Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book review of How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates by Jane Linfoot

French Village Diaries #HIFortnight How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates Jane Linfoot HarperImpulse book review

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in #HIFortnight, a social media spotlight to celebrate the hot romance novels published by HarperImpulse. My review is for How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates: HarperImpulse Contemporary Romance by Jane Linfoot, that in true HarperImpulse style, is a hot and steamy romance set over ten dates between Ed (serial one night stand man) and Millie (independent girl with no time for men).

French Village Diaries #HIFortnight How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates Jane Linfoot HarperImpulse book reviewEd has been challenged by his sister to date the same girl ten times, with certain rules and conditions, and after an accident brings them together, Millie becomes that girl. They end up spending time alone and sharing a few smoldering meals as Ed ticks off his dates and reports back to his meddling sister. Their emotions are kept in check until they spend a weekend in Provence where they pretty soon find the chemistry between them is as explosive as the fireworks they are there to watch. However neither of them are honest with each other about their backgrounds, or with themselves about their feelings. They both have secrets and issues from the past that neither of them are willing to deal with, but somehow being together begins to unravel the defense mechanisms they had put in place to protect their emotions.

I found it a fun, quick read with plenty of spice and heat, so I wouldn’t recommend it if explicit sex isn’t your thing. I liked the characters and enjoyed their journey of discovery, all the while wondering what would happen after their ten dates. There are a few good emotional plot twists that kept me on my toes and wondering if, despite the chemistry, too much past hurt and present deceit had put play to a happy ever after.

How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates: HarperImpulse Contemporary Romance is available in ebook and paperback format, links to Amazon can be found below. I have also read and enjoyed High Heels and Bicycle Wheels also by Jane Linfoot and HarperImpulse. 

You can read more about HarperImpulse Fortnight by searching social media for #HIFortnight. 
You can follow Harper Impulse on twitter by clicking here and Jane Linfoot on twitter here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The social side of council life in France

French Village Diaries social council France
Burglary prevention by the Gendarmes

I have now been an elected member of our village council for just over a year and some of the things I’ve undertaken as a councillor have been what I expected, but others haven’t. It has certainly been a sociable thing to do as I’ve helped to organise and taken part in lots of social activities, events and celebrations in the village and I’ve supped my fair share of social aperitifs too.

There is another side to the word social though, in terms of relating to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community. This aspect of the role is where things haven’t been quite what I expected and at times have been rather emotional. One of the most difficult things was being part of a small group who had to make a decision as to whether to help (and how best to do so) a local family with four young children who had hit rock bottom and were struggling to put food on the table. In order to ensure there was a genuine need we were privy to their personal income and expenses information, which was scrutinised around the table. I can’t help but feel that to put themselves through this process they had to be very desperate and I felt very sad, but I hope the help we were able to give made things a little less stressful.

One of the other things I have been called upon to help with is translating for the English speakers in the village whose French isn’t quite as good as mine (which isn’t perfect I can assure you). This has actually given me quite a bit of confidence, increased my vocabulary and made me realise that although I do make mistakes with grammar and pronunciation (and I hate telephone calls in French) I really do get by quite well now. One of the unenviable tasks I was called upon to assist with was accompanying some English neighbours through the process of reporting a burglary that had happened at some point over winter while their holiday home in the village was unoccupied. Ironically this would have occurred shortly after the local Gendarmes held an information meeting in the salle des fêtes to raise awareness of burglary prevention. It was a stressful time for them, but I hope my help with translating for the Gendarmes, both at their house and when we filed the official report at the Gendarmerie, as well as helping them with the insurance claim process made things a little easier. I have certainly learned a lot about the French insurance system and how important it is that you understand the small print of your policy.

French Village Diaries social council France gardening homemadeOn a more positive note I am now the very proud owner of a handmade garden trug that I have already put to use. My French may well be better than our English neighbour who needed my help, but without a doubt, his woodwork and design skills are far better than mine. This is a perfect example of community spirit at its best, a good deed for a good deed and a new friendship in the village.

I’m certainly a more confident councillor than I was a year ago and I’m looking forward to carrying on helping to make a difference in the community in the coming year.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My patisserie challenge, Royale chocolat

French Village Diaries patisserie challenge boulangerie royale chocolat
My patisserie challenge royale chocolat

Welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself each week. Today is the day that saw thousands of people take part in a real challenge, the 35th London Marathon. Despite my love of cycling I’m no runner and I’m not sure my body would complete a 4km run let alone 40km, but I take my hat off to all those who took part today. They certainly inspired me. This year, instead of just watching the TV coverage (I do love a small slice of London every so often) I completed my own ironing marathon, after all I had to do something physical to justify eating cake while so many were running so far, for so many good causes. Please click here to read about one runner’s story.

French Village Diaries ironing marathon
My ironing marathon
My choice today is the royale chocolat a serious contender for the ultimate in comfort food combined with delicate patisserie. A crisp top layer that cracked under my fork, two soft moist chocolate sponge layers with a rich and creamy mousse sandwiched in the middle that was a delicious experience and the perfect reward for scaling the ironing mountain.

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie

Here are my previous patisserie challenge posts, in case you missed them:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to recycle a road

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
The digging begins
We have been living on a building site for the last few weeks. Our house is situated halfway down a road in the village and unfortunately for us is at the lowest part of that road. When it rains we often find the car splashing around in a small lake and during a downpour we sit patiently with rolled up towels wondering if this will be the time it begins to flow into the house. Watching the sewers turning into a bubbling fountain is not much fun either.

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
Adding drainage stones to the soak-away
It has taken many years of planning, surveying and clever use of the village budget, but finally the work to manage the rainwater flow has now been carried out. The square of grass between our house and the road was removed and a 100m3 soak-away has been dug out and filled with drainage stones. Pipes and drains have been dug into the sides of the road and curb gutters laid. The road surface was then removed to ensure it is now level, but with the correct camber to encourage the water to flow in the right direction.

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
The soak-away
It was fascinating to watch and I really couldn’t fault the work team. They put in long days where they barely took a break, except for their lunch, which was a real French lunch. The first thing on site was their caravan/staff room, complete with a rather large busted beauty hanging on the wall inside, and every lunchtime a generator was fired up and lunch was cooked on site. There was no loud music, no raised voices, it was all very civilised, just the clatter of cutlery and crockery and the chatter of happy colleagues.

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
Rainwater drainage system
The topsoil that has replaced the grass patch initially looked like it would make a superb overflow potager and I was about to suggest to the Maire I would happily fill it with courgettes (zucchini). However as it is only a very thin layer, I don't think the courgettes would have been very happy, but my second suggestion of a wild flower meadow seems to have been accepted, so fingers crossed. Whatever is decided by the council in the long term needs to be a low cost project that is also low maintenance, but looks better than the bare earth.

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
Ready to become a wildflower meadow

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
The road surface eating machine and red tipper lorry
The day the old road was eaten, we escaped out the back door with the dog and wandered out of the village for a few kilometres before heading up a white farm track. The peace and quiet of a warm spring day was shattered as around a bend in the track came a huge red tipper lorry that we recognised from the road works. A little further up we discovered carefully tipped piles of our road. With a bit of spreading out and tamping down the farm track will have a fresh new surface, cleverly recycled from our old road, all except the very small piece we took home as a souvenir. Waste not want not, as the saying goes, no matter how big the project.

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
The old road recycled

French Village Diaries recycling a road France village life
A fab bit of kit lays the new road surface

Peace and quiet has again replaced the hum and clank of machinery, the caravan has moved on to the next project and although it is great to be able to get the car back to the front door again I am kind of missing the daily buzz of activity that was going on outside.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book review of Fat Dogs and French Estates part 2 by Beth Haslam

French Village Diaries book review Fat Dogs and French Estates part 2 Beth HaslamMy review today is for Fat Dogs and French Estates - Part 2 by Beth Haslam, the continuation of Jack and Beth’s search for paradise in France. This book carries on from where part one left off, you can read my review of the first book here. Beth, her husband Jack and their two tubby dogs Sam and Biff are in France searching for their dream domaine, an estate with land, wildlife and a habitable but modest property, certainly not one with lots of bedrooms or a swimming pool. But finding these things are not as easy as they first thought.

As in book one this is a very humorous look at the house hunting process and their frustrations when estate agent after estate agent just don’t seem to be listening to their requirements. There were some fabulous descriptions of some very odd properties and even stranger owners and some of Jack’s embarrassing yet hilarious antics, especially towards the end of the book, almost had me shouting at my kindle. Poor Beth, my heart was pounding in my chest as I read it so I’ve no idea how she must have been feeling!

Book one was very good but book two is even better as I felt more familiar with Beth and Jack and really enjoyed her writing style. If you enjoy humorous memoirs about crazy Brits abroad I’m sure you will love this book. I can’t wait to read about more adventures from Beth, Jack and the dogs.

Both of Beth’s memoirs are available from Amazon in paperback and ebook format. You can also keep up to date with her life via her blog and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My patisserie challenge, flan

French village Diaries patisserie challenge flan boulangerie food France
My patisserie challenge, flan

Welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself. This week Adrian will be celebrating his forty-something birthday so I decided my treat to him would be to buy his favourite, the humble flan.

This is a simple pastry base filled with a baked custard topping. There are no fireworks of flavour or juicy bursts of fruit, but it does have a lovely comforting creaminess and a soft, gentle texture, plus it’s not too sweet. It is one of those choices that you know you can’t go wrong with and as it isn’t messy to eat Adrian will always pick it for a picnic. It’s not my favourite, but it is good value and reminds me of village social events where it's often served for the desert.

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie.

Here are my previous patisserie challenge posts, in case you missed them:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Book review of French Coast by Anita Hughes

My review today is for French Coast: A Novel a brand new release by Anita Hughes, who is celebrating her birthday today (hence the extra book review post this week). They say never judge a book by it’s cover, but from the moment I saw the cover of this novel set in Cannes, I wanted to be that girl and I knew I had to read this book.

French Village Diaries book review French Coast Anita Hughes Cannes ProvenceTwo young women, Serena and Zoe, find themselves in Cannes during the Film Festival for different reasons, but very soon their lives there become entwined. Serena has the perfect life, a handsome, successful fiancé and her dream job as editor at Vogue. Zoe is more secretive as to who she is and why she is in Cannes, but there is family history and mystery to be revealed for them both and as their stories unfurl we slowly begin to get to know them. A third woman, Yvette, whose private life is also a bit of a mystery, adds another side to the story and lots of elegance to the plot. As this book moves on there are many twists and I kept thinking I’d made a discovery only to watch it fade as the plot shifted in another direction.

All of this drama is played out in the South of France with plenty of passion and lots of fashion, as to be expected for guests in a suite at the Carlton-Intercontinental Hotel. However, as I’m a village girl and not really a fashionista, I tired a little of the constant descriptions of which designer name was being worn by each character whenever they appeared, but I’m sure many would disagree with me, especially as the main characters work the fashion industry.

This book has a great plot and will take you away from your day to day life and immerse you in Cannes and the high life many of us can only dream of. It is a perfect summer read, especially if you are lucky enough to be holidaying in the South of France.

French Coast: A Novel is available in paperback (from 1st May 2015) and ebook (now) and links to Amazon can be found below. You can also follow Anita on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book review of Pas Possible by Jessica Pasa

My review today is for Pas Possible: Falling in and out of Love with France by Jessica Pasa, a memoir of time spent studying in France.

French Village Diaries book review Pas Possible: Falling in and out of love with France Jessica Pasa Paris Toulouse memoirIn this book we join Jessica as she visits France to improve her French, firstly on a short high school exchange with a family who own a chicken farm south of Paris and later on as she spends a year studying in Toulouse. I fell in love with this book in the introduction where we learn that her grandparents, who had an extraordinarily colourful background, spoke French at their home in the US and probably sowed the seed that led Jessica to France. I would love to read more about her family history, as her grandparent’s journey from Europe to Morocco and to the US sounds fascinating.

Jessica knows that France is somewhere she has to visit and from the beginning of her first trip she embraces the experience, despite things not always being easy. This led to a great relationship with her original host family that was to last many years and visits to the US and France. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I enjoyed reading about her experiences and travels somewhere so far from home.

The year she spent studying in Toulouse was more difficult, but she shared her experiences openly and honestly. Fitting in is not always easy and although she may have changed her goals and ideas as her life in Toulouse progressed, it was still obvious that she learned a lot from her experiences and she gives the reader a great insight into student life away from home. She also really made me want to visit the city that has been on my wish list for a while and as it’s only about a four hour drive from home I do need to put in a bit more effort and get there.

As any good memoir author does, Jessica left me wanting more, hinting at how she is now married (to a Francophile bien sûr) so more adventures in France might one day be the subject of another memoir. I’m waiting!

Pas Possible: Falling in and out of Love with France is available in ebook format and a link to Amazon can be found below. You can also read more from Jessica on her blog and follow her on Facebook.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My patisserie challenge, tartelette aux framboise

French Village Diaries patisserie challenge boulangerie tartelette aux framboise
My patisserie challenge tartelette aux framboise

Welcome to my patisserie challenge where every Sunday I am treating myself to something different from our village boulangerie. The sun has been shining today and along with the blue skies, bird song and my patisserie choice of tartelette aux framboise my appetite is well and truly whetted for the flavours of summer.

The tartelette aux framboise (individual raspberry tarte) is a circular pastry shell filled with crème patissiere and glazed fresh raspberries. I think it’s simplicity adds to it’s deliciousness; the pastry is just thick enough to hold it’s precious load, the crème patissiere (custard) adds a comforting creamy texture and the fresh raspberries, generously packed in and shining with glaze, just burst with flavour when you bite in. It is one of my favourites with its perfect combination of crunch, creaminess, sweetness and flavour, but then I do have a soft spot for raspberries.

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book review for The Rocheforts by Christian Laborie

Today I’m taking part in a virtual book tour via France Book Tours for The Rocheforts: A Novel by Christian Laborie.

French Village Diaries book review The Rocheforts Christian Laborie France Book toursSynopsis provided by the publisher.
Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal. Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business. The Rocheforts’ neighbour Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own. When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter. With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land.

My review.
This is a family drama set in the early 1900’s when the farming of silk worms in the mulberry trees of the Cévennes and the denim and silk mills in Nîmes were big businesses. We meet two families, the Rocheforts and Rouvières whose different backgrounds and lifestyles don’t stop them being bound together in drama and deceit. The Rochefort men were ambitious and proud (to the point of arrogance) which often led to heated disputes that threatened the family unit. The Rouvières were more down to earth and honest, but fate stepped in more than once to entwine their lives together. The characters were all very different and I enjoyed the way they developed throughout the novel, some were not to my liking at the beginning but I warmed to them in their latter years. The women were the ones who I felt demonstrated the strength and intelligence to hold their families together.

This isn’t a fast paced excitement filled read, but with an underlying current that I knew would come to a head at some point, there was plenty of interest to keep me page turning. I really enjoyed the historical backdrop of this novel, as I knew very little about the silk and denim production process. It was fascinating to follow the family dramas played out alongside the farming of the era and the more industrial life of fabric making at the mills. I love the Cévennes region in France and am looking forward to going back there soon and now a visit to Nîmes is on my agenda too.

I would love for there to be a follow up novel. This book saw them through the years from 1898 to 1929, but how will the Second World War affect the families?

French Village Diaries book review The Rocheforts Christian Laborie France Book tours


Christian Laborie
was born in the North of France
but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes
for more than twenty years.
The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English.

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French Village Diaries book review The Rocheforts Christian Laborie France Book tours

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My patisserie challenge, Easter special

French village Diaries Easter bells cloche de pâques boulangerie patisserie france nid de Pâques Easter nest
My patisserie challenge Easter special

Happy Easter to you all and welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself each week. Easter is a time of year when sweet treats are aplenty and in a village boulangerie/patisserie that also makes it’s own chocolate I was spoiled for choice today. Thankfully Easter also marks the time of year when the garden is awakening and there is plenty to do outside, so my excess calories from the Nid de Pâques (Easter nest) and the dark chocolate bell, filled with more chocolates, were nicely balanced out by a day of hard work, including a good few hours walking with the lawnmower. Mmm, patisseries, chocolate and gardening - that really is my idea of a perfect day.

The Nid de Pâques is a small circular cake with two layers of light, moist Genoese sponge, filled and topped with an airy chocolate mousse (I could have chosen coffee or praline flavour, but chocolate rules in my book) and decorated with toasted almonds on the side and sweet eggs on top. It was lovely. The almonds gave a tasty crunch and I really couldn’t fault the light texture of the sponge or the deliciousness of the creamy chocolate mousse. It’s a shame Easter only comes around once a year.

French village Diaries Easter bells cloche de pâques boulangerie patisserie france
Easter bells
In France, although there are plenty of bunnies to be seen at Easter, tradition has it that the church bells are the ones to give out the chocolate eggs to the children. The bells fall silent on Maundy Thursday as they fly to Rome, returning on Easter Sunday with eggs for all. I’m not sure our old church bell takes part anymore as I definitely heard it dinging it’s slightly flat Angelus on Saturday.

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie.

Here are my previous patisserie challenge posts, in case you missed them: