Tyndale Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Tangled Ashes in exchange for a review. Author Michele Phoenix transports the reader back in time to Lamorlaye, France during World War II. First the reader is introduced to two women, more like teenagers, that are hired to work at Meunier manor which has been made into a Nazi headquarters. One of them meets a soldier and love ensues. Although the two French women, Marie and Elise, only took the jobs to supplement their families meager existence, they end up in midst of a medical experiment of Hitler's regime.
In alternating chapters, the reader will be transported back into the 1990s and meet the reclusive architect, Marshall Becker. He is hired to restore the manor to a time of great splendor and majesty. The owner envisions an inn of the highest quality and puts his trust into Becker to bring that vision to reality. As he begins the restoration, Becker finds himself fighting his own demons and the distant memories of a time past at the manor.
The character development throughout Tangled Ashes is profound and palpable. Becker, whose life is but a facade, becomes a part of a personal restoration project. Due to his past hurt, he barricades his heart in anger lashing out at anyone who comes too close. Jade, the nanny of the owner's children, tries to mask her issues with a happy, joyful front. Yet, her strong will and determination to live life well enables her to confront Becker's addictions. Then, there are the elusive characters that come and go. As I read this story, the mystery that shrouds these characters is slowly lifted. Towards the end of Tangled Ashes one knows they tie the two story lines together.
I literally could not put this book down. I read it's 371 pages in less than a day. I simply had to know what the next chapter held. I realized the past year how much I enjoy historical fiction. The story's intricacies made this one top-notch. It is gripping, engaging and enticing. It is thought-provoking and sad, hopeful and deep. Sometimes I wanted to slap Becker awake to the life in front of him that he protects himself from. At other times, I wanted to reach into the abyss and trace the footsteps of Marie and her flight to freedom.
Tangled Ashes is not a book you will likely forget anytime soon. The story is too riveting for that. The tragedy in it pulls you in and the hope keeps you looking forward. Something beautiful emerges from the ashes. This is a love story, but not a romance. The end is unexpected and memorable. If you are a historical fiction fan Tangled Ashes will be one to add to your collection and sit well above the rest. I cannot wait to read more from Michele Phoenix.