(Spoiler alert—if you haven’t read the book yet, you might want to save this until after you’ve finished!)
Though some elements of this novel are fictional, many of the places featured in it are not.  The Meunier manor, hidden away in the hills above Lamorlaye, does indeed exist, and it really was the site of France’s only Lebensborn until the Germans evacuated in 1944.  Unlike other “Founts of Life,” Lamorlaye’s seemed to have been devoted just to “willing” mothers who entered the program voluntarily.  Others, across Europe, were much more sordid, their babies the product of rapes and kidnappings committed to expand the Third Reich. Most of the documents that might have helped to reconstruct the WWII period of the manor’s history were destroyed as the Nazis left, but historians have proven that well over a hundred children were born there during the final months of the war.
When I was thirteen, I started attending a small school that met at the manor.  The property belonged to the Red Cross, at that time, and I was one of the handful of children who joined an integration program that allowed us to study with the physically handicapped residents of the rehabilitation center.  I have vivid memories of reenacting the entire “Les Misérables” musical on the manor’s front steps, of playing soccer in a clearing in its woods, and of taking “field trips” to its Japanese gardens.
Lamorlaye’s small evangelical church is real too—my parents were among its founding members.  And the White Queen’s Castle is one of my favorite places on earth.  I spent many afternoons there picturing myself as the owner of the diminutive and exquisite architectural wonder and trying not to watch weekend fishermen shoving worms onto metal hooks.
I have no childhood memories that don’t involve Lamorlaye’s other landmark, the château.  Until I moved away at the age of sixteen, I spent much of my leisure time on the grounds of the castle that housed the European Bible Institute from 1960 until 2001.  While my parents taught inside, I played on the islands and went on treasure hunts in the woods.  My brother and I came this close to burning the building down, one afternoon, as we lit matches on a stack of mattresses stored in the back stairwell.  I’ve crawled under the castle’s patio and imagined grand events in the ballroom we called a chapel.  Beck’s Château de Lamorlaye was home to me.  It nursed my childhood aches and fueled my romantic élans.  Its grand staircase remains a defining feature of my growing-up years.  I miss my castle-days dearly.
Today, though the town has made of the château’s grounds a much-visited botanical garden, the building itself is locked down and empty, slowly succumbing to the ravages of time and inclement elements.  Yet even in its less pristine condition, it is graceful and strong, a silent sentinel whose towers and arches guard mute vestiges of the lives that once breathed within its walls.