads with each other often, form a strange sort of friendship with one another as Jade tries to help Becker come to terms with his addiction. Meanwhile, Jade’s employer Therese has a secret of her own and is connected to a reclusive character named JoJo, who also has a secret he hides. As the story unfolds, the characters learn how the mansion and its history ties into Therese and JoJo’s lives. I found this book to be captivating and I really liked how the story was divided into excerpts from modern day to the past during World War 2. I also appreciated how the author added good grains of truth about God into the story.
Michele Phoenix is a new author to me, and I found out that Tangled Ashes is actually her first widely published novel. Let me tell you this, I'll be proud to be one of her first fans then! I look forward to seeing what she'll write in the future, because this was that good!
Tangled Ashes is actually two stories in one. Rather than centering on one character, the focal point of the book is Lamorlaye, a chateau in rural France. Ms. Phoenix takes the reader back and forth between two story lines at two different points in history. The first takes place during World War II as Lamorlaye, along with all of France is Nazi-occupied, and centers on two young Frenchwomen, Marie and Elise, who work at the chateau to serve the Nazis for the sake of feeding their families. The second story takes place in modern day as an American architect, Beck, is brought over to restore the chateau to its former glory, while confronting some of his own demons along the way.
I really don't want to give any more of the plot lines away, as its so much more fun for the reader to discover them on their own. But, what I will say is that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I actually just picked up the second book Michele Phoenix had published, just because I so enjoyed this one! (I think that's about as clear a recommendation as I can make ;-) ) However, I will give you this one more bit of information: I only picked up this book because I love to read historical fiction, and Ms. Phoenix is so talented that I equally enjoyed both the historical and modern stories. I also loved how the book ended, but I don't want to say at all why, in fear of giving something away. :)
Architect Marshall Becker is sent to renovate a castle in France, where he meets several interesting people and learns of the castle's history, including Nazi occupation of the area.
I thought this book was okay. The World War II aspect appealed to me, but only part of the story is told in the past. The bulk of the story is told in the present, and I wasn't impressed with the main characters, Becker and Jade. Becker has a lot of faults but doesn't seem to learn much during the book. I felt like I didn't know Jade at all. I was glad to see that the secrets hinted at early in the story were revealed for the most part, however, I thought the ending could have been better.
Marshall Becker "Beck" is an architect with issues. He arrives in France to restore a castle that was used by the Nazi during the war. But he isn't the only one chasing dreams and demons. Someone is destroying the castle at night and he needs to find out who or he will never meet his deadlines.
World War II books, especially those dealing with the cruelty of the Nazi, are often dark and difficult to read. Tangled Ashes was told in two parts. One part told the history of the castle and the other was the modern tale. Telling the story this way seemed to lighten up the book. And I'll be honest I enjoyed the WWII part the most. The characters were more likeable and believable. The main characters in the modern story were Beck and Jade. I thought the author was going for a romance story, but if she was it failed. The ending seemed to explain the puzzles, but didn't conclude. It left the modern day characters with hope for a better future, but based on their parts in the book they probably weren't going to get better. I really enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure I would read a second book based just on the modern characters. I read the book in one evening, so it was fast and enjoyable. But while I enjoyed it, I don't think I loved it.
I received this book free of charge from Handlebar Marketing in exchange for my honest review.
I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to others. The characters were quite unique and the storyline was very different from any other books I've read. I would certainly read more books written by Michelle Phoenix.
This was a really good book. It kept my attention the whole way through. It has a little mystery in it. This book is really good at addressing addictions also and how it takes time and dedication to really conquer this. I would recommend this book to anyone out there.
Summary: A historical refurbisher who struggles with alcoholism finds himself in France working to repair the damage done to a centuries old castle. After finding himself grossly beyond his comfort zone, his life changes after interacting with the other people working on restoring the castle to it's former glory.
I'm going to mention the heavy symbolism between restoring the castle and restoring the main character's life here, right down to the point where the two have major setbacks simultaneously, and move on.
The book flashes back and forth between the 1940's and the present. During WW2, the castle was a lebensborn where women carrying the children of Nazi soldiers went to give birth to future citizens of the Third Reich. It was these portions of the story I found most intriguing. One almost gets the feel that perhaps this is the novel the author wanted to write, but instead found herself fleshing out the plot with the modern day.
Part of the story is mystery/suspense. We wonder who people's real identities are, who is defacing the hard work to restore the structure. The main character goes through a slow and painful growth, trying over and over again to reach out and failing. His love interest is alternately helpful and antagonistic, bewildering until her backstory is explained.
Once everyone's full history is made clear and all the secrets are revealed, it would have been nice if there had been a little more resolution and communication between the characters. The book finishes with something of a european ending, not a happy ending. The problems are resolved, but we are left emotionally hanging.
If you love architectural fiction, WW2 fiction, fiction set in france, or books which end like they may be waiting for a sequel, then this book is right up your alley.
I thought the book was good at catching attention in the prologue. Unfortunately the novel seems somewhat disjointed as it skipped from the present to the past. I did not ever feel that the characters were real. They felt too perfect or too imperfect as to be hard to relate with.
While the overall story was interesting I found the presentation hard to read and the book did not hold my attention. The ending left me unsatisfied.
This is two stories within one. The two stories center around an old French castle, which holds within its walls the memories of a Nazi birthing center. The modern-day characters are fresh and intriguing, though the male, Mr. Becker, is a rather gruff and unlikeable character at first. Gradually I learned to feel concern for him, putting myself in his shoes. Jade, the female main character, is a bit blunt, but caring. Becker's job is to restore the old castle, and he specifically focuses on carving the wooden bannisters. His old hurts haunt him and instill fear and anger in him, and he tries to still the raging longing for alcoholic drink. Jade's job is to be a nanny to the boss's twins, who are average, cute children. She also cooks and cleans in the castle, the children in tow. Gradually Becker has feelings for Jade, but they are conflicted, and the romance is limited. The Christian message is limited, as well, but does come about slowly, if not entirely clearly. There are various pieces that come together in a climax, from an old man called Jojo, night wanderings, sickness, and the history of the old chateau. A good read for those who enjoy learning about personal struggles and history, with a little mystery thrown in.
This book is a fantastic historical version reminiscent of the idea “if walls could talk”. There have been many times I have been in older homes and I wished they could tell their story! I love the way it is written, alternating between the present day and the historical time period. In modern day time, Becker, a very troubled, angry, alcoholic is more or less tricked by his business partner into going to France and renovating an ancient castle. The owner is a jovial and very wealthy man, Mr. Fallon. His deadline for the main part of the castle is for a party for his pregnant wife’s 40th birthday. The renovation is extensive and the date set seems almost impossible. Becker has become bitter and withdrawn throughout the years and is stretched to the limit with the jobs demands, a very nervous French designer he is forced to work with, and Fallon’s nanny and two children who spend each day there. The historical time is in the 1940’s during WW2 and Hitler’s occupation in France at this very castle. Two young girls, Marie and Elise, are hired as housemaids by Heinrich Himmler who used the castle to house the Lebensborn Program. Both Himmler and program actually existed during WW2. I had read about and seen documentaries about this program. It was part of Hitler’s plans for a “perfect race”. Young unmarried women became pregnant by German soldiers. They were cared for and pampered by the Third Reich until they delivered their babies. After delivery, they left and their babies stayed to be eventually adopted out to German couples and be raised as Nazi’s. Falling in love with a German stableman, Elise is influenced by the propaganda and becomes pregnant by him. After she becomes a resident in the chateau, she begins to realize what she has done and that she will lose her baby. The girl’s lives and the discoveries Becker makes during the renovation being to interconnect. There are many surprises, twists, and turns in the story. I was never bored, always wanting to read further. I found several spiritual lessons within the story about loyalty, facing our problems with faith, forgiveness, and caring in the face of rejection. This was a great book! It was my first book to read by Ms. Phoenix and I look forward to more. I received this book free from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
Michele Phoenix in her new book, “Tangled Ashes” published by Tyndale House Publishers brings us into the life of Architect Marshall Becker.
From the Back Cover: After invading Lamorlaye, France, Nazi officials don’t hesitate to take over the beautiful Meunier manor as their headquarters, hiring two young Frenchwomen, Marie and Elise, who clean and launder to help supplement their families’ meager incomes. But the girls begin to grow suspicious when medical equipment arrives, followed by an influx of pregnant women. As the Nazis’ plans for the manor become clear, the girls must decide where their loyalties truly lie.
More than fifty years later . . .
Architect Marshall Becker arrives in Lamorlaye to begin the massive renovation of a Renaissance-era castle. The project that was meant to provide an escape for Becker instead becomes a gripping glimpse into the human drama that unfolded during the Nazi occupation and seems to live on in midnight disturbances and bizarre acts of vandalism.
Becker explores the castle’s shadowy history as he seeks to cope with the demons from his own past. Only Jade, the feisty nanny of the owner’s children, is willing to stand up to him. But Becker soon discovers that every one of the château’s inhabitants seems to have something to hide and something to protect—and something worth fighting for.
If you read my reviews you know that I like history. And I especially enjoy historical novels that center around World War II, something about the era I suspect. Michele Phoenix has weaved together a story that takes place in 1943 and in 2001. Each chapter alternates between then and now as Marshal Becker goes to France to renovate the exact castle that is the focus in 1943. “Tangled Ashes” is a thriller with all kinds of excitement and danger. This is a book about secrets and how the secrets made in 1943 affect the generations now. Also Becker has secrets and they are causing him a great deal of problems. Ms. Phoenix shows us cleverly how God has to expose those secrets to bring about a healing process. Becker is an architect and not only are we rebuilding a decayed castle we are rebuilding lives. Michele Phoenix knows how to weave a captivating story with wonderful characters that breathe. I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it highly.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Handlebar. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Review 19 for Tangled Ashes
A few twists that had me reeling!
Date:October 11, 2012
Mudpies and Tiaras
I LOVE reading and love getting new books. I strive to read only Christian fiction or other things like parenting books etc. But I won’t lie. Sometimes finding good Christian fiction can be a real challenge. I was therefore thrilled with Tangled Ashes. It is Christian fiction at its finest, or close to it. While it was a superbly clean book it did not really have much about God or the Bible, but what it did have was action, mystery, romance, drama and a few twists that had my reeling trying to catch up.
First off, I want to say, I rated "Meets Expecations" as average because I didn't know what to expect when I read this book. I'd never heard of Michele Phoenix before so I wasn't sure how the book would be. Honestly, it was better than I expected!
I love WWII history and I love castles. I also love mystery books. And this book has it all! It jumps back and forth from history to present but it's well-done so you don't get confused. It's also written in such a way that you just can't stop reading because you want to know what happens.
Quick summary: French castle during WWII. Daring escape with precious cargo. Do they make it? Present day, architect doing restoration on the castle. Strange noises at night. Weird squatter living in the gatehouse. Present and history combine for a full picture.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Handlebar Marketing in exchange for an honest review.