Cover Image: The Garden of Lost Secrets

The Garden of Lost Secrets

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Member Reviews

This is a historical fiction with dual timelines: one in World War 2 and one more present. In the original timeline, we meet Stasia and Nicholas as children. They fall in love but are separated by the war. 

In the modern timeline, Isabelle wishes to purchase and renovate the chateau near their family property. As she does so, she begins to uncover many secrets. 

This was beautifully researched and written. There are parts of the depiction of war that are quite difficult to read. But as the Author's Note says, that was a deliberate choice to not try to make the atrocities of war more palatable. 

This is a tale of light and darkness with many themes from fairy tales laid over a background of war and difficult choices. I found it a bit slow at the beginning but increasingly engaging and moving the further I read. And then I was quite sad to have it conclude. 

Thank you to Forever for the advanced reader copy. These opinions are my own.
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Pub date: 5/16/23
Genre: historical fiction
Quick summary: Rotterdam native Stasia finds herself a key player in the French Resistance during WWII; years later, her great-granddaughters will finally learn the truth behind their family. 

I enjoyed this story a lot - the two timelines were nicely unified by the secret-filled Rouen chateau. The past timeline was my favorite - I loved following Stasia and Nicolas' friendship and subsequent work in the resistance and armed forces, respectively. Their star-crossed love story was sprinkled well throughout the narrative by Bowen. I also like the present timeline, which mixed family secrets, fairy tales, castle renovation, and sisterly competition. If you enjoy WWII fiction, this is a good choice!

Thank you to Forever Publishing for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A fascinating, and well researched historical fiction novel. The history, the powerful women, the relationships are all wonderful. My main issue with the book is that it did not get interesting until about halfway through. It also had some amazing ideas that I wish were more developed - I feel like much of the book was more surface level and not nitty gritty details. Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it was not a standout historical fiction read for me. If you enjoy historical fiction, definitely give it a try, but it was not as spectacular as Bowen's last book.

Thank you Netgalley for my advanced reader copy.
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This is my first book of Ms. Bowen's and I really enjoyed it. I really worried that Nicolas and Stasia wouldn't end up together, but just went along with the story and I enjoyed the ending. I wish that Isabelle had more closure regarding Stasia/Briar Rose, but I think that's the way Stasia would have wanted it so I think a bit of ambiguity was the right way to go. I really enjoyed the sections of Rose working with the resistance, but would have loved a few more scenes once she got to France, but before the Jed group arrived. I also enjoy a section at the end of a historical fiction that tells what/who was real and what part was fiction, and I missed that with this book. Since reading, I've been wondering more about Briar Rose and wondering if she was based on a true story. I would have loved to learn that within the confines of the book. Overall I would recommend this read for fellow WWII historical fiction lovers!
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This thing where female characters must be Mary Sue types has really gotten old. Not only is it stale and flat, it's sexist. Publishers need to start pushing your authors to write characters that are more relatable and realistic.

3 stars- premise is excellent, placement and world building are really good, but I struggled to finish this and did not enjoy it due to the paper thin characterization and saccharine tone. Really a shame, this could have been wonderful.
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The Garden of Lost Secrets is a compelling duel timeline story about WWII. Two sisters unearth secrets that align to their great grandmothers upbringing in France. The mythical tale of a Briar Rose, who aided the resistance, becomes the most hunted figure in the region during the war. Briar Rose's story haunts the region and an abandoned estate the two sisters are refurbishing near the family farm in France. The two storylines run seamlessly together. 

Bowen again delivers another page-turner. This book is packed full of action, secrets and beautiful love story.

Thank you Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for the complimentary copy.
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This historical drama is two stories, one told through flashbacks, and the other in current time. The story of Stasia and Nicolas during WWII was the more striking and dramatic. From the moment they met to their separation by the war, to their reunion after both of their lives had changed so dramatically it was more historical than romance, but I was still drawn to the outcome of their story and invested in seeing it through to the end. I liked how Kelly Bowen wove Isabelle and Emilie’s journey into Stasia’s. There weren’t any surprises from the reveals but I did think it was deftly told and I liked the characters emotional travails. This was a well written story that entertained on every page.

I like the new direction Kelly Bowen has taken with her novels. The Paris Apartment, her last novel, was similar in style and content and The Garden of Lost Secrets delivered in creating an entertaining story for the readers. If you like historical novels you may want to pick this one up! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and the publisher for an honest review and it was honest!
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The Garden of Lost Secrets by Kelly Bowen
Historical fiction. Dual time line mostly during WWII, some 2022. A bit of romance. 
Stasia spends her childhood summers at her grandparents farm in France. Nearby is the empty Chateau de Montissaire where the gardens are impressive, wild and peaceful. She meets a young man there who is angry and alone. She charms and befriends him until they are adults when university and military service sends them in separate directions. WWII has devastating results on the Netherlands and many countries. The story follows the two as they struggle to survive and make sense of the destruction and suppression around them.
In the current timeline, sisters Isabelle and Emilie grew up on the same farm and as adults, buy the Chateau for investment, repairing and refurbishing. The project brings them closer together as they learn some history of the building itself.

The horrors of surviving the war, the hardships, and the desperation are touched on from within Normandy, Amsterdam, France and a bit of Africa. Helping takes cunning and such bravery. 
Strong female protagonist. Known as Briar Rose, Stasia is filled with grief and pushed to unimaginable lengths to help the Dutch Jewish people that are under siege by Germany and all its levels of soldiers. 
This story had me enthralled throughout both timelines. 

I received a copy of this from NetGalley.
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War is hell.  This novel is based on lives actually lived and deeds actually done during WWII.  A young idealistic couple pledge to wed but as war breaks out, he decides to join the French navy where he will likely remain safe and she enrolls in school intending to become a physician in a city they deem safe.  Both are wrong.  His ship is sunk and her city is bombed to oblivion and though both survive, each learns through the fog of war that the other is dead.  This is predominantly her story of what she did in the war with a soupçon of glimpses into the future through an abandoned mansion and its gardens into the lives of descendants.  Moving and powerful.
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Love a dual timeline historical fiction! This was immersive and emotional - perfect for WWII hist fic fans.
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The Garden of Lost Secrets is a dual time novel that takes place around an abandoned French Chateau. The two time periods are just before and during WWII, and present day,

The story opens with Stasia, a young girl from Amsterdam who is having her yearly visit with her grandparents on their farm in Rouen. She meets a young street urchin named Nicholas who was beaten by a drunken man he was trying to assist. Stasia dreams of being a doctor so gently bullies him into treating his wounds. She realizes that he is living in the garden of the abandoned Chateau Montissaire behind her grandparents farm. She takes him home to her grandparents where he finds a home and work. Then before the start of WWII Nicholas joins the French Navy and Stasia returns to university only for both of their lives to be torn apart by the horrors of War.

In modern day we have Isabelle a restorer and property flipper who has always been fascinated by the Chateau and the fairy tale stories her great grandmother wrote with illustrations of the chateau. Now that the chateau is up for sale she asks her estranged sister Emilie to come and assist her with the restoration. The story of the chateau and the sisters’ unknown connection to the chateau and to Stasia and Nicholas makes for an intriguing read.

I loved the atmosphere of the abandoned chateau and the two intertwining stories. I did not know much about the French Navy during WWII and was shocked at what happened to Nicholas and his crew mates. I highly recommend this story.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and the author for the chance to read and review this book.
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This is a love story set against the backdrop of war. Stasis and Nicholas meet and fall in love. War separates them and they each think their world is over.
 Isabelle and her sister buy a French chateau. They uncover a mystery surrounding their great Grandmother. 
It’s a good dual timeline story. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
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A wonderful dual timeline WWII novel, featuring Stascia, one of the most targeted members of the French Resistance, and years later her two estranged granddaughters, who work on mending their relationship while renovating a French chateau and discovering secrets about their grandmother. 

Grand prose, a courageous tale, and family complications and revealings make for a compelling read perfect for histfic fans with a particular interest in France during WWII.
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I found this to be an interesting exploration of how war affects civilians, particularly those who decide to fight against their country’s official position. The tie between war and dark fairy tales like The Pied Piper and Briar Rose were particularly intriguing. Especially since other fairy tales were used as a form of solace and escapism.
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I was sad when this book was over.  Stasia and Nicolas's stories will stay with me for a long time. I loved the description of the Chateau and the difficulty of living during WWII from their perspectives.  I also liked the sisters in the present day timeline with the restoration work as they uncovered more and more about their grandma!  Highly recommend this book!
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I loved this book! It was exciting, nerve wracking, at times heartbreaking, and also inspirational.
A Rouen boy and a Rotterdam girl fall in love before WWII and believe each has been lost.
They do what they have to do to survive during the war. 
It’s people like Nicolas and Stasia who won the war and make stories like this spectacular because the characters are based in real people.
Don’t forget a chateau with a very special garden.
Bowen includes a thorough historical note in the afterward.
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The Garden of Lost Secrets is a must read for historical fiction fans. It is 1940 in Rouen, France when we meet young Stasia. Stasia loves to roam the gardens of the dilapidated Chateau de Montissaire when she summers with her grandparents. It is there that she meets Nicolas and their lives become intertwined until they are separated by the war. Nicolas enlists in the Navy. Stasia, believing she has lost everyone she loved, voluntarily takes on the most dangerous resistance jobs.
Bowen's plot is unique because she juxtaposes her past setting with a secondary plot set in the present day. Also, the story is told by multiple narrators. Stasia's great granddaughter's purchase the chateau and work together to restore it. The sister's have grown apart and this project hopefully will also restore their relationship. There is a drawing in the chateau that is almost identical to one that their great grandmother drew for them. Could Stasia be the legendary resistance fighter Briar Rose ? History,mystery and romance! What could be better? Bowen's novel is entertaining and thought provoking.
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Kelly Bowen has written another compelling, dual-timeline, WWII/Present Day novel that sucked me in and refused to let go. In the present day, we get dreams realized, complicated family dynamics, a possible romantic connection, and an unexpected - no, shocking - revelation about a beloved great-grandmother. I enjoyed Isabelle's journey but the heart of this book takes place some eighty years earlier, in the days leading up to WWII and those that followed during and after the Nazi invasions across Europe. 

Nobody lives through a war and emerges unscathed. Childhood friends, and later sweethearts, Stasia and Nicholas certainly don't. What befalls them over the course of four years, both individually and as a couple, is immense. It can't help but change them, sending each on different paths of growth and evolution. Bowen conveys these changes in organic, breath-stealing, deeply emotional ways as the world they've known implodes around them. The changes are particularly immense within Stasia as the scenes in the Netherlands show in gut-wrenching ways. 

Friendship - and it's impact on each of these characters - is a key facet of this book. The bonds between Stasia and Nicholas, Stasia and her school friend Margot, and Nicholas and fellow seaman Oscar are strong and enduring whether they are together or not. Their trust, admiration, respect, and affection, forged in the fires of combat, and in the perilous streets of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, have an incalculable impact upon the lives - and actions - of each of them. I was with them every step of their journeys, feeling their fear, devastation, anger, and determination. These characters were developed to the point where I was almost certain that if I had researched their names in historical documents I would have found evidence of their daring, patriotic exploits...and of their enduring love.

Bowen's books are well researched and authentic to time and place. Reading this novel was like watching the triumphs - and horrors - of WWII come to life across my mind. There are scenes that broke my heart and left me sobbing. Others that still haunted me weeks after reading them. Ultimately, I was left with admiration and respect for those ordinary (but in reality, extraordinary) citizens who, without being asked, put their lives on the line daily while helping to save the world from the evil of the Nazi empire, expecting nothing in return. Those like Stasia who, after the war, built new lives, not forgetting, but never divulging, their roles in winning the war for freedom.  

I highly recommend The Garden of Lost Secrets. 

*ARC received from publisher for fair and unbiased review
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Another beautifully written WW2 sage by Kelly Bowen! She really knows how to draw you into her intricately crafted stories and to connect with the characters. I love how she uses a present day occurrence and connects it with an historical. although somewhat fictional, event.

We are introduced to Stasia and her resistance entanglements in France during WW2. Then you are met with sisters in present day who uncover their great-grandmother Stasia's story while reconnecting in a chateau in the French countryside. It was an enjoyable read that made me wish I was there in France and that the stories uncovered were part of my own past.

Bowen has a great gift of writing historical fiction. The setting depictions make you feel as if you are there, and the characters and their connections are expertly crafted to make you feel as if you know them personally. I definitely look forward to future writings!

Thank you to Forever and NetGalley for the ARC. The opinions expressed are my own.
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Stasia Niemec had been spending her summers in the French countryside visiting her grandparents' farm. In 1935, she meets Nicolas Navarre, and the two teenagers form a close bond while spending time in the overgrown, untended garden of the nearby Château de Montessaire. But as friendship turns to love, war alters their plans to be together. Stasia's home city of Rotterdam is bombed by the Germans causing massive casualties. France has surrendered. Stasia and Nicolas each find a new purpose through protecting others and are separated. In the present day, sisters Isabelle and Emilie purchase the old château and hope to restore it and turn it into a destination. As they explore the property, they find themselves drawn to the garden that enchanted their great-grandmother, Stasia. As the project gets underway, wartime secrets start to emerge that might be connected to their family. 

The Garden of Lost Secrets is the type of historical fiction I enjoy. While WWII stories are never easy to read, I find tales of heroism and bravery, inspired by real people, very appealing. And as with author Kelly Bowen's last book The Paris Apartment, the present-day story involves one generation uncovering new information about the past. I enjoyed Bowen's storytelling, which included themes of friendship, mystery, intrigue, and some romance. And a great description of the decaying château.

Rated 4.25 stars.
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