Book review: The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts

The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts
The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts

History, mystery, adventure and romance… what could be better for the long summer nights?

Award-winning novelist Charlotte Betts serves up a scorcher with this thrilling, action-packed rollercoaster story set in London and France during the dark, dangerous days of the French Revolution.

After three dazzling historical novels centred on the 17th century – The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Painter’s Apprentice and The Spice Merchant’s Wife – Betts fast forwards 100 years to the last decade of the 18th century and plunges us into a world of political menace, rampant brutality and red-hot passions.

Brimming with enthralling historical detail, a rich cast of characters and ravishing romance, The Chateau on the Lake follows the fortunes of a young English woman desperately seeking out her family in France just as the country has erupted into an orgy of revolutionary violence.

In 1792, Madeleine Moreau spends her days teaching at her parents’ Academy for Young Ladies in smart Soho Square in London. An intelligent and determined young woman, Madeleine desires much more out of life than as ‘a decorative accoutrement to hang on a husband’s arm.’

Born to a French father and English mother, Madeleine knows little of her father’s past life in France but has always yearned to learn more about his family and to solve the mystery of his silence.

At a London reception, Madeleine is introduced to the dashing but haughty Comte Etienne d’Aubery from Orléans. One of France’s most eligible widowers, d’Aubery appears charming but has ‘a whiff of scandal about him’ after rumours that he murdered his wife.

When tragedy strikes, Madeleine is left alone in the world and now eager to find the family she never knew, she and her friend Sophie Levesque, who is escaping a scandal of her own, leave for France with d’Aubery as their escort.

But the revolution has unleashed ‘a terrifying beast such as the French people never imagined’ and fearing for their safety, d’Aubery offers the women protection at his home, Chateau Mirabelle.

The chateau enchants Madeleine with its startling beauty but it is also a place of dark and haunting secrets. As the revolution gathers momentum and life becomes ever more perilous, Madeleine must take control of her own destiny and unravel events of the past if she is ever to find happiness.

Betts is on top form as she bewitches her readers with dashing heroes, blood-curdling action and an exciting plot that bursts into terrifying life as Madeleine becomes caught up in some of the worst excesses of the revolution.

The harsh realities of life – and death – and the view from both sides of the barricades during these turbulent times are cleverly and authentically portrayed alongside a sweeping saga that seduces with both its high passions and its high dramas.

Add to that a devilish twist in the tail and you have the perfect summer reading escape.

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)