The House by the Lake
The Ella Carey Collection #2
Lake Union Publishing, Mar 2016
258 pages Ebook, paperback, audiobook, MP3 CD
Women’s Lit, Historical
I purchased this book at the current price. This is my honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind.
The cover is lovely. It reflects the present and past concept of the book with the house looking like it’s in the haziness of a memory almost. This story was really good. Not quite as good as the first one was, but it did answer questions from the first book. It also brought up questions of its own. The characters were well drawn and had good depth. The ones we knew from the past in the first book were familiar and the new ones we met in this book for the first time were nicely done. The pace was steady and smooth and the tension was a slow build throughout the book. I found this to be a very nice addition to the trilogy. It’s not strictly a continuation of the same storyline, but it continues the story in a different direction. It’s a very interesting way to go.
And here begins the reveal…
We start out with Max Albrecht, a German, who is not terribly interested in German politics. However, his parents are very interested in politics and are insisting that he get heavily into them. To the point of joining the Nazi party and the Army. He really wants nothing to do with it. He doesn’t agree with what they are doing and he isn’t interested in politics anyway. He’s in love with a young woman. A woman named Isabelle de Florian. He’s meeting her tonight with papers for her to get out of the country, she and her maid.
As these things usually happen, there were glitches and problems. Max, now in the Army is assigned the job of getting rid of the maid, who is suspected of harboring Jews, and also getting rid of Isabelle de Florian. “Getting rid of” being another way of saying kill. He was expected to kill the two women. He was not sent alone, either. When he got to the apartment, the two women were just up the street from it and the other soldier called out to Isabelle and the maid, calling their names. The women stopped, startled and one of the soldiers took a shot. One of the women fell. When Max got to her side, he passed the papers to the living woman and told her to go, which she did. The dead woman he held in his arms for a while grieving her loss, his Isabelle. The soldier had shot his Isabelle. Days later his uniform would be found tossed in a corner of an alley not far from that spot and Max Albrecht would have disappeared from Germany forever.
In America, Anna has taken care of her grandfather these past years since he has gotten more frail. Suddenly he has a task for her. He wants her to go to Germany, to an estate where he grew up and look under the floorboard in his bedroom for something. He needs whatever she finds. He must have it. So, she goes. What she finds is an estate that is surrounded by fencing and barbed wire that has not been touched since Max left it to join the Army in his youth. She contacts the owner through the lawyer.
The lawyer is Wil Jager, tall and handsome. He seems almost like he would really like to help her, but like he is holding back. He tries to convince her that it is a lost cause, and yet, Anna gets the impression that he is really saying that she should keep trying. He takes her to lunch at another Schloss, one that was the home he grew up in. It had been converted to sort of a hotel and it wasn’t very good. The decorating fell flat and the food was very bland. The next time they met, he took her to a very good restaurant and they got along much better, of course. As these things go, of course, they get to be friendly. But he is still holding something back. Anna gets the impression there’s more, but he’s holding back.
They do commit a bit of larceny together. Wil has the floor cleared in Max’s childhood bedroom so that Anna can pull up the floorboards to find whatever it is her grandfather wants her to find. They do find something. Under the boards, under all the dust and grime of all the years, is a disintegrating black velvet box. A small box, a ring box. Inside is a ring. She phones her grandfather with the news and he is so happy. She’s worried about him, though. He’s in the hospital with some respiratory problems. He tells her he is in good hands and he’s fine. She should take some time to see the area. The next day, the hospital calls her to tell her he has died. Anna is devastated.
When Anna finally gets the owner of the Schloss to meet with her to talk about the idea of restoring it, she finds out more of the family history. She finds out the woman’s name is Ingrid and that she is a cousin. Max’s valet was named Hans. He was the lover Max’s mother took. They had Gabriel, who is Ingrid’s father. She also found out that the soldier who was with Max on that fateful night was Hans. It was Hans who shot Isabelle. He did it so that Max wouldn’t have to. He realized that it had to happen or Max would be severely punished or killed, so he tried to make it easier for him. But Max couldn’t face it. Initially, Ingrid refuses to have anything to do with the idea of restoring the Schloss. But Anna is persistent. And eventually she and Ingrid decide that they can be family and do this together.
Wil decides he wants to do things together with Anna, too. He finally lets his feelings out when he realizes she’s going to stay around and they could actually have a relationship. Because Anna has decided to live at the Schloss while it is being restored and be the point of contact for the village as well.
This was a really good read, intense, not fun. It could have been a standalone, but I was so conscious of the previous book and aware of the next one that I couldn’t separate them. The romance was soft and sweet, sort of shy and unspoken through most of the book. You just kept waiting for Wil to make a move or say something. Such a gentleman. What can possibly happen in the third book?
#3 From a Paris Balcony