Into an enchanting village steps Emily Braden, a young Englishwoman who has lost all belief in romance.
Long ago, young Queen Isabelle, captured and awaiting rescue, hid a treasure in the vicinity of the Moulin Tower of the Chateau Chinon. Centuries later, another Isabelle found star-crossed love with a German soldier, and she, too, is rumored to have left a treasure behind. Now, Emily’s unreliable yet lovable cousin, Harry, has convinced her to go on holiday with him to Chinon. Naturally, despite all promises to the contrary, Harry does not meet her at the train station nor at the hotel. Yet the moment Emily steps through the doors of the Hotel de France, Paul and Simon Lazarus offer her a drink, and she joins a cast of characters simply waiting for her to begin this romantic, mysterious adventure tinged with gothic elements. Her motley crew of supporting characters includes the Lazarus brothers; Jim Whitaker and his insufferable wife, Garland; Christian, a German painter; and Martine, a gallery owner whose ex-husband recently fell to his death on the steep chateau steps. Yet it is the violinist Neil Grantham, with his midnight blue eyes, who captivates Emily’s hesitant heart. Soon, Paul and Emily begin to explore Chinon, and as soon as Emily shares the tale of Queen Isabelle, Simon joins the treasure hunt. An invitation to the elegant vineyard Clos des Cloches leads to more than a flirtation between the darkly handsome owner, Armand Valcourt, and Emily as the hunt for the treasure shifts to the tunnels underneath the wine cellars. Streets are labyrinthine, motivations obscure, and mysteries abound, including the identity of the gypsy man shadowing Emily’s steps as well as the whereabouts of Harry.
A master of gothic romance, Kearsley (The Firebird, 2013, etc.) deftly plants clues, strews red herrings and toys with her readers’ predictions. The journey is thrilling.