A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past.
Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.
But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child.
A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover…
With emotion and intrigue, Melanie Dobson brings World War II France to life in this beautiful novel about war, family, sacrifice, and the secrets of the past.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at MelanieDobson.com.
Read an Excerpt
Chateau of Secrets
Candlelight flickered on the medieval walls as Gisèle Duchant stepped into the warmth of the nave. The shadows in the sacristy were the only witnesses to her secret—no one but she and Michel knew the same small room that stored the vestments and supplies for their family’s chapelle was also a hiding place.
She slid the iron gate across the entry into the sacristy, and after locking it, she set down her picnic hamper—emptied of its Camembert cheese and Calvados—and turned toward the pews.
Five women from Agneaux, the tiny commune at the top of the lane, knelt before the altar, the sweet fragrance of incense blending with the smell of cigarette smoke on their clothing. For centuries, women had visited this chapelle to plead with the Almighty to protect their husbands, sons, and brothers as they fought for France. Now they battled in prayer even as the men they loved defended their country against Hitler and his ploy to assimilate the French people into his Third Reich.
Gisèle slid her fingers over the amber rosary beads around her neck, gently fingering the ornamented handle of the brass crucifix in the center. A cross that was also a key.
“Secrets can destroy.”
The words of her university professor echoed in her mind. If a secret was powerful enough, her philosophy professor had declared from his lectern, it could demolish an entire army. Or shatter the heart of a family.
The narrow pew creaked as she knelt beside it. Looking up at the crucifix that hung above the altar, she crossed herself and then whispered, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.”
Her mind wandered as the familiar prayer tumbled from her lips.
The healing powers of a secret intrigued her, the layers that sheltered families and nations alike. A secret could destroy, like her professor said, but it could also shield a family. Like the tangled hedgerows of brushwood and bramble that fortified the nearby city of Saint-Lô, a secret could keep those you love from destruction.
When did a secret cross over the gray wasteland between protecting one you loved and destroying him?
Last month Prime Minister Chamberlain had evacuated all the British troops he’d sent to France, along with a hundred thousand French soldiers. Michel had been among those evacuated at Dunkirk, and Papa thought his son was safe in England.
But Michel snuck home after the evacuation, and she prayed God would forgive her for her trespasses, that her secret effort to save her younger brother’s life wouldn’t become a mortal sin.
The women whispered prayers around her, and like many of them, she couldn’t confess her sin to anyone, not even to the priest who came once a week to preside over Mass. With the world in turmoil, they all had to guard secrets to protect the men they loved.
Aeroplane engines buzzed in the distance, and she shivered. The German bombers flew over them almost every night now, showing off their power for the citizens of Saint-Lô. Her country refused to be intimidated by their display.
Candles rattled in their bronze holders.
“Deliver us from evil,” she whispered as the planes passed overhead. Then she repeated her words.
Unlike Austria and Denmark, France would fight the Nazis.
When the drone of engines settled into the night, the village women silently slipped out the door. Gisèle rose to attend to her duties.
Just as she was the keeper of Michel’s secret, she was the keeper of the Chapelle d’Agneaux. While other aristocratic women attended their formal gardens or antique collections, her mother had painstakingly cared for the chapelle for two decades. Instead of remembering her mother at the cemetery beside the chapelle, Gisèle liked to remember her inside these walls. When she was at the château, Gisèle unlocked the door of the chapelle every morning so villagers could pray, and every night she blew out the vigil candles and swept the stone floors.
Outside in the courtyard, the misty breath of the river Vire stole up and over the stone walls of the chapelle and the turrets of the medieval château that stood before her, the home of the Duchant family for more than three hundred years. While her family had lost sons and daughters to the guillotine during the revolution and to the wars that were waged across France, this fortress of stone towers and secret tunnels had sheltered many of her ancestors through wars and storms. It had been a solace for her mother. And for her.
Gisèle quickly crossed the gravel courtyard and hurried into the foyer of the Château d’Epines. Sliding off her red suede pumps, she padded across the marble floor in her silk stockings, the handles of the picnic hamper clutched in her hands. If she could store the hamper before she saw her father, she wouldn’t have to lie to him.
She snuck past the staircase that spiraled up to the second floor and the entrance to the drawing room, but before she reached the door to the kitchen, her father called her name. Then she heard the heels of his sturdy Richelieus clapping across the marble floor.
She dropped the hamper and kicked it to the edge of the antique console table.
The sight of her father in his brown cardigan and trousers, the familiar scent of applewood and tobacco, usually comforted her, but tonight the fear in his blue eyes wasn’t familiar at all. Papa—known in France as the esteemed Vicomte Jean-François de Bouchard Duchant—was never afraid.
She clasped the pumps to her chest. “What is it?”
His gaze wandered toward the tall window by the front door, like he was seeking solace from the chapelle outside as well.
“Hitler—” His voice cracked, and he hesitated as if he hadn’t yet digested the news he bore.
“Papa?” she whispered, pressing him.
“Hitler has taken Paris.”
Her shoes clattered on the marble and she stumbled backward as if the tiles had shifted under her feet. Her hands flailed, searching until they caught the banister.
Paris was a great city, the greatest in the world. How could it bow to a lunatic?
“But the war—” she stammered. “It has just begun.”
Papa’s shoulders dropped. “The government in Paris . . . they decided not to fight.”
She squeezed the iron banister. How could the Parisians refuse to fight?
If the French resisted together, if they refused to cower . . .
They had to resist.
“What will happen?” she whispered.
“Philippe is coming to drive you south, to the manor in Lyon.”
“I don’t care what happens to me.” Her voice trembled. “What will happen to France?”
He hesitated again, like he wasn’t sure he should tell her the truth. He might still have thought her twelve, but she was twenty-two years old now. A graduate of the prestigious Université de Caen. She was certainly old enough to know the truth.
She willed strength into her voice. If he thought her strong, perhaps he would be honest. “You must tell me.”
He seemed to consider her words before he spoke. “Hitler won’t stop until he takes all of Europe.”
She released the banister to pick up her pumps, her hands trembling. “I can’t go to Lyon.”
Compassion mixed with the fear in his eyes. “We must leave. Hitler seems determined to take London next, and his army will march through here on their way to the port at Cherbourg.”
She rubbed her bare arms. Lyon was ten hours southeast. “If they’ve taken Paris, it won’t be long before the Germans take Lyon too.”
“Perhaps.” Papa tugged on the hem of his cardigan. “But Philippe can take you to Switzerland before then.”
Hitler’s appetite for power seemed insatiable. He’d taken much of Europe now, but she doubted conquering the rest of France and even London would satisfy the German führer. With the French government refusing to fight, they needed courageous Frenchmen—former soldiers like Michel—to stop him.
But ten years ago, before her mother died, she’d begged Gisèle to care for Michel. Even though she was just a girl, Gisèle had sworn, on the crucifix of her mother’s rosary, that she would give her very life to watch over her brother. Michel may have been nineteen now, but he was just as headstrong as when he was a boy. How could she protect him from an onslaught of the German army and their bombs?
Papa rang a bell. “Émilie will help you pack your things for the trip.”
Seconds later their housemaid rushed into the hall, her white apron tied over her black uniform and her graying hair pinned back in a neat knot. But instead of stopping, Émilie rushed past Gisèle to the front door, a valise clutched in each of her hands.
Papa called out to her. “Where are you going?”
Émilie set down one of her bags. “My sister just called from Cahagnes. German tanks are moving through the town.”
Papa swore. Cahagnes was just thirty kilometers away.
As the door opened and then rattled shut, Gisèle slipped on her shoes. Before she left, she had to warn Michel that the Germans were near.
“You must pack your things,” Papa said as he glanced at his watch. “Philippe said he would be here within the half hour.”
Her chest felt as if it might explode. The Germans might kill them if they stayed, but she couldn’t leave without telling her brother. He had to flee as well.
“I need more time,” she pleaded.
“Ma chérie,” he said tenderly as he reached for her hand, imploring her. “It is not safe for you to stay here any longer.”
Her heart felt as if it might rip into two. How could she make him understand without revealing Michel’s secret?
He nudged her toward the steps. “I will meet you in Lyon.”
Still she didn’t move. “You must come with us, Papa.”
“I will follow soon, after I hide the silver and your mother’s jewelry. If they arrive while I’m here—” He cleared his throat. “The Germans won’t harm a member of the aristocracy.”
She nudged her chin up. “Nor will they harm his daughter.”
A siren wailed and the floor shook from more aeroplanes sweeping low in the valley. Hair bristled on the back of her neck.
Papa turned her shoulders toward the stairs. “Hurry, Gisèle.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
She knew he was afraid that he would lose her, just like he had her mother, but if she left right now—
She feared they would both lose Michel.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Château of Secrets includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Melanie Dobson. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Gisèle is a young noblewoman whose world changes abruptly when German invaders bomb her hometown of Saint-Lô. Her beautiful home, the Château d’Epines, becomes the local headquarters for German officers. What no one else knows but her though, is that underneath it are winding tunnels where her brother and fellow French resistance fighters hide. Secrets abound within her heart, the walls of the château, and the snaking tunnels underneath.
Gisèle’s granddaughter, Chloe, lives a life far removed from the times of war that her grandmother endured. After calling off her engagement to a prominent political candidate, Chloe agrees to participate in a documentary featuring her family history and the château in Normandy. She is surprised to learn that the documentary filmmaker, Riley, is interested in uncovering the story of Jews who served in Hitler’s army. How would that relate to her family? And she is even more shocked to learn that there are tunnels under the Château d’Epines that saved lives. As Chloe follows Riley on the documentary journey, she discovers secrets held by both her grandmother and the château that encompass profound depths of love, loyalty, and sacrifice entwining their generations.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The idea of secrets is introduced early in the novel. Gisèle considers the following question: “When did a secret cross over the gray wasteland between protecting one you love and destroying him” (page 4)? In what ways did Gisèle’s secrets protect the ones she loved? In what ways did Gisèle’s secrets harm or cost the ones she loved, such as Lisette or even herself? How have you seen a secret destroy?
2. Initially, Chloe is engaged to marry Austin. Chloe acknowledges that she has lost herself in this relationship though, “Somewhere along the line, I’d forgotten exactly who I was, silhouetted by those with greater dreams than my own” (page 71). How do Chloe’s romantic choices and consequences compare and contrast to Gisèle’s, both in her refusal of Philippe and her love for Josef? How does each woman’s choice affect her identity?
3. The events surrounding Gisèle’s young adult life differ drastically from those that surround Chloe’s. Different generations experience diverging degrees of luxuries, experiences, hardships, and upbringings that define their thresholds of “norm” and pain. How do you think someone from Gisèle’s generation views those of today’s generation? How have you judged someone in an older generation? What have they faced that you have not?
4. An eloquent comment on World War II, Gisèle says, “Hatred, it seemed, was a powerful unifier of even the greatest enemies. Hatred for the Nazis had also unified those resisting them” (page 106). Love is also a powerful unifier, seen in Josef’s desire to protect his mother and those who sacrificed their lives to protect Adeline. Describe how you have experienced the unifying power of both hatred and love.
5. After witnessing the Jews of her town being shot to death, Gisèle thinks twice about being able to fight the Germans. “She might not be able to fight the dragon, but perhaps she could rescue this boy” (page 121). How do you see Gisèle continue to “fight the dragon” against the Germans even after she thinks this to herself? Describe an experience in your life that despite its trauma, you continued fighting the dragons.
6. When the Germans come to live at the Château d’Epines, Gisèle asks herself, “Should she stand for all that was good and refuse them, even if it cost her life? Or should she compromise her morals to save her life—and the lives of those in her care” (page 180)? What decision would you have made if you were in her shoes? Why? Describe an experience in your life when you felt judged by others for making a decision that seemed the lesser of two evils.
7. In Chapter 30, Chloe tells her dad about finding Gisèle’s marriage certificate and Adeline’s birth certificate. How do you think this made him feel? Describe a time when you learned a secret that impacted or involved others. How did it make you feel?
8. Gisèle wrestles with the biblical command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (pages 191). When was she supposed to love her enemy and when was she supposed to resist? And somehow, in the great mystery of faith, was it possible for her to do both? Do you think Gisèle did both? Explain. Do you think it is possible to do both in the Christian faith? Have you ever received love from a perceived enemy or prayed for an enemy? Describe the situation.
9. Riley tells Chloe, “It tells a lot about a person when you find out what or who they’re willing to die for” (page 164). In light of this statement, how would you describe and characterize Josef. Do you think Josef or Gisèle went too far to protect those they loved? How do you personally draw the line between protecting, serving, or loving others against sacrificing too much of yourself?
10. Riley’s grandfather tells him that “we never know what we truly believe until we are standing in a trench, surrounded by the enemy” (page 243. Identify the “trenches” in Chloe’s story that facilitate her discovery of who she truly is and what she believes. Were these events challenging, painful, or untroubled events? How have the “trenches” in your own life shaped you?
11. Philippe’s debt drove him to make horrific decisions in order to obtain the château. How does his self-centered behavior contrast to the selfless actions of Gisèle’s brother Michel? Secondly, consider and discuss the effects of their choices on the generations that follow. Describe an area in your life where you are influenced by a family member’s prior decision(s).
12. Josef is a rescuer in numerous ways. At what cost to himself did he become the unlikely hero and of whom? Describe how you would feel to know that a soldier of one nation begins fighting with and for the perceived enemy. How do you see this occurring today?
13. Imagine Gisèle and Lisette being able to see one another later in their lives prior to Gisèle’s memory loss. What do you think the women would share with one another? What do you think each woman would feel toward the other?
14. Consider the novel being told from the oberst’s perspective, a man defending and sacrificing for his country, beliefs, and family. How do you judge and compare his level of sacrifice?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Two of Gisèle’s favorite quotes were the following: “You’ve never lived until you’ve almost died” by Guy de Maupassant and “I have learnt that all men live not by care for themselves but by love” by Leo Tolstoy (page 138). Discuss which of these quotes speaks the most to you. Why? Decide as a group a way everyone can lovingly serve someone this week, be it with time, money, or skills.
2. Outline your family tree to the extent that you can. Which two people in your family lineage inspire you the most? Why? What mysteries remain in your family tree, if any? If there are gaps in knowledge, seek out the information.
3. The main characters in Château of Secrets make weighty decisions, often at great expenses. “They all had to lose a bit of themselves to satiate the enemy . . . but in their hearts, she prayed they all would remain true to God and to France” (page 258). Discuss how you relate to this in the spheres of your vocation, relationships, finances, or time. What ‘enemy’ do you feel like you must satiate for a greater purpose? Make one change if you believe you have sacrificed too much in a particular area and ask the group for accountability.
4. Write a letter of thanks to a U.S. soldier or veteran. If you do not know one, visit the websites “Letters to Home,” “A Million Thanks,” or “Operation Gratitude” to participate in sending words or small gift packages to a soldier, veteran, or wounded warrior.
5. Document your own personal story, either in its entirety or segments. Your story is a piece of history and significant to loved ones. Share a portion of it with the group.
A Conversation with Melanie Dobson
1. How did you first come to know of the story of Vicomtesse Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke on whom this story is loosely based? How do her children and grandchildren describe her?
After Genevieve passed away in 2010, her granddaughter shared Genevieve’s stories of courage and faith with me. I was captivated by Genevieve’s bravery in standing up against the Nazis when they could easily have killed her, and by the stories of hiding the French resistance underneath the family’s château while the Germans occupied it. The Menke family partnered with me as I wrote this novel, and Ann Menke, Genevieve’s daughter-in-law, graciously invited me to their family’s manoir and former château in Normandy. Genevieve left a beautiful legacy as an elegant, courageous, feisty Norman woman who was strong in character and devout in her faith. Her husband, children, and grandchildren adored her, and I hope readers are inspired by her story as well.
2. Do you always visit the places where your books are set? Why is it helpful? What did you love most about your trip for this book?
I always visit the main setting of my books to discover what makes the place unique. The Internet is fantastic for accumulating general details about a location, but good sensory description—the local sights, smells, sounds—breathe life into a novel. And once I can see the setting in my mind’s eye, I no longer get stuck on the details. My brain is freed to focus on the story.
I enjoyed everything about my trip to France—eating the crusty bread and local cheese, biking through the villages, staying in a medieval château with three dear friends. Also I loved spending time with Genevieve’s family and visiting with new friends in Normandy who welcomed us into their homes.
3. This novel is steeped in the historic detail of World War II and the battle of Saint-Lô. What was your research process like?
Before I started writing Château of Secrets, I read through a stack of resources about the war as well as a number of interviews with Jewish men who fought in the German army. To help me visualize the details, I obtained photographs of the battle of Saint-Lô along with film footage of French men resisting the Germans. My time in Normandy was the most important step in the research process. I learned a tremendous amount by exploring the Utah Beach D-Day Museum, visiting Saint-Lô, and drinking tea with men and women who shared their memories of the occupation and war.
4. Many of the main characters in this novel make great sacrifices for freedom, be it tangible or emotional. What does freedom mean to you?
Years ago a friend asked what I valued most in life, and my quick response was freedom. In hindsight, what I really meant was independence—the selfish freedom to do what I wanted, whenever I wanted. Much has happened since I answered that question, and the freedom I value now is more internal—freedom from anxiety and bitterness and fear. Instead of striving for things that deplete me or allowing my thoughts to whirl with anger and frustration, I try to focus on what God has called me to do and rely on Him for provision, direction, and peace. I don’t always succeed at letting go, but this renewed faith in Christ has given me great freedom on the inside.
5. What would you describe as the main theme(s) in Château of Secrets?
The heart of this novel is about sacrifice—what happens to those willing to risk their life to rescue others and what happens to those who betray innocent people in an attempt to save themselves. Some of the characters lost their life in this story while others found healing in their later years. In the Book of John, Jesus said these beautiful words, “Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
6. What do you want readers to experience or take away from this novel?
Château of Secrets is about seemingly ordinary people who stood against evil, often working in secret as they fought against the Nazis and protected innocent people marked for death. As I wrote this story, I was reminded that we have many opportunities today to stand against evil and protect those who are suffering. We may not be risking our life, but it is always extraordinary to sacrifice finances, time, and even our pride to help someone in need.
7. With which character do you relate the most? Why?
I’d like to say that I relate to Gisèle’s heroic choices to rescue Adeline and other orphaned children, but since I’ve never been in her situation, I can’t honestly say what I would do. I do identify deeply with the mixed emotions of many of the characters—Gisèle’s faith and fear, Chloe’s anger and relief, Michel’s optimism in spite of the circumstances, the conflict in Josef’s heart over his terrible dilemma, and both Lisette and Riley in their regrets and ultimately redemption.
8. Michel tells Gisèle “Courage doesn’t mean you stop being afraid . . . It means you continue to fight when you’re terrified” (page 298). How do you personally strive to live this out?
Fear is the personal dragon that I fight daily. Sometimes it’s fear of failure or the unknown. Sometimes it’s fear for my children or my husband. Sometimes it’s ridiculous things that others might find amusing that keep me up at night.
Last year my family spent Christmas serving orphans in Uganda. I was afraid of countless things before and during that trip, but I knew we were supposed to go in spite of my fears and the experience changed our lives. God, in his faithfulness, continues to help me fight against this dragon, and I’m incredibly grateful that He never leaves nor forsakes us.
9. How does your degree and background in journalism influence your writing of fiction?
I pursued a career in journalism because I love to learn. Writing was and still is a fun outlet for me to dig deep as I research both historical events and contemporary people and places. I approach the writing of each new book as a journalist, delving into the time period and details of the events and location first. After a few weeks of research, my characters and plot begin to emerge from the factual accounts of the past.
10. A line from your website highlights your gift as a writer: “My issue is not about finding time to write. It’s about finding time to live around my writing.” With a passion for writing, what are the things that can stifle your creativity? What or who inspires and energizes you again?
Faux busyness stifles my creativity. Often when I’m on deadline, I’ll lose myself to all sorts of seemingly urgent tasks like vacuuming the house or cleaning out the garage. In order to eliminate distraction, I like to escape to a coffee shop with a steady buzz of noise or a quiet hotel where I can immerse myself in my imaginary world. As a family, we also try to keep the Sabbath. After a day of rest, I’m rejuvenated and ready to write first thing Monday morning.
11. What will you be working on next?
I’ve just started a novel about a forty-five-year-old woman named Heather who returns to England to prepare her childhood home for sale. As she and her daughter work together, Heather discovers that her parents hid a terrible secret from her and their village when she was a girl. In spite of the risks to her heart and her future, Heather decides to pursue the truth about what happened in the beautiful gardens behind her family's cottage and in the gardens of the castle next door.
12. When you are not writing, what do you do for fun?
I love exploring new places, hiking in the mountains, playing Settlers of Catan with friends, line dancing, working in my garden, taking yoga classes, reading novels with surprise endings, and most of all, laughing with my family while we dance, hike, or explore together.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Right off, I was drawn in to the story of these two characters, Gisele and Chloe, whose genuine and sensitive nature pop off the page, making you identify with them both, the feelings of loyalty and wanting to be loved, the fear of being lost and the uncertainty of sometimes having to live each day without assurance of the future, I loved author Melanie's way of describing the scenes so that I felt I was right there, in France. The chapters are short enough that the hopping back and forth between the two timelines isn't too difficult. There were times I found myself wanting more before jumping to the other storyline but all in all, I enjoyed the rhythm of the story and connecting the characters lives. Melanie does a fantastic job weaving an underlying theme of redemption and hope even in the midst of two unimaginable trials... WWII and a relationship betrayal, and the terrible challenge of choosing how to survive in the war. I hardly felt able to pass judgement toward the characters where their compromises are shown (Lisette and Josef Milch). I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers in order to review it.
An amazing story...the kind you can’t wait to yet to the end of and, at the same time, don’t want to end. Beautifully written and wonderful characters.
I could not put this book down. From the beginning to the end. Takes place in Normandy, France during the time of the war with Hitler. And also takes place in todsy as a daughter goes back to France to help with a documantry for her father. Yhere is love, war, mystery, two cheats, and inspiration and the love of the Lord. Wonderful read!
Chateau of Secrets tells a tale of WWII. We see the resiliency of the French people under the harsh rule of the Nazis, some of the efforts of the French Underground, and an amazing tale of Jewish soldiers in the German army. Gisele has been left to take care of the family chateau. The Nazis decide to commandeer it for their headquarters in the town of Saint-Lo. She must cater to their whims while trying to protect some Jewish children and members of the French Underground. Chloe is Gisele’s granddaughter. She has come to France to guide a documentary filmmaker through the her family’s ancestral chateau. Little does Chloe know that there are family stories about which neither she nor her father knew. As Chloe becomes more familiar with the stories of her grandmother’s heroism, she begins to examine her values and the plans that she has had for her life. This is a very interesting tale, going back and forth between Gisele’s WWII story and Chloe’s modern dilemmas. The story is loosely based on a factual one and the author has brought out some little known information about Jews serving in the German army. This is well worth your time reading if you have any interest in history, especially WWII. I received this from NetGalley for my honest opinion
I really don't want to admit this, but I put off reading Chateau of Secrets. I looked at the cover and the plot and I thought, Nope. Don't ask me why, I just didn't think I'd connect with this story. I was very wrong. I ended up soaking in this book over a period of time that was quite sad, with my Grammy in the hospital. I really needed a reminder that no matter how broken, tough, and dark the day might be, our own Author delights in good endings. (Not easy, bloodless, tearless, painless, but GOOD.) This novel reminded me of that. Basic Plot: Chloe Sauver is nine weeks away from marrying the man she's given her whole heart to. Other than a few small blips on the radar, everything seems just right. Then the offer/request comes out of the blue: Chloe, come to France, to your ancestral home, and tell us about your grandmother Gisele's involvement in WWII. Come to the Chateau L'Epines, and help us film a documentary. Through circumstances you'll just have to read about, Chloe ends up on that plane, with bags packed and life in a whirlwind. Her co-adventurer is Riley Holtz, the documentary filmmaker. He's a guy who looks like the last thing Chloe needs. When she looked him up online, she saw photos that suggested an inflated ego and a devotion only to partying. The Riley she meets has a whole different aura. Melanie, Riley's story tied so well into Chloe's, and you brought them both into a lovely resolution. It had me teary. His life story, and the way he revealed it, added so much more depth and transformation. Riley and Chloe are bound for a spot on my Favorite Characters 2014 List. Grandmother Gisele's life also comes into sharp focus- a brother in the French Resistance, a baby that needs loving arms and a new last name, and circumstances that force you to decide what you can lose and still live. I mean literally keep alive, and also live with yourself. As in all good past-meets-present novels, Chloe finds perspective and fresh courage when she encounters Gisele's life. Gisele was truly devoted to protecting her loved ones, and keeping true to God and country. Gisele and for Chloe both worked on something bigger than themselves, learning to make choices that will give tomorrow a chance for hope and as much healing as possible for themselves and others. I also loved the presence of the Church in this novel, both the old chapel and those who sought sanctuary there. Well done in crafting a story that handles faith in the best way possible. I'm proud of Howard Books for publishing novels that touch the ragged edges of life, and the ragged edges of Jesus robe, and reach for both reverently. Reading this story was like seeing a puzzle put together. At first, it was all tumbled in front of me, offering glimpses of beauty and lots of unanswered questions. As more of the picture developed I found myself leaning into the story, eagerly watching it come together. Thank you Howard Books for my review copy!
Every once in a while a book comes along that I think would make an intriguing movie. Chateau of Secrets is one of those books. Not only is the story full of twists and turns, but it also contains a piece of history that isn't widely known. During World War II there were a group of Jewish men that fought in the Germany army. They had many reasons to do so. Some were forced into service and some volunteered in an effort to save their loved ones. Another thing that sets this historical fiction book apart from others is the way the story unfolds. Chapter by chapter the reader is taken from the present then back into the past. As modern day Chloe is discovering the secrets of her family at the Château d’Epines in one chapter, then the tale of her grandmother Gisèle during the German occupation is playing out in the next chapter. This made the story read like a fast-paced suspense thriller. The most amazing thing about this book was that it was loosely based on the real life story of Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke. It is completely plausible to think of this story as a work of fiction, but to understand that someone actually went through and survived all that this novel contains is just mind blowing. I enjoyed reading all of the follow up notes about the story at the end of the book just as much as the novel itself. What struck me the most about this account is how much we really don't even know about our own stories. Vague memories that we have as children may have one meaning to us, but if the truth were completely revealed it would have another meaning entirely. This story will cause you to think about how important our past is in relation to what our future will become. If you are a fan of historical fiction you are going to particularly like this one! I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Lately it seems I've been coming across a lot of really exceptional novels involving true stories based on the lives of people who lived during World War II in France. It shows that we don't always know everything about what went on, until these stories make their way to the light and we find ourselves completely captivated by their words as we sit back as silent observers as they take us back in time. In her latest novel, Melanie Dobson, shares the story of one such remarkable woman, Gisèle Duchant, who found herself dealing with the occupation of German soldiers as they invaded her childhood home in France just as World War II was taking place. She had never dreamed that this could happen because of the secrets that lay buried in the tunnels below her home Chateau d'Epines. All she knew is that whatever happened, she would need to do all she could to ensure the survival of her brother Michel who was part of the resistance fighters assembling in France, while Germany continued to claim more land in Europe. Fearing that Hitler would crush any type of rebellion on France's behalf, Paris willingly gave up instead of resisting his advances. Those Jewish people living among the French were being deported to camps outside the city as Hitler's demands continued to grow. Gisèle soon discovered that even her friends couldn't hide from the soldiers and when she discovered they had left their infant daughter hidden behind, she vowed she would take care of her until they were reunited as her own. In Chateau of Secrets, the novel alternates chapters between the present day and 1940 as Gisèle fights to keep her secrets hidden despite being surrounded quite literally by German soldiers living in her home. She only prays that each day, the Allies will arrive and set her free. In the present day chapters, Chloe Sauver is asked by her father to go back to France to the family's chateau to aid a reporter, Riley Holtz with his research of Jews that were forced into Hilter's army as a way of protecting those they loved that were Jewish from being sent away to deportation camps. Chloe is in the process of planning her wedding to an upcoming soon to be youngest governor in Virginia, but soon discovers a few secrets of her own that force her to return to France as she uncovers her grandmother Gisèle role in saving lives during the war. I received Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. This is such a phenomenal novel in how well it was woven together, past and present into one captivating story of survival, sacrifice and love. It's what happens to those willing to risk their life to rescue others and what happens to those who betray innocent people in an attempt to save themselves. The Bible says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." and that is just what you will discover by the conclusion of this novel. Easily worth every bit of 5 out of 5 stars and I can't wait to add this novel to its permanent home in my personal library. Being a huge fan of WWII history, I absolutely fell in love with this one!
"Courage doesn't mean you stop being afraid." He kissed her cheeks. "It means you continue to fight, even when you're terrified." - Michel Duchant Chateau of Secrets and the main character Gis'ele Duchant, is loosely based on the life of Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke, a French survivor of World War II. Gis'ele Duchant worked in secret to help the Jews and the Allies by hiding them from the German soldiers in the secret passageways under her family home, Chateau de 'Epines. The Germans confiscated her home to use as their headquarters and forced Gis'ele to feed them during their stay but they didn't know she was also slipping away to feed her brother, Michel, and other members of the French Resistance. Gis'ele lost almost everyone she cared about to the Germans but she never gave up in her fight for freedom. Meanwhile, her granddaughter Chloe Sauver was fighting a battle of her own. After finding out her fiancé, soon to be Virginia Governor Austin Vale, was cheating on her, Chloe flew to France to share her grandmother's story with filmmaker Riley Holtz. Riley planned to make a documentary about the Jews who became German soldiers and the events that happened during the time of the war. Chloe soon began to uncover devastating family secrets and Riley soon began revealing secrets of his own. This book was overflowing with Characters that displayed amazing strength. Gis'ele Duchant was a woman of faith, a brave woman who risked everything to save those around her despite the fact that it could mean her very life. Chloe Sauver faced humiliation by the media for walking away from her soon-to-be marriage, but her strength and determination wouldn't allow her to give up. Two amazing women. One fought for her freedom, while the other fought for her future. Michel Duchant, Gis'ele's brother, fought with the French Resistance and risked his life on a daily basis to help bring freedom to his country. Josef Milch, half German and Jew, joined the German army in order to save the life of his mother, save orphans and help the Allies. And even Riley Holtz showed strength by facing his past and asking for forgiveness from those he had hurt the most. I have never seen such an amazing and inspiring heroine or a story that touched me as deeply as this one did. It shifted between Gis'ele's story in the 1940's and Chloe's story in the present day and the transition was so flawless and smooth. I have read books that switched from present to past and they often felt as if they should have been written as two separate books. This one, however, was done beautifully. I can really tell the research that went into writing this book, also. The attention to detail and the historical facts drew me in until I felt as if I were part of the story. As if I were the strong and fearless Gis'ele Duchant hiding in an underground tunnel while aeroplanes passed overhead and bombs exploded around me. Faith was a big part of this story as well. The characters, especially Gis'ele, often prayed for safety, guidance and wisdom. Hope poured from every page despite the feelings of despair they each sometimes felt. And the entrance to the underground tunnels was hidden inside the chapelle! I have always held a sadness in my heart for the people that were tortured or killed during the holocaust and their surviving families. The Diary of Anne Frank really opened my eyes to the travesties that happened during that time and I have thought about them often since. This book is one of the best written, mostly fictional accounts I have had the pleasure of reading. It's a novel of epic proportions that I would love to see as a movie. It's exactly what I have come to expect from Melanie Dobson. She is an amazing writer that takes every aspect of a story and blends them together flawlessly to leave you satisfied and well entertained. I LOVE her books and Chateau of Secrets is my ultimate favorite! I couldn't put it down and I am anxiously awaiting her next book! If you like war-torn stories with characters of amazing strength and faith you'll love it as well. I can't recommend it enough! Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are mine alone. I received no compensation for this review.
Chateau of Secrets Melanie Dobson Book Summary: A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past. Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France. But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child. A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover… With emotion and intrigue, Melanie Dobson brings World War II France to life in this beautiful novel about war, family, sacrifice, and the secrets of the past. Book Review: This is a book that sticks you! I spend days after finishing this book wishing there was more to read of it. I loved the moving back and forth between World War II and present day. I loved both the stories. I never wanted either to end. It was a spectacularly written, very believable and such a tender story of redemption. I once read a book similar in nature but this story fulfilled everything that other story could not. It was a private wish of mine to read a story developed as Melanie Dobson did. I laughed, I cried and I lived every moment of the story. I can not thank the author enough for writing this moving piece of fiction that was thread around the true events of World War II and the beauty of God within those horrific events. Gisele’s story was wrapped in the gospel of Christ who is greater than any tragedy man can think up. I love secret tunnels and rooms. A mystery of how things really were versus what people tell. These are the things that make a good mystery. I would like to thank Net Galley and Howard Books for allowing me to read and review this book in return for a free copy and I was never asked to write a favorable review by anyone.
Melanie Dobson in her new book, “Chateau Of Secrets” published by Howard Books takes us into the lives of Gisèle Duchant and Chloe Sauver. From the back cover: A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past. GisèleDuchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medievalchateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child. A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover… With emotion and intrigue, Melanie Dobson brings World War II France to life in this beautiful novel about war, family, sacrifice, and the secrets of the past. In WWI France stopped the German Invasion at The Maginot Line. The Nazis wanted to make up for that humiliation and roared across the Maginot Line taking Paris and occupying France. For four years, fearing retribution, France willingly allowed The Occupation. Well not everyone! There were a small but brave group of individuals across France that fought against the Nazis that were called The French Resistance. Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke was a real life Resistor. Ms. Dobson has created the character of Gisele based on some of her adventures. Make no mistake this is a WWII actioner that will make your heart pound and your breath stop as you get involved in the action. Danger, action, adventure suspense thriller all rolled up in a very exciting read. Ms. Dobson has given us a story that belongs up there with the terrific movies that have come before. These are wonderful characters that live and breathe on the pages and you care deeply for them. This book does not disappoint at all. I enjoyed it and I am sure you will also. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books for this 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Written beautifully, Melanie's story ties together the lives of two women in in past and present. I loved the different perspective it gave during world war II, one that I don't has been talked about as much. It is very intriguing the whole way through - I read it on a plane ride, and got to the last two chapters and had to wait until I got home to finish it up, but I did finish it that night. :) Melanie always surprises me with her stories - each one is written so differently, I love the approach she took to writing this one!
Chateau of Secrets was a novel that takes place in the past and the present. In the present we have former school teacher Chloe who is trying to fit the mold her fiancé has made for her as he runs for political office. Her parents and fiancé want her to travel to France to the family chateau to be interviewed for a documentary for World War 2. Chloe really wishes that her paternal grandmother, Gisele and late grandfather, had shared more about their time during the war. Now her grandmother is deteriorating mentally and asking for her daughter Adeline, whom no one in the family knew ever existed. In the meantime, Chloe finds out some devastating news about her fiancé, and cannot wait to go and hide away in France. There she meets filmmaker Riley, who has secrets of his own and an interesting connection to her family. She also meets with a mysterious older woman, who is living near the chateau who knows things about her grandmother but refuses to speak to Chloe. In the past, we have Gisele’s viewpoint of what is going on from the time the Nazi’s have entered her beloved city and home and have changed her life forever. Trying to protect her family she finds her Jewish neighbors’ daughter seemingly abandoned and pretends she is her own child to protect her from the soldiers. While we are in Gisele’s story in the past, everything is unfolding for us as it does for her. Fast forward to the future with Chloe and we are right there with her slowly uncovering her grandmother’s lifetime of secrets. This was a well written novel and I absolutely enjoyed how Melanie uncovered the secrets in the way the story was told. Not only that, but I learned some things about the war I did not know and to be honest shocked me a bit. I received this book from the publisher however, the opinions are my own.
This is an excellent book by Melanie Dobson, which weaves together the stories of two women, one during World War II and the other from present day. Gisele is a young woman who lives at a chateau in France during World War II. Nazis invade her village and use Gisele's home as a headquarters. She must deal with the fears and stresses of life during war times, made even more challenging as she risks her life to help the French Resistance, Jews and orphans, but at the same time bravely serve the Nazis in her home so that she can continue her secret missions. Chloe is Gisele's granddaughter living in the United States 70 years later. Gisele is still living, but her mind wanders. Chloe travels to France to meet with a filmmaker who is making a documentary about Jews serving in Hitler's army. She wishes she had asked her grandma more about her life at the chateau while Gisele could have still told her. While in France, Chloe discovers many secrets about her family and the chateau that she did not previously know. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and kept wanting to know what was on the next page, in the next chapter. I also learned some things about WWII. This book is full of suspense, well written and thoroughly researched. Gisele's story is loosely based on the true story of Genevieve Marie Josephe de Saint Pern Menke who lived in France during WWII. I definitely recommend this book. You will not be disappointed. * I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for my review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Chateau of Secrets is truly one fascinating book. I loved the characters, the history, and the story. The only complaint I have is I want more. I did not want it to end. The chapters were so short, that I kept telling myself that I will reading after this chapter. But kept reading for several more. Probably one of the best World War II era novels I have ever read. After reading it, I'm constantly online doing google searches to find out more about the historical facts I read in this book. I learned so much that I did not know before reading this story. I believe the book will stick with me for a very long time. I've already made plans to read again. It's definitely a keeper. 5 stars. I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
"Chateau of Secrets" was one of the most intriguing books I've ever read! Well-written, and enjoyable, I could have read the book in just a couple of days had I not been so busy! The story is told by alternating chapters between modern day Chloe Sauver and her grandmother, Gisele Duchant. Descriptions of scenery, scenes and people were so realistic, it was as if I was reading a true story. Ms. Dobson has an award-winning novel in Chateau of Secrets.
Betrayal, Family, and Secrets! If you like excitement, mystery, thrills, secrets, and enjoy historical novels, this book is for you. This is the first book I have read by author Melanie Dobson. In a word, Wow! I am looking forward to reading more books by her. I loved how the story goes back and forth between two main characters. Gisele Duchant is on a mission to hide her brother and others who are resistance fighters against Hitler and his army. Their hiding place happens to be in tunnels that are underneath her home Chateau d’ Epines. The excitement begins and builds as the pages turn. I was enthralled with this book and read it slowly to take everything in. The author paints beautiful pictures of Gisele’s Chateau and the surrounding property. It is written so vivid that I felt I was actually there with Gisele. Gisele’s very life is at stake many times and as a reader I had many heart stopping moments! Chloe Sauver is the granddaughter of Gisele. Her life isn’t a bed of roses either, far from it. A betrayal from her fiance sends her to her grandmother’s Chateau in search of Adeline, a girl from Gisele’s past and to be interviewed by a filmmaker who is doing a documentary about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Chloe is surprised to find what she uncovers while living in the Chateau during her stay. This storyline is so fascinating. While I wanted to uncover all the secrets, I wanted to savory this story as long as possible. The twists, turns, and surprises will thrill you, stun you, and perhaps even cause you to say, Wow! Have you guessed by now that I loved this book? I highly recommend this book. It is worth five stars many times over. I wish to thank Howard Books and the author for allowing me to read and review this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.