KEYS TO THE CASTLE – Donna Ball
Berkley Books
ISBN: 978-0-425-23930-8
January 2011
Women's Fiction

North Carolina, United States and Chateau Rondelais, France – Present Day

Sara Graves fell head over heels in love with Daniel Orsay, a down-and-out French poet living in the United States.  Finally, at forty-six, she felt as if her life was hers to live.  After the death of her parents, she raised her siblings, paid for her way into college, and obtained a degree and a high level job in marketing.  Then, after years of pounding her head against brick walls in Chicago , she quit and went home to North Carolina where she lived in a little house on the beach until she married Daniel.  Life was glorious for three weeks; then he died.

Now, Sara is at loose ends.  It's been almost a year and she still doesn't know what to do with herself.  She moved in with her sister Dixie and her family, and she is happy there, but she knows she has to face the business end of her husband's death.  Daniel left her a small property in France , and when she arrives, she discovers that her poor poet-husband was heir to a four-hundred-year-old estate, Chateau Rondelais.  Thus begins the story of a modern-day princess and her fairy tale...

The KEYS TO THE CASTLE belong to Sara—as soon as she can muddle through a multitude of foreign paperwork, deal with money-hungry relatives, face Daniel's attorney head-on, and sort through a network of lies and secrets.  As Sara tries to understand the complexity of French law and deal with the pain of Daniel's other life in France , she meets Ashton Lindeman, Daniel's best friend and attorney.  Ash wants Sara to be quit of the Chateau.  In his words, it's nothing but a very old money pit, and isn't worth the trouble any renovations would cost her…and him.  Turns out, Ash owns a part of Daniel's property, and Sara is powerless to make decisions without his approval.  Sparks fly between them; they're aware of each other on a personal level, but Ash's need to control the estate overpowers Sara's desire to know him better.  And so, they are left pacing like two fighting tigers as they prepare for a fight to the death, in this case, ownership of the Chateau. In the middle of all this, Ash's ex-wife and Daniel's cousin, Michele Orsay, shows up.  She wants the Chateau for her own purposes.  Sara quickly sums Michele up as a money-hungry she-cat, but then, the other woman delivers the cruelest cut of all, a five-year-old secret Daniel neglected to mention.

With lot of suspense, a little bit of romance, and shades of mystery, KEYS TO THE CASTLE is perfectly paced and a delightful page turner.  Ash, as a hero, is funny and different, a little quirky, and a whole lot serious; his secretary Mrs. Harrison is a prize, and the attractive Mr. Winkle vies for Sara's heart.  Sara is cautious and headstrong, but she finally figures out what she wants.

KEYS TO THE CASTLE is a delightful winter read!

Diana Risso