Having fallen in love with Siri Mitchell
's historical fiction, I decided to try her 2005 release, which is set in contemporary France. Getting a different and earlier view of a favorite author can be interesting, so I dove in not knowing what to expect, and ready to assess this one on its own merit.
Frederique Farmer is the owner of an ancient chateau who has discovered a set of fifteenth century journals on her property. The historical significance has made her home of some distinction, but Frederique is very interested in the privacy of her quiet life. She does occasionally book guests to come and experience her home, and, as she is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue, lavishes them with exquisite dishes.
When she receives a request from an American author to stay at her chateau while researching and writing a book, Frederique unwillingly agrees. Cranwell has a reputation that proceeds him, and Frederique is skeptical that his recent conversion to Christianity can change years of party boy behavior. To her surprise, he makes a down to earth and interesting companion, and she agrees to let him stay longer than the month originally planned upon.
A bit of mystery is introduced about 80 pages into the story. Although I enjoyed this side of the novel, it did seem as though Freddie was a bit dense and not curious at all to unravel the strange happenings right from the beginning. There's truly only one person who could have been responsible for the strange happenings, so you can see the big reveal coming right from the start. This definitely could have been done better. At least it was only a side story and not the main attraction.
I thought the spiritual side of the novel was extremely well done. Freddie lives her secluded life trying to hide from God, while Cranwell has come to her home to try to grow in Christ. There are a number of really good conversations and character revelations while exploring this topic. The romance is approached in a shy and hesitant way, as Cranwell doesn't want to get involved with someone who isn't sure about her faith, and Freddie is reluctant to trust someone with his past. At the same time, there's undeniable chemistry that must be reckoned with as they share an entire winter in each other's company.
The story would have been better had it not included lengthy passages from the fifteenth century journal. Honestly, I started skimming those after a while. Mitchell is an excellent historical writer, clearly, but I personally didn't feel it added anything to the story. The relative information could have been worked into a handful of conversations, rather than taking up chapters and chapters. Other things that bothered me were detailed descriptions of every outfit worn and every dish cooked, as that seemed excessive and indulgent.
In the end, I can say I enjoyed it. I'd definitely recommend other Mitchell titles first, but for those less inclined to enjoy historicals, check this one out and be swept away to the French countryside. You'll find some new friends!