I’m delighted today to be helping launch the blog blitz for Angel of the Lost Treasure by Marie Laval, and sharing my review. Published by Choc Lit on 23rd February, it’s now available in paperback, as an audiobook, and on all major e-book platforms. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my reading e-copy.
I’’m a bit of a fan of Marie Laval’s writing. I just loved Little Pink Taxi, her first book for Choc Lit (you can read my review again here) – and she totally blew me away with A Paris Fairy Tale, again from Choc Lit (one of my 2019 Books of the Year – you’ll find that review here). I’ve neglected her quite shamefully recently (sorry Marie!) – I still haven’t got round to reading Escape to the Little Chateau, and I was heartbroken when I just couldn’t find space on my reading list for her latest release, Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove. But when I spotted this one, I really wanted to fit it in – something a little different, originally published as Angel Heart by Accent Press in 2015, but now revised, re-edited and updated. Marie wrote quite a few historical fiction books before The Little Pink Taxi came along, and I was really intrigued to see what I’d been missing…
An ancient secret hidden within a mother’s song…
When young widow, Marie-Ange Norton is invited to Beauregard in France by the mysterious Monsieur Malleval to collect an inheritance, she has no choice but to accept.
But when she embarks on the voyage with her fiery-tempered travelling companion Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, little does she know what waits for her across the sea in turbulent nineteenth-century France on the eve of Napoleon’s return from exile. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Malleval’s fascination with her family – seemingly inspired by his belief they are connected to a sacred relic he’s read about in coded manuscripts by the Knights Templar.
As it becomes clear that Malleval’s obsession has driven him to madness, Marie-Ange is horrified to realise she is more the man’s prisoner than his guest. Not only that, but Hugo is the only person who might be able to help her, and he could represent a different kind of danger.
I’ll readily admit that historical fiction is rarely my first choice of reading – I’m very much a contemporary fiction girl (ok, old woman…!) and I generally only dip in when the experience is softened a little by a contemporary thread and a bit of dual time storytelling. And as for my knowledge of nineteenth century France and the ins and outs of Napoleon’s exile… well I did think I might be a tad out of my comfort zone with this one, however much I’ve enjoyed the author’s other writing. But I’m pleased to tell you that this story absolutely delighted me – I just couldn’t put it down, found it really gripping, and raced through it in a couple of afternoons as I very happily left the present day world behind.
One reason this book worked so very well for me was the strength of the characters. Marie-Ange is an immediately sympathetic heroine, mourning the loss of her husband, watching her home at Norton Place falling into rack and ruin through her lack of the funds to do anything about it. But she has a wonderfully feisty edge about her, taking no nonsense from anyone, and willingly travels with Capitaine Hugo Saintclair to the Beaujolais in pursuit of a rather unexpected legacy. Another reason this book worked so well for me was Hugo himself – he’s not escorting her because of the kindness of his heart, but because of a debt incurred in a card game. He’s distinctly lacking in any softer edges – except where his family’s concerned – very much bad and dangerous to know.
There’s a quite wonderful chemistry between the two of them from their first encounter – and although I have no intention of spoiling the story, that sizzle only increases as the story progresses, with an unexpected bit of gentler romance too, all feeling very real and making your heart (well, my heart anyway…) beat a little faster.
But all the characters in this story are wonderfully drawn. Malleval really is just evil and greed personified, on the edge of madness, a very dangerous man and a villain to spike fear in anyone he encounters – and he does have some pretty frightening henchmen too, particularly the doctor with the mesmerising eyes who begins to haunt Marie-Ange’s dreams.
There are other elements to this book that might just have screamed “you’re not going to like this one” – we’re taken into a world of magic and mysticism, prophecies and relics, all tied in with past generations and the world of the Knights Templar. It’s all quite a convoluted story, but that’s something Marie Laval always manages so well (I do remember that A Paris Fairy Tale had its moments too), holding all the threads very firmly and helping navigate a way through. In parts, it’s really quite disturbing – not enough to give you sleepless nights, but enough to keep you satisfyingly on edge as you read, wondering where the story will take you next. And there are other elements at play too, particularly a surprise encounter that rather turns Marie-Ange’s world upside down – and threatens any possibility of a settled and happy ending for our heroine and hero, although that already looked distinctly unlikely anyway.
The story-telling really is quite excellent – the whole book has a wonderful narrative drive, shocks followed by breathtaking moments, threats to life and immense danger, and it all zips along at a particularly brisk pace. I suspect that there might just have been a few elements of the French political landscape that might have passed me by – and possibly on the Knights Templar front too – but it really didn’t matter one jot. It’s evident that the author really knows her subject, and has meticulously planned every twist and turn – and she does a wonderful job of the setting up the scenes, of making everything feel so very authentic, before moving to the next exciting escape or difficult moment as the story unfolds.
I really, really enjoyed this one – and I’m sure you’ll have picked up that I honestly did have my initial doubts. While I might always be rather more comfortable in the world of little taxis and mobile library vans, it was so good to discover that Marie Laval is an exceptionally accomplished writer of historical fiction too – go on, do give this one a try!
About the author
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels Little Pink Taxi and Escape to the Little Chateau, which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Awards, as well as A Paris Fairy Tale and Bluebell’s Christmas Magic. Angel of the Lost Treasure, was released in February 2021 – followed by Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove in June 2021. Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine’s Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Authors on the Edge.