by Siri Mitchell,
After reading She Walks in Beauty, I was anxious to read another novel by Siri Mitchell. Chateau of Echoes tells the story of Frederique Farmer, a youngish widow and accomplished chef, who has purchased a castle in Brittany, France and turned it into an inn. She is, however, not overly keen on having guests, preferring to run, work in her garden, and experiment with food.
When Robert Cranwell, a popular American author, persuades Frederique to let him stay at her inn, she agrees against her better judgement. Cranwell's presence and the intimacy he assumes provoke her at every turn as he encourages her to move on with her life and open herself to new relationships. But as Frederique's feelings for Cranwell turn to affection and possibly love, she is perturbed to see that he's developed what appears to be more than a friendship with her assistant, the beautiful researcher, Severine. And as strange things begin to happen, Frederique fears for her own safety.
The story alternates between the modern-day plot and the story of Alix, a girl from medieval times, whose journals Frederique found on her property and turned over to the university. This sub-plot takes us back to a time when marriages were pre-arranged in order to strengthen status, position, and loyalties, and when women weren't typically valued as persons. The Alix- Awen story has a mystical feel to it, which is enhanced through the telling of traditional tales, including references to King Arthur and the Holy Grail.
At first I wasn't sure what period the "modern-day" section was set in. Mitchell's language conveys a more historical and formal feel than the 2002 date that is later clarified. This causes confusion for the reader, especially in the beginning. This fact is less important as the reader comes to care about the characters and to hope for a happy romantic ending. Mitchell has done a considerable amount of research on Brittany, France, and medieval times. Her love for her subject shines through. I was satisfied with the story's conclusion, though of the two books, I have to admit a preference for She Walks in Beauty.