Friday, September 30, 2022

Book review of A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey

French Village Diaries book review A Year at the French Farmhouse Gillian Harvey
A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey


A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey

 

Escape to France with this warm, witty romantic read.

 

After ten years of loyal service Daisy Butterworth has been made redundant. Like any clever woman, she knows the cure to redundancy is a little too much wine and her best friend.

 

Only the next morning, Daisy has more than a hangover . . . she has a whole new house – in France!

 

Seeing this as an opportunity instead of a disaster, she’s excited about finally moving to France, just as she and her husband always dreamed of. However, Daisy is in for another surprise. Despite planning to move there for over 20 years, her husband never actually intended to go.

 

So begins a year in France, alone, renovating the gorgeous old farmhouse that is held together by wallpaper and wishes.

 

Will a year at the French farmhouse be just what Daisy needs? Or could it be the previous owner, Frederique, that is the answer to Daisy’s dreams?



French Village Diaries book review A Year at the French Farmhouse Gillian Harvey
A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey

 

My Review

Daisy and Ben’s lives are suddenly thrown into a turmoil neither of them could have anticipated. First Daisy is made redundant, then she mistakenly buys the cottage of ‘their’ dreams in rural France, and then Ben admits he can’t follow her to the new life they had been talking about for decades.

 

What follows is at the same time sad, funny and full of promise, as Daisy throws herself into completing the purchase of a cottage she hasn’t seen and begins the first steps in making a life for herself in France.

 

Daisy was a character who was easy to warm to. I felt her sadness at the changes thrust upon her, but her enthusiasm for her new adventure shone through, despite the frustrations as she tried to adapt to the French ways.

 

What stood out for me the most was the Frenchness of this book and especially the characters we meet. It was obvious that the author has extensive experience of life in rural France, and she has cleverly crafted some lovely characters that I could imagine bumping into in my corner of France, which isn’t too far from where she and her family now call home. She has created a clever mix of keeping the romance of a new life in France alive, for those who read books like this to fuel their dreams, as well as not shying away from the challenges a move like this invariable throws you. Add into the mix a complicated family situation that needs resolving and storyline that highlights the importance of friendship, and this book had a lot to keep me turning the pages.

 

If you are looking for a book to read this autumn that is sure to keep the memory of summer alive as the nights draw in, why not pick up a copy of A Year at the French Farmhouse.

 

Purchase Links

 

Purchase here 




French Village Diaries book review A Year at the French Farmhouse Gillian Harvey
Gillian Harvey

 

Author Bio

 

Gillian Harvey is a freelance journalist and the author of two well-reviewed women’s fiction novels published by Orion. She has lived in Limousin, France for the past twelve years, from where she derives the inspiration and settings for her books. Her first title for Boldwood, A Year at the French Farmhouse, will be published in September 2022.

 

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French Village Diaries book review A Year at the French Farmhouse Gillian Harvey
A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey

 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Book review of The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas

French Village Diaries book review The Lost Notebook Louise Douglas
The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas


The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas

A notebook full of secrets, two untimely deaths – something sinister is stirring in the perfect seaside town of Morranez…

 

It’s summer and holidaymakers are flocking to the idyllic Brittany coast. But when first an old traveller woman dies in suspicious circumstances, and then a campaign of hate seemingly drives another victim to take his own life, events take a very dark turn. 

 

Mila Shepherd has come to France to look after her niece, Ani, following the accident in which both Ani’s parents were lost at sea. Mila has moved into their family holiday home, as well as taken her sister Sophie’s place in an agency which specialises in tracking down missing people, until new recruit Carter Jackson starts.

 

It’s clear that malevolent forces are at work in Morranez, but the local police are choosing to look the other way. Only Mila and Carter can uncover the truth about what’s really going on in this beautiful, but mysterious place before anyone else suffers. But someone is desperate to protect a terrible truth, at any cost…




 

My Review

This book is a gripping mystery with lots going on and a cast of strong characters. I loved the location, that for me, really added to the foundations of the story. Set on the wild Breton coast, the landscape, the sea, the ancient dolmen and over a thousand years of history, all have a part to play. 

 

Mila was an interesting character to get to know. She was unpredictable, a bit reserved and not sure whether she belonged in France with her family or in the UK, where her life had been settled and routine before she found herself looking after her niece in France. I could feel her loneliness, not only because she was away from her partner, but also because it seemed she was the only one who believed that the strange goings on in Morranez were not quite as they first seemed. This did however give her the determined drive she needed not to give up – on the situation but also on Ani, who was vulnerable and at a difficult age, but an easy character to warm to. I could feel the grief that Ani and Mila were experiencing, trying to come to terms with loosing Ani’s parents, and a really special part of the book for me was the conversations between Mila and Sophie.

 

With so much going on, I tried hard to guess the connections between the different characters, locations and situations. As the book progressed and the plot evolved, I was totally gripped, had no idea who to trust, and despite a long list of suspects didn’t fully work things out for myself.

 

If you enjoy unravelling mysteries or books set in Brittany, I’m sure you will love The Lost Notebook.

 

 

Purchase here 



French Village Diaries book review The Lost Notebook Louise Douglas
Louise Douglas

 

Author Bio

 

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author and an RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

 

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French Village Diaries book review The Lost Notebook Louise Douglas
The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Book review of Daughters of Paris by Elisabeth Hobbes

French Village Diaries book review Daughters of Paris Elisabeth Hobbes
Daughters of Paris by Elisabeth Hobbes


Daughters of Paris by Elisabeth Hobbes 

 

Paris 1930s

A promise that binds them together. A war that pulls them apart.

 

Childhood companions Fleur and Colette make a vow, under the trailing ivy of their secret garden, that they will be secret sisters forever. But as they grow up, the promises of childhood are put to the ultimate test. For Colette is the daughter of the house, and her life is all jazz clubs, silk dresses and chilled champagne, while Fleur is the orphan niece of the housekeeper and doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere.

 

Years later, in 1939, life as they know it will never be the same. As the German tanks roll in and Paris becomes an occupied city, the promise they made as children will have consequences they could never have imagined…



French Village Diaries book review Daughters of Paris Elisabeth Hobbes
Daughters of Paris Elisabeth Hobbes

 

My Review 

This is a book that neatly combines a bit of history and hardship, as Colette and Fleur cope with the Nazi occupation of their beloved Paris, with a storyline that has the importance of a strong bond of friendship at its heart – a book I really enjoyed reading.

 

As children they were as close as sisters, despite their different backgrounds. Colette was the daughter of a wealthy couple, Fleur the orphaned niece who lived with her aunt, the housekeeper for Colette’s family. Fleur had a resilience that came with the hardships of her upbringing, that Colette didn’t, but with matters of the heart, she had more experience and a secret she couldn’t share with Fleur. 

 

This was a book that focussed on friendship and despite life taking them in different directions and throwing them situations that tested and strained the bond, it remained strong enough to keep them together when it mattered. Living during the difficult time of the occupation, life was full of secrets, which often led to rivalry between them and enhanced the dangers to be faced. It was interesting to see how the war changed them and their relationship and how their different personalities coped with situations they found themselves in. 

 

If you enjoy historical fiction with strong female characters, I think you would like Daughters of Paris – especially as it is currently only 99p on kindle UK.


Purchase Links




Purchase here 



French Village Diaries book review Daughters of Paris Elisabeth Hobbes
Elisabeth Hobbes

 

Author Bio

 

Elisabeth began writing in secret, but when she came third in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013, she was offered a two-book contract, and consequently had to admit why the house was such a tip.  Elisabeth’s historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon and One More Chapter span the Middle Ages to the Second World War and have been Amazon bestsellers and award shortlisted. 

 

Elisabeth is a primary school teacher but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike five-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them.  When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.

 

She was born and raised in York but now lives in Cheshire because her car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.

 

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French Village Diaries book review Daughters of Paris Elisabeth Hobbes
Daughters of Paris Elisabeth Hobbes

 

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Daughters of Paris by Elisabeth J Hobbes (Open to UK Only)

 

*Terms and Conditions – UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


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Friday, August 12, 2022

Book review of Elodie's Library of Second Chances

French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Elodie's Library of Second Chances


Elodie’s Library of Second Chances

 

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!

 

When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

 

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

 

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

 

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed?



French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Elodie's Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin

 

My Review 

It was the library setting that drew me to this book, but as soon as I ‘met’ Elodie, our shared love of books, libraries and the simple things in life was uncanny. 

 

Librarians all over the world will be nodding in agreement at this book, understanding that never-ending quest to find more members, get enough funding for more books and get people to understand that once they open the doors, a library can be so much more than a place of old books on dusty bookshelves, looked after by bespectacled librarians. Having spent a bit of time working as a librarian and trying my best to share the magic and joy to be found inside a library, I was willing her project to save the Willow Grove library to succeed from the beginning.

 

Everyone has a story to tell, but how many of us are brave enough to open up and tell it, or indeed unjudgmental enough to listen to what others have to say? Let’s face it, sometimes gossip and rumours are easier to cope with than an uncomfortable truth, especially in a small town. Elodie is on a mission to change not just the fortunes of the library, but the way the townsfolk treat each other too. Her passion and determination to succeed leapt out from the pages and the people she met at the library were real characters who made me smile, touched my heart, and felt like friends.

 

I defy anyone to read this book and not admonish themselves just a little about a situation where they may have judged a book by its cover – and been wrong.

 

I absolutely did not want this book to end. I could have stayed forever within the Willow Grove library, a place that by the end of the book felt like my happy space too.

 

If you love books and libraries and stories about people starting over, you will love Elodie’s Library of Second Chances.


Purchase Link



Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

Amazon Aust  



French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Rebecca Raisin

 

Author Bio

 

Rebecca Raisin writes heartwarming romance from her home in sunny Perth, Australia. Her heroines tend to be on the quirky side and her books are usually set in exotic locations so her readers can armchair travel any day of the week. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous heroes who have brains as well as brawn, is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true, once in a lifetime love. Her bestselling novel Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has been optioned for film with MRC studios and Frolic Media.

 

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French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Blog Tour: Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin




Sunday, August 7, 2022

Poitiers summer fun

French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Place du Maréchal Leclerc, Poitiers


HoliDAYS out and about: Poitiers

This summer, rather than going away for a holiday we are making the most of our holiDAYS out and about, mostly involving the bikes. The first of these was an afternoon in Poitiers, where the relaxed groups of tourists milling around with maps, ensured there was a feel of holidays in the air.

 

There are certain things we like to do on holiday; ride our bikes, sit outside at a café, enjoy warm sunny weather, eat patisseries, drink cold beer and see the sights. I’m pleased to say, we managed all of these in just one afternoon in Poitiers.



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Lunch on a terrace, Poitiers 2022

 

We lunched in the main square with the imposing Hôtel du Ville watching over us, as we people-watched the constant flow of activity around us. We might have had the intention of grabbing a quick croque monsieur, but with a menu offering steak frites, followed by a chocolate éclair and a coffee (that came with a biscuit) for less than 12€ each, our resolve crumbled. Seated outside, there was more than enough room for our bikes to join us without getting in the way and the distance between the tables was safe and reassuring. The creamy blossoms of the Japanese Pagoda tree fell like confetti on us, the table, and added a certain something to the salad that accompanied our steak frites. We then set off for a short twelve-kilometre city tour by bike.



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Aliénor d'Aquitaine, Poitiers


This year Poitiers is celebrating the 900th anniversary of Aliénor d’Aquitaine, who (I believe) is the only person to hold both the title of Queen of France and Queen of England. The impressive Palais that is at the heart of the medieval city, was where the Counts of Poitou and the Duchy of Aquitaine held their courts. I haven’t had time so far this summer to book into any of the events being organised but seeing this artwork on the grand steps up to Palais reminded me to check out the calendar, as I really enjoyed the office du tourisme’s guided love-theme walk. 



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Parc du Blossac, Poitiers

 

Despite the tourists in the town centre, we had the beautiful Parc de Blossac, that dates from the eighteenth century, almost to ourselves. It’s central fountain and wide tree-lined boulevards, with a bandstand and views over the ramparts feel very Parisian to me and are perfect for enjoying on a bike, but the more intimate Jardin à l'Anglaise and small animal park are best explored on foot. If you look closely on the old stone walls there is evidence of the Nazi occupation, a swastika, and the date 1940, plus a German eagle, carved into the stone at one of the strategic viewpoints over the river. A reminder that the park was requisitioned as a parade ground for the many garrisons of soldiers stationed in the vicinity.



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Church of St Hilaire le Grand, Poitiers


We also took advantage of the cool interiors of some of the churches in Poiters, including the church of St Hilaire le Grand (who was the first bishop of Poitiers). This impressive Romanesque church has been welcoming pilgrims on Chemins de St Jacques for hundreds of years and I’m always delighted when my path crosses this ancient pilgrimage route.


French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Poitiers viewed from the cycle lane flyover

 

In more recent years, Poitiers has come on a long way in terms of being an eco-city and somewhere that is cycle and pedestrian friendly. In our early years in France, on the odd occasion we did venture into the town centre, around family airport or station drop-offs, we quickly remembered why we rarely bothered. It was difficult to access, impossible to park and noisy and unpleasant to walk anywhere because of the constant traffic. The main square becoming pedestrianised was one of the best things they have done, topped only by the fact that the best view of the city is now one that is reserved exclusively for cyclists. It is a city panorama, from the flyover, where two out of the three lanes are now car free. Cycling into town from Ed and Pearl’s flat is a joy. Poitiers took the decision a few years ago, to drastically reduce car access into the city and now the town centre is a hive of people, happily shopping and socialising in the car-free streets. More towns need to follow this example.


Vive l’active travel!


You might also like my holiDAYS out in Melle and Celles-sur-Belle post.