Julianna Lyn Oakes
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (9/2021)
After author Julianna Lyn Oakes personally spent a weekend in Glen Eyrie castle in Colorado Springs in 2018, she became inspired to write a novel with this castle at its heart. Thus “Civil” came to be, loosely based on the story of the real Glen Eyrie castle.
Lena is a high-end realtor with celebrity clients across the Colorado footprint. While visiting the property of one such client, she meets a staff member looking to sell a castle that was deeded to her after the death of her husband. Despite not believing in ghosts and haunted houses, Lena is warned it may have spirits lurking about the castle. As she prepares to understand more about the piece of real estate she is being commissioned to sell, Lena plans a girl’s trip with her sister, best friend, and intern to stay at Glen Eyrie while they await the appraiser.
Taking the history of philanthropy and the freeing of slaves and twisting it with a haunting tale encapsulating the spirit of a Civil War general, his wife and their staff and the tale within “Civil” begins to come to life. Transporting readers into the beautiful scenery of Colorado, amongst the sprawling grounds of a $40+ million mansion, the setting for this haunting narrative is idyllic. More unique even are the recipes included at the conclusion of each chapter, further bringing the story within to fruition. By developing Lena’s sister as a chef in the story, Oakes is able to expand reader engagement by introducing food in each chapter. Using food as a “coming together” piece in each chapter, either over dinner or as a point of character bonding, readers began to expect a centerpiece of food prior to concluding each chapter. I further used these dishes to connect to the story by pulling recipes from it to inspire my own meals as I read the book.
“Civil” is a unique blend of food, scenery, haunting and female independence as the story of family unwinds amongst the horrors of a ghostly castle. Wrapped in a neat and tidy bow, Oakes gives readers an all-encompassing, scary, and historical story of Glen Eyrie castle.