Who Knew That A Centuries-Old Family Secret Could Still Pose A Serious Threat…
Julie Mangano used family stories she heard as a child of her mother’s ancestors as the historical backdrop for heroine Leena Weiss in her new book, Braha: Tale of Innocence and Intrigue. Concurrently, she used her paternal grandparents’ ranch in Escondido, California as the model for one of the locations for Leena’s contemporary, Linden St. Clair. These two very different women, separated by centuries but connected by curious circumstances, are at the heart of Mangano’s powerful and intriguing story.
When Linden St. Clair’s grandfather dies and leaves her an old family journal, she had no way of knowing how it would change her life. The journal was written by Leena Weiss, her great-great grandmother, and the more Linden reads, the more she realizes it contains the key to revealing some mysterious family secrets and, quite possibly, even her grandfather’s killer.
Leena Weiss was a young German girl living a simple life in a small Russian village. While Leena fostered dreams of a better life, living in poverty didn’t offer a clear picture of just what that might entail. Linden follows Leena’s journey from an affair with a Russian army officer to a life on the run, pursued by Okhrana, the Russian secret police. As more family secrets are exposed, Linden is horrified to learn that even after all this time her family might still be in danger.
This character-driven mystery is filled with international intrigue and suspense as a centuries-old secret is left to Linden St. Clair to unravel. There is never a dull moment as the lives of these two strong women run a parallel back and forth between early 1900 Russia and modern-day California, leaving readers anxiously turning pages all the way to the climactic ending. Thankfully, there will be a sequel…
Braha: A Tale of Innocence & Intrigue
By Julie Mangano
Alternating between a present-day mystery in America and a glimpse of a Russia gone by, Braha: A Tale of Innocence & Intrigue is a dual narrative whose stories are separated by more than a century. Author Julie Mangano reaches into her own family’s past to create the novel’s historical aspects, spinning a tale of love and secrets. In the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great enticed German farmers to settle in Russia. The German communities remained distinct from the Russians linguistically and culturally. Mangano is descended from such German settlers in Russia, as is her modern-day protagonist, Linden St. Clair. The contemporary side of the novel revolves around Linden trying to uncover the truth behind the death of her beloved grandfather, Franklin, a wealthy rancher in rural Somerville, California. The second story comes from the memoirs of Linden’s great-greatgrandmother, Leena Lagerlöf, née Weiss, an ethnic German born in Russia, who fled in the last days of the czars. Both tales speak of lost loves and of truths dangerous and hidden. As each narrative unfolds, Leena and Franklin’s connection becomes clearer, merging in the end to a single, multigenerational tale of international intrigue. Mangano’s written voice is a mellow one overall, with occasional humor and an easy exposition of detail in both the mystery and the history portions. Between the two narrators, Linden is almost unilaterally matter-of-fact. Lines such as this are typical: “After reading the journal and knowing how secretive my family had been for years, I now understood what must have happened.” Contrast this with Leena’s voice: “No doubt I was still going to hell, but before that journey began, I had to get through this lifetime.” One could say that Leena is the heart of the story and Linden is the head. Given the number of characters and locations, Mangano succeeds in presenting the crucial details in a clear manner. The author certainly could have written the novel entirely as a romantic history, as it contains not only vivid characters and intense emotion but also provides a fascinating look at an ethnicity not often discussed in fiction. That said, both stories are solid and merge to build a strong narrative. Jason Henninger Foreword Clarion Review
About the Author
Julie Mangano has been involved in the publishing industry since 1989 as a publications manager, writer, editor and art director. It was after hearing stories of her mother’s ancestors that prompted her to write Braha, her first mystery. Her maternal grandparents’ journey from Russia to America inspired the historical characters and events in this book. Her paternal grandparents’ ranch in Escondido, California was the model for one of the locations in this story. Born and raised in Southern California, she now lives in Round Rock, Texas with her husband. Mangano is currently at work on the sequel.