The Sins of Castel du Mont: Rosemary Bracco Greenaum Kohler
Within the calls of this ancient Castel there are many secrets that are about to be revealed and lives that were controlled, changed and destroyed by the many inhabitants of this magnificent castel. As the author relates the story of her birthplace she unfolds the many different secrets, sins, betrayals, lies and deceits that will forever haunt her, the reader and the ghosts that lie within the walls. The inhabitants lived in stone house outside. An even higher wall surrounded the castel’s walls and the totaling fireplaces that were installed warmed most of the rooms. But, in 1895 where our story begins we meet the Parisian , Count Du Pons, a famous fighter of royal blood and we shall learn more about this man, the love of his life and how they met and what happens when a jealous rage takes over, he takes leave of his senses and lives become out of control. Men during this time married sometimes for convenience but in the case of the Count you might say for monetary gain and control. The young woman who took his fancy, Roxanne whom he found passed out in the street from starvation. But, sometimes a person’s kindness can often mask their true worth and personality as you the reader will learn when you enter the Castel, hear the voices of those that lived there, learn their secrets, their weaknesses and decide if you would have want to live within these walls.
Four stories that are brilliantly crafted and woven together as each character will learn within the pages of his/her story many lessons that they should have learned before. Greed, power, fear, hunger and deceit will fill the pages as you meet the victims and those that inflict the pain. Within a village lived a witch who was really quite clever and smart. In that same village lived a man who owned all of the land and was called the Padrone. The two became friends. Since she was respected and revered she was rewarded with food and clothing provided magical favors. Owning all of the land was what kept him in power. Slaves worked for him and if they were lucky got some food and a place to live. Renters living within this village were supposed to live they’re rent-free but the Padrone’s high caused them to have to work so hard and were treated no better than the slaves. The artisans lived there too and were free and not more than one-step above the renters. Just like a feudal or caste system these people lived day by day and their profits cut by the Padrone. Feudal lords argued and many lost. Within this village lived Pope Clement VI who came to The Castel Du Mont several times. But, the successions of Popes caused concern as we finally meet those living within its walls.
Famine and Black Death reigned over the inhabitants of Castel du Mont as many suffered and succumbed to the Black Death. Many were forced to live within the same room and as the winter came while the Padrone had allotted them some food little medicine was known at the time and the witch was the only one that could provide any medicine. The witch was not immune to the disease, the winds roared and death toll rose. While the Padrone lived in luxury those in the Castel weakened, people were starving and many more died. Bianca is the first to fall prey to the wiles of Count Di Massimo. Young, naïve and wanting to gain a title she does not realize the price she is about to pay for agreeing to be his wife. The first encounter is quite telling and Bianca hurried out as if her life depended on it after being warned. Meeting Count Di Massimo who was born to a famous family and as most was corrupt. The family history is quite tragic as related by the author and Bianca met the Count’s father who lived near by. Some marriages are made in heaven and others are made with bargains. Bianca and the Count began a stormy relationship and she loved teasing him when flirting with others. From the start he should have realized what she was like and of course spending time in the Milan Courts was her passion and being away hardened her heart. Leaving for the Castel for one season and promised to return to Milan was his way of getting her there but she would soon learn that she would never return.
Arriving at the Castel her first move was to befriend her husband’s son’s wife Nan. Talking about Milan, telling her about theatres and letting her know that Milan was the center of her thoughts and she hoped to return. Explaining the mores and etiquette and listening to Nan explain that she would not feel right there. Pervcivalle is her husband and the discussion move to him and she continues to explain more about Milan and how Nan just might fit in making her feel better. But, not being able to return to Milan caused Bianca to hatch a plan that just might backfire. What about making a play for the Count’s son? What about making him fall for her? Within chapters 9 and 10 we get to know more about Bianca, her cunning ways and how she took an innocent man and turned him into her own toy. But, when her husband recalls his past , describes the woman he really loved, Bianca became irate and her plan to seduce Percivalle seemed like the right revenge. Conniving, deceitful, and a plan that just might cost a life. An ending that teaches never open the wrong doors, give away what belongs to you and become so consumed with status and title that you lose sight of who and what you are. The ending will surprise readers and the fate of one young girls will let you know that fashion, money and power cannot make you immortal. Castel du Mont now has new inhabitants as we go to the second story and meet Clara who is about to marry a wonderful man named Dante but is forced to adhere to religious customs and has to undergo a specific ritual the night before her wedding. The Padrone wants her father to mill a huge amount of flour and she Clara is determined to help him. But, indoctrination would change her life as she prepares for her special day and must adhere to the religious requirements set by the Padrone and the priest. Both thought to be trustworthy, honest and good men what happens when she enters the doors will let readers know that sometimes what we hear about in the news regarding Priests is true. Fear, anger, betrayed and unable to get help and her screams unanswered, Clara loses more than just a battle to the Priest. When the abuse finally stopped Clara realized that she could not let it go and with the help of Dante they would have to escape the clutches of the Priest and the Padrone. Entering the Castel that night would change her life and what happened next with Father Francesco would be emblazed in her mind. But, Dante made his way towards the Castel and what Clara would tell him would send her to finding the Mother Superior and hopefully to freedom and safety. Fleeing, walking through days and nights the heat upon them and then hopefully being able to tell her story and get some help. Would anyone believe her against the father and the Padrone? An ending that will surprise readers and a young girl whose courage never waned.
Enter the next to live in the Castel as the final two stories intersect and overlap. Father Claudio has just been ordained and the cardinal wished him luck in his new assignment. Starting off late his first day would not endear him to the Monsignor but the reason behind it would change his mind. A young child is born and the mother is disappointed when she learns it’s girl. But, the fate of the mother is poor and the end result for the young child is sad as Roxanne pale and shaken goes down the stairs in her father’s house, leaves and is unhappy. Trying to be kind to her yet cruel regarding her parentage she winds up on the street hungry, cold and alone. Count De La Manse finds her and decides to bring her home to care for her after looking at her and assessing her appearance. Although it appears that he is doing something kind and wonderful just by listening and reading the description and his thoughts you begin to wonder just why he took her in and brought her home. His mother was taken with her from he start and although starving, young and pathetic looking the mother agreed that she could stay and called the doctor to care for her. As Roxanne got to know the Count it appeared that he really was taken with her and wanted to make her his wife. His mother was also taken with her and the romance blossomed and the Monsignor married them. But, the Castel provided warmth what went on inside became quite cold. The Monsignor was assigned to visit with Roxanne as her husband was away courting others and leaving her alone. But, things would change her someone would come into her life and although a priest, Father Claudio was only human and what was in his heart should have remained there but did not. A forbidden love, tryst and events lead to tragedy. When the Monsignor became too ill and Father Antonio became the curate in charge the rest of the village people were in his care leaving Claudio to visit Roxanne. Willpower did not win over and eventually two hearts became one and the end result changed lives. A powerful story and an ending that will cause readers to pause for thought, decide whether this type of retribution was called for when a scorned husband decides to take back what is his and the cruelty he inflicts on Roxanne some might think justified while others unforgiveable. Since Claudio left the parish and was no longer there Roxanne was now at the mercy of her husband. You the reader decide whether Claudio was right to leave her alone as we meet him again in the final story where his fate is decided, his confessions aired and the verdict sends him into a tormented situation that no one should have to endure. Now sentenced to a Leper Colony, working to help those in need one voice within the convent rings out and things come full circle for him and someone else. An ending that is tragic, sad yet quite meaningful as two people learn the cost they paid for their actions. Castel du Mont: secrets, lies, betrayals, loves, hates and revenge revealed. Would you want to visit? Would you live there? Enter the Castel and hear the voices of those gone by and the ghosts that haunt each night and decide as the author did whether you would ever set foot inside.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer