Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Book review of Summer at the French Cafe by Sue Moorcroft

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Cafe Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the French Café by Sue Moorcroft

Summer at the French Café by Sue Moorcroft 

Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…


As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home. Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.


But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.


Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?


The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha Ashley, Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Cafe Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the French Café by Sue Moorcroft 


My Review


Kat and her dog Angelique have settled into a comfortable life in Alsace. While Kat works in a bookshop/café, set in a large park, Angelique snoozes in the office, dreaming of lunchtime and after work walkies. Friends and relationships come and go, even family bonds have been an issue for Kat in the past, and this summer, life is about to throw a few more challenges her way. Luckily there is nothing quite like the love of a devoted dog. 


When things with her boyfriend go spectacularly wrong, it’s not just her personal life that suffers and I couldn’t help feeling that gut-punching disappointment for her at the way she is treated by those she trusted. Kat soon realises the benefits of having brother Solly on hand, but even his presence in her daily life, brings certain buried emotions out in the open – giving Kat yet more soul-searching to deal with. 


Solly’s roommate, the quiet and mysterious Noah, carries a heart full of sadness with him and his summer is going to be no less disruptive and emotional than Kat’s. Despite both their problems, Kat and Noah find the time to help each other through the tough days, and a beautiful friendship begins to grow.


These characters were all engaging and great fun to get to know. Their traumas, their weaknesses and the emotional journeys thrown their way, all made for addictive, page-turning reading. 

Some of the topics covered were heartbreakingly sad, but always sensitively dealt with. This book really highlighted the emotional damage that family relationships in all their murky forms can lead to, but I also never lost hope that ultimately, they would all find their happy ever afters. 


As well as a storyline and characters that grabbed me, this book also had a location that made me feel very at home. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in a book café, especially one set in a leisure park that brought back memories of childhood holidays? I was in fiction heaven. The beautiful region of Alsace, whose food, architecture and customs are so different from the rest of France, came to life from the pages and is tugging once more at my wanderlust. 


This book is another superb hot summer read from Sue Moorcroft, whose books just get better and better.


Purchase Links


Amazon UK 


Apple books 

Amazon US 

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Cafe Sue Moorcroft
Sue Moorcroft


Author Bio 

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author. She’s reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle UK and Top 100 on Kindle US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Novel of the Year, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary.


Her novels, short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.


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French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Cafe Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the French Café by Sue Moorcroft

Monday, May 16, 2022

Book review of Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin

French Village Diaries book review Until Leaves Fall in Paris Sarah Sundin
Until Leaves Fall in Paris, Sarah Sundin

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin

As the Nazis march toward Paris in 1940, American ballerina Lucie Girard buys her favorite English-language bookstore to allow the Jewish owners to escape. Lucie struggles to run Green Leaf Books due to oppressive German laws and harsh conditions, but she finds a way to aid the resistance by passing secret messages between the pages of her books.

Widower Paul Aubrey wants nothing more than to return to the States with his little girl, but the US Army convinces him to keep his factory running and obtain military information from his German customers. As the war rages on, Paul offers his own resistance by sabotaging his product and hiding British airmen in his factory. After they meet in the bookstore, Paul and Lucie are drawn to each other, but she rejects him when she discovers he sells to the Germans. And for Paul to win her trust would mean betraying his mission.


Master of WWII-era fiction Sarah Sundin invites you onto the streets of occupied Paris to discover whether love or duty will prevail.

French Village Diaries book review Until Leaves Fall in Paris Sarah Sundin
LoveBooksTours Until Leaves Fall in Paris

My Review

As the American community in Occupied Paris comes to terms with the Nazi arrival, change fractures their once tight bonds. Some leave, some accept and continue as normal, some resist. For others it is not as clear cut. When Paul Aubrey happens upon Green Leaf Books, run by Lucie Girard, he is in a difficult place. Widowed, with a four-year-old daughter and running his factory to produce civilian trucks for the Germans, leaving isn’t an option and most of their church now shun him. Lucie sees the sadness of his loss, witnesses his care and compassion and can’t reconcile or understand his obvious collaboration. She is just the breath of fresh air he and his daughter need, and despite her reservations, her bookshop needs his business help, but neither can reveal their true feelings. As the time they spend together slowly builds, a picture of danger and double lives comes to the surface. Ultimately, they learn to understand each other, but can trust no one.


It is as Germany declares war on America that the action and emotions in this book really stepped up a gear and it rapidly went from the book I picked up at bedtime, to a book I was reluctant to put down. 

For their best chances at survival, Paul must make difficult decisions as they make their journeys to freedom, and trust Lucie with his most precious possession. The characters showed strength, determination and resilience every treacherous step of the way through France, Spain and Portugal. Time and progress were slow. My nerves were in tatters as the storyline shifted and twisted, throwing obstacles and barriers at every opportunity. Nothing was ever certain. I knew what I wanted for the outcome, but I was never sure where this book would take me. I could just hope.


If you enjoy emotional World War Two dramas, this is one for you. 


Purchase Links  


French Village Diaries book review Until Leaves Fall in Paris Sarah Sundin
Sarah Sundin

Author Bio 

Sarah Sundin is the bestselling author of When Twilight Breaks and several popular WWII series, including Sunrise at Normandy, Waves of Freedom, Wings of the Nightingale, and Wings of Glory. Her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, as well as the Carol Award, the FHL Reader’s Choice Award, and multiple appearances on Booklist’s "101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years." Sarah lives in Northern California. Visit for more information.


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French Village Diaries book review Until Leaves Fall in Paris Sarah Sundin
Until Leaves Fall in Paris, Sarah Sundin

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Cycle touring - the Sèvre Niortaise and Charente Tour

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
La Rochelle

The Sèvre Niortaise and Charente Tour


Who says holidays need to be far away and in exotic locations? Not me! We have just spent a fantastic week cycle touring, taking in rural river valleys, the second largest wetlands area in France, the Atlantic coast, salt marshes, vineyards, historic buildings, and monuments – including the last working transbordeur bridge in France, and we were never more than 80kms from home.


This post is the nuts and bolts of the tour for all our cycling friends who have expressed an interest in the routes, cycle paths and infrastructure as well as cycle-friendly places to stay. It includes links to the GPS routes, the accommodation we used and just some of our photos. Happy cycling!


French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
Fully loaded Bromptons at the source of the Sèvre Niortaise river

Day 1 – Sepvret to Niort 72kms


Ride With GPS route


Starting at the source of the Sèvre Niortaise river and following this as close as possible to Niort.  We pick up the newly created V94 in Exoudun.  


There is a bar in the square at Le Mothe-st-Héray (KM18) (the short detour to the Orangery as you arrive in town is recommended) and plenty of bars and restaurants in the military town of St-Maixent-l’Ecole (KM30).  Following the river closely, this route can get quite steep in places as you climb out of the valley, but the climbs are short and manageable.


Really good patisserie stop just before KM43 in La Creche.


The track sections from KM44 to KM50 are pretty good.


Pick up the Velo Francette at KM59 by the Château Coudray-Salbart dating from the Middle Ages, and follow this into Niort, avoiding the dogleg just after KM62.


Highly recommend the restaurant Douc’Heure De Maroc off Place Brèche run by a local Moroccan family.  Great value tajine.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
The dragon snakes of Niort


Don’t miss the famous bronze dragon snakes that rise from the pedestrian streets in Niort and the Franck Ayroles ladies on the bench in Les Jardins de la Brèche are worth a photo stop.


AirBnB accommodation very close to the covered market and Donjon. 


NOTE: All accommodation on this trip is ground floor and easily accessible for 2 people and their Bromptons.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
On the Vélo Francette in the Marais Poitevin


Day 2 - Niort to La Rochelle 100kms


Ride With GPS route


Leave Niort on the Velo Francette following the river all the way to Coulon at the entrance to the Marais Poitevin (KM17). The Marais Poitevin is the second largest wetlands site in France (after the Camargue) and a haven for wildlife. There are good bars and restaurants in Coulon – it can get busy in tourist season.  Perhaps stop and take a barque (punt boat) onto the marais but we prefer to do this from the less busy town of Arçais further on.  Leave the Francette and follow the easy and very pretty road to Irleau (KM23).  


Staying off the Francette follow the road and trail to Arçais at KM28.  The Francette avoids this town and it is such a shame as it is lovely.  Take a picnic on a barque from the embarquerie du martin pecheur.  A 1 hour rental at lunch time grants to an additional 45 minutes free to stop at their remote picnic island in the middle of the marais forest.


Continue to Damvix (KM32) more bars here.  Divert off the Francette again to Bazois (KM35). Then follow the Francette to Marans at KM 58.  This is a long section.


After Marans, we could smell the salty sea air as we continued to the coast where the Sèvre meets the Atlantic.  However, if you need to press on to La Rochelle then follow the Francette alongside the Napoleonic canal all the way into the centre of La Rochelle.  Pop into Dompierre-sur-Mer if you need a bar stop.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
The fabulous cycle routes approaching La Rochelle


We came inland from the coast as the coastal path is a bit tricky on tyres.  KM72 to 89 is a mix of easy road and great dedicated cycle tracks that are well used by the locals.


KM 89 to 91 joins a slightly busier road to skirt the runway at the airport, but it is perfectly safe.  Then join the wonderful cycle network through La Rochelle at KM92.  Using this route means you arrive into La Rochelle from the ocean side rather than from the land side.  There is one large industrial estate to bypass and look out for the large WW2 submarine pens in the port.  Then savour La Rochelle which has become a cycling wonderland and has to be one of the best cities in France. A visit to Café de la Paix is a must.


Apartment in ancient town house.


A nice idea here, if you have the time, would be to spend an extra night and cycle over the bridge to Ile de Ré. The highlights of the island can easily be covered in a day. The toll bridge is free to cyclists who have a dedicated path safely separated from the road. In high season the cycle paths on the island can get very busy.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
The Atlantic coast Vélodyssée


Day 3 – La Rochelle to Rochefort 65kms


Ride With GPS route


Leave La Rochelle following the coast on the well signposted EV1 Vélodyssée.


Sample the divert around Angoulins to follow the coast around this little headland at KM9.


Chatelaillon Plage (KM17) is a classic French seaside resort and has plenty of bars and restaurants.


It is really worth diverting to Fouras at KM29.  The route into town follows the old deserted railway line and passes some of the traditional carelet fishing huts built on stilts in the water.  The town itself is lovely and sports a splendid Vauban fort guarding the entrance to the Charente river.


French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
Fort Vauban, Fouras, Flow Vélo

Leave Fouras and stick to the coastal path from KM38 to 42.  This is worth the detour although it can be narrow in places.  It was a highlight section of our trip.


Follow the EV 1 into Rochefort and around the edge of the Rochefort peninsula.  The cycle way here is very good.  Pass under the huge road bridge and arrive at the pont transbordeur at KM61.  It is the last bridge of its type in France and has been recently renovated.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
Pont Transbordeur, Rochefort


NOTE - If you are en route to Bordeaux via the EV1 we would recommend crossing the river here, on the pont, rather than following the official route to the east of Tonnay sur Charente.  Crossing the bridge is an experience not to be missed.  Then rejoin the EV1 just east of Echillais and follow it on the old railway line although a diversion to the fortified town of Brouage in the middle of the marais is a must and it is such a shame that it is bypassed by the EV1.


Today’s route ends in the royal dockyards at Rochefort.  Rochefort is a great town for travelling around in.  There is not much dedicated cycling infrastructure, but all roads are laid out on a grid iron pattern and every road gives way at every junction.  Plenty of one-way streets but almost all of them allow cycles to travel in both directions.  The courtesy and patience of the drivers in this town is lovely.


AirBnB apartment in a lovely old town house.

River Charente, Rochefort, Flow Vélo


Day 4 – Rochefort to Cognac 90kms


Ride With GPS route


This was a big day and was over six hours in the saddle despite taking some shortcuts.


The route follows the relatively new FlowVelo V92.  The trail sections are not all well surfaced until the outskirts of Cognac where they greatly improve. Public toilets and benches were a bit thin on the ground too.


The initial run out of Rochefort and through Tonnay sur Charente (KM7) follows really well-planned cycle paths alongside the main road. The old suspension bridge is worth a look although you will need good climbing legs to get up to crossing level.  It is open only to pedestrians and cyclists.  You would understand why if you crossed it…


From here the trail sections are variable with some very narrow or very rutted.  There are bypass routes following local roads which you could divert on to at many points. Don’t forget to look out for storks who arrive here for a summer of breeding.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente


Saintes at KM53 is a busy town but with all facilities.  Plenty of evidence of the Roman occupation here too.


At KM71 we finally had had enough of the variable quality trails and hit the road all the way to KM82 at Pres Menu where the trail surfaces get noticeably better.  This point marks the crossing from the Charente Maritime department into the Charente.  From now, all the way to Angouleme and beyond to Nontron, the trail sections on the Flow Vélo are superb.


The final run into Cognac follows the old railway line and ends up at the main quay where you will find the impressive Hennessy cognac house. Many Cognac houses in the city offer guided tours.


Beware the roads in town are busy and the drivers are not too courteous.  It was quite a shock after La Rochelle and Rochefort.


Large open plan loft accommodation behind the park.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
Cognac, Flow Vélo


Day 5 – Cognac to Angoûleme 62kms


Ride With GPS route


The FlowVélo splits between these 2 cities.  We followed the northern route partly because it passes through the lovely town of Jarnac in time for a croissant and coffee.


A mixture of road and trail but all well signposted for the V92.  The trail after Jarnac from KM18 to KM36 via Chateauneuf is superb.  We had planned a divert onto the road to save some time but the trail was so good that we stayed on it.


French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
Wall art in Angoûleme

You can divert to the southern loop following the river at KM41 but we decided to follow the river and it is a nice section.  KM49 to 54 is a little busier with traffic but nothing serious before picking up the river trail at KM54 all the way into the city of Angouleme.  Angouleme is built on an outcrop of rock.  Plan your access.  The marked route is about the easiest we know at about 7% incline.  This can increase to stupid % on some of the other routes into the city.

French Village Diaries cycle-touring the Sèvre Niortaise, Atlantic coast and Charente
Le Bruleau Charentais, Angoûleme


If you like steak then there is only one place to head for your Entrecote aux Echalottes cooked over an open fire in the Bordealise fashion:  Le Bruleau Charentais on Rue de Beaulieu.  Fabulous and very reasonably priced restaurant.


AirBnB apartment in the centre of the city.


Great (cheap) coffee in the covered market at the Italian deli – don’t forget to buy your croissant from the boulangerie in the market halle first.


Getting here

There are TGV services from Paris Montparnasse or Lille to Poitiers, St-Maixent-l”Ecole, Niort, La Rochelle and Angouleme.  Ordinary train services to other major towns on the route.


Regular flights from various UK airports to La Rochelle or Poitiers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Cover reveal My Paris Romance by Olivia Spring

French Village Diaries cover reveal My Paris Romance Olivia Spring
My Paris Romance by Olivia Spring

My Paris Romance: Falling in love with a billionaire…


Having enjoyed My Lucky Night (see my review here) I can’t wait for My Paris Romance to hit my kindle, so couldn’t resist taking part in this cover reveal – I just hope the inside is as red hot as the outside!


Cassie swore she’d never fall for another rich guy. Her heart has other ideas.


After a whirlwind holiday romance with hot billionaire Frenchman Nico, personal assistant Cassie receives an invitation to visit him in Paris.


Although she’d love a fairy-tale reunion, Cassie cannot fall for Nico. They live in different countries, come from different worlds, plus he’s more loaded than a bank vault. And after her rich ex and his snooty family left her feeling heartbroken and worthless, Cassie swore off dating wealthy guys. If she’d known Nico was France’s most eligible bachelor when they met, she’d never have got involved.


But their connection is undeniable and she’d be crazy not to see him again. If Cassie suppresses her feelings and just goes for the experience, she can avoid getting hurt, right?


Except when Nico sweeps her off her feet with a string of sexy, romantic dates around Paris, her plan not to fall in love unravels. She hopes he feels the same, but then a shocking revelation turns her world upside down…


Can they overcome their obstacles? And will Cassie get the happily-ever-after she’s been dreaming of?


Order this fun, steamy, fish-out-of-water, billionaire romantic comedy now and join Cassie in Paris to find out!


Read as a standalone novel or as book three in the My Ten-Year Crush series.


French Village Diaries cover reveal My Paris Romance Olivia Spring
My Paris Romance by Olivia Spring out 30th August 2022

Pre-order Links  

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

Publication Date: 30th August 2022

Author Bio 

Olivia Spring is a British, London-based writer of contemporary women's fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her uplifting debut novel The Middle-Aged Virgin, which was released in 2018, deals with being newly single in your thirties and beyond, dating, relationships, love, sex and living life to the full.


In addition to The Middle-Aged Virgin, Olivia has published The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy, Love Offline, Losing My Inhibitions, Only When It's Love and the sequel When’s The Wedding?


Olivia’s seventh novel, My Ten-Year Crush, was published in September 2021. Book two in the series, My Lucky Night followed in November 2021 and book three, My Paris Romance will be published in summer 2022. 

When she's not writing, Olivia can be found enjoying cupcakes and cocktails and of course, seeking inspiration for her next book!


Social Media Links 







My Paris Romance is book three in the My Ten Year Crush series. You can read my review of book two, My Lucky Night here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Book review of Toujours la France! by Janine Marsh

French Village Diaries book review Toujours la France! Janine Marsh
Toujours la France! by Janine Marsh

Toujours la France!: Living the Dream in Rural France (The Good Life France) by Janine Marsh


Following on from her hugely popular books, My Good Life in France and My Four Seasons in France, ex-pat Janine Marsh shares more heart-warming and entertaining stories of her new life in rural France. 


Since giving up their city jobs in London and moving to rural France over ten years ago, Janine and her husband Mark have renovated their dream home and built a new life for themselves, adjusting to the delights and the peculiarities of life in a small French village. 


Including much-loved village characters such as Mr and Mrs Pepperpot, Jean-Claude, Claudette and the infamous Bread Man, in Toujours la France! Janine also introduces readers to some new faces and funny stories, as she and Mark continue their lives in this special part of northern France. With fantastic food, birthday parties, rural traditions old and new – Jean-Claude introduces snail racing to the village – and trouble with uninvited animals, there is never a quiet moment in the Seven Valleys. 


French Village Diaries book review Toujours la France! Janine Marsh
Toujours la France! Janine Marsh Love Books Tours

My Review

Welcome to more adventures of Janine’s Good Life in France – yippee! Dipping into the pages of this latest memoir you will get to enjoy village life and experience the strong community she and husband Mark are well and truly a part of. However, hers is not just a rural life with her farmyard family and French neighbours, this book is also full of tales of Janine’s adventures further afield, that come her way working for various tourist offices in France. Cleverly woven into her daily life are lots of delicious snippets of history, culture, traditions and regional gastronomical delights. These not only added interest, but will, I am sure, feed any Francophile addiction and many certainly made me laugh as I was reading. You will probably also pick up enough French trivia to entertain your friends or even win a prize or two at a pub quiz.


It is always nice to read about life in France, knowing that the author gets French life like I do and understands it is the quirky differences between our cultures that makes living here so special. This is a gentle memoir of everyday life and drama, with lots of humour, but nothing too emotionally draining – it was just what I needed to relax with, and distract me from the weird weather we have been experiencing in my part of rural France lately.


This book will open your eyes to a different France from Paris, Provence or the Côte d’Azur. It will make you want to travel more, chose the regions that are often overlooked, and slow down to ensure you spend the time to really get to know the area, the people and in doing so, experience the real France.


I have now enjoyed all three memoirs from Janine, and I’d be happy to read more.


Purchase Links



Author Bio

Janine Marsh lives in northern France with her husband and myriad pets. 


She is unable to resist a stray animal, and the word is out. She works from a converted pigsty when she’s not travelling around France doing research for her website, which tells you everything you need to know about France and more. 


She gave up a sensible job in London, where she was born, to renovate a bargain-basement barn and turn it into a home – an ongoing project. She is an award-winning travel writer and social media fan who loves to share her life, explorations and photos on Facebook at The Good Life France.


You can find Janine on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and read her latest The Good Life France online Magazine here.


You can read my reviews of her previous books here:

My Good Life in France 

My Four Seasons in France