Book Review: Tangled Ashes

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix mixes the past and the present in a dual-story of intrigue. While the story is five-star quality, I’m not sure I get the correlation between the title and the story.

Marshall Becker is an architect and a drinker. His partner and friend, Gary tricks him into taking a job in France to restore an old castle. While in the castle, Becker witnesses strange phenomena like things being destroyed. Slowly, Becker learns the history of the castle as he works on finishing the restoration project by the owner’s wife’s birthday bash. At the same time, you get to read the story of two french maids decades earlier during Nazi occupation. As the strings of the varying plot lines drift together, Becker and the on-site nanny become involved, but that’s a complicated storyline.

Most stories that involve a man and a woman usually end up with a romance. Becker and the nanny, Jade have their struggles. Becker is an alcoholic and tries to quit drinking without help. Jade has a secret illness and she’s not forthcoming about it. The reader will become tense as she nears the middle of the novel to find out why Becker drinks. It’s shocking. Shocking still that by the end of the novel, Jade was never told of the reason for Becker’s drinking. That would be a typical novel. Michele Phoenix writes a different kind of novel.

It doesn’t involve romance and Becker’s character is rough. You’d think with such a rough, loud, and unpleasant character a reader would not like him. This reader liked Becker. In spite of the roughness, you saw a bit of the tenderness he hides behind the bottle. He often loses his temper, even in front of the children. Then, there’s JoJo—the squatter on the property.

JoJo doesn’t talk. He’s great with horses and wood. As the plots start to come together to complete the puzzle, the reader is left in an aha moment. It all makes sense now. The end of the story is vaguely unsatisfying. You wonder if the end was left that way for a sequel. That being said, I enjoyed the story and the complex characters. I gave this novel four stars.

*Book given by publisher to review.

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