Monday, May 30, 2016

Book review of Biarritz Passion by Laurette Long

French Village Diaries book review Biarritz Passion by Laurette Long
Biarritz Passion by Laurette Long

My review today is for Biarritz Passion by Laurette Long, the first in the French Summer novels series.

Caroline needs a break and although she would rather spend her annual leave alone and doing her own thing, she reluctantly agrees to a free holiday in a large villa in Biarritz, with her younger sister Annabel and her friends. I disliked Annabel almost immediately, but I think that is what the author wants us to do; however as someone who never quite got over the birth of my younger brother, I really disliked her. She is moody, manipulative and totally self-centred and poor Caroline seems to end up either doing what Annabel wants or apologising to others for Annabel’s behaviour.

There is pain in their past, as the sisters lost their parents at a young age, but I just loved Aunt Margaret and Birdie, the two old ladies who brought them up and are still important parts in their lives. I could just imagine being in their country cottage, playing with their tubby old Labrador Titus and tucking into afternoon tea, all handmade by Birdie.

The holiday in Biarritz is not what Caroline was expecting. The company is better than she could have hoped for, the villa delightful and the Basque region really pulls at her heart. Then there is Edward, whose family own the villa and from their first encounter the chemistry between them is hard for Caroline to ignore, although as in any good romance novel (and thanks to Annabel) the path of love is never easy.

What stood out most for me in this book is the author’s obvious love and knowledge of the Biarritz area, it’s dramatic coast, changeable weather and its summer festivals. If you need a quick escape to France, this book will take you there. Then there are the strong characters, whose emotions tumble from the page, all of which make this an enjoyable read and one of those ‘just one more chapter before bed’ type of books.

For a limited time this book and book two in the series, Hot Basque are both reduced to only 99p on Amazon UK. Don’t miss out on these great summer holiday reads.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Destination La Rochelle

French Village Diaries cycling to La Rochelle Vélo Francette
The last time I cycled to La Rochelle

Oh France what has gone wrong? It is almost the end of May, yet the rain continues to fall and the sun seems reluctant to put in more than a few hours appearance at a time. The storms that have battered you this weekend have seen huge hailstones raining down; causing destruction to vines, crops and property before piling up on the ground like thick snow, as well as the sad news reports of children being hit by lightening in a Paris park. The weather, it seems, is as miserable as the population, who are either up in arms protesting against new employment laws; causing flight, ferry and rail cancellations, road blockades and fuel shortages or they are stressed and angry at the disruption, the delays and being left stranded.

Today is Mother’s Day in France and I’m sure all Mothers want their children to grow up passionate about their beliefs and confident enough to stand up for themselves, but none of that is any good if they are not happy too. How can anybody be truly happy spending their time setting fire to police cars or burning car tyres in the middle of the road? Come on France, it is time to keep calm and carry on with life. Maybe the sun will come out again if we can all show our sunny sides too.

We were lucky to miss the worst of the bad weather and although we have suffered the disruption and extra expense of cancelled travel plans, we have generally managed to continue life pretty much as normal, so far. With Adrian home for a week, we decided we need a change of scenery, so when the opportunity arose to spend a night at the seaside, La Rochelle to be precise, where the sun always shines and the cafés are perfect for people watching, we jumped at it. Although not far from home, it is one of my favourite places to visit and life there feels very cosmopolitan in comparison to village life here. We will be staying at the Masqhotel and reviewing it for the Freewheeling France website, so taking the bikes seemed logical, plus it will be good training for Adrian in preparation of his 100 mile cycleride this summer and more importantly won’t waste fuel. The recent supply issues have made me much more aware of what a precious resource it really is.

French Village Diaries cycling to La Rochelle Vélo Francette
Vélo Francette in the Vendee

Our plan is to drive to the Marais Poitevin, leave the car and cycle the last 65km into La Rochelle following the Vélo Francette, a 600km marked cycle route from Caen in Normandy to La Rochelle. The cycling should be easy, mostly downhill and on good tracks that follow canals and the Sevre Niortais River. When we arrive we are planning on a beer on a sunny terrace, a meal with a harbour view and a night in a hotel that looks very chic and arty. What we don’t want is rain, hail, heavy winds and storms. Unfortunately the weather forecast shows a bit of everything and not enough sun, so please keep your fingers crossed for us that it won’t be too bad. Thank you.

French Village Diaries cycling to La Rochelle Vélo Francette

Friday, May 27, 2016

France et Moi with author Vanessa Couchman

Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I am talking to author Vanessa Couchman about what France means to her.

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Vanessa Couchman
Vanessa Couchman
Vanessa Couchman has lived with her Swedish husband in an 18th-century farmhouse in Southwest France since 1997. She works as a freelance writer and also writes fiction. Her first novel, The House at Zaronza, set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I, was published in 2014. (Click here to read my review). She is working on two other novels and also writes short stories. When she’s not doing all that, she’s very fond of singing, walking, yoga and restoring a 15th-century chapel with a group of local volunteers.  

Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Vanessa: We live in la France profonde and, for me, it’s the slower pace of life and the privilege of living in such lovely surroundings that appeal. The French have a deep attachment to their rural past and it has been a revelation to me to learn about how people lived here in the not very distant past. I love that feeling of connectedness with time immemorial, although one shouldn’t romanticize it. French rural life was often hard.

I also like the fact that there is so much regional variation. Although France is a unified country on the face of it, there is a lot of local individualism that is reflected in the different dialects, dishes and architecture. For me, there is no “one” France. It’s a mosaic of so many different influences.  

2) What is your first memory of a trip to France?

Vanessa: In the 1960s before motorways, my father took the scenic route to the south of France over the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Unfortunately, coming down the other side the car’s brakes failed, although he didn’t let on, so he put the car into reverse. When he stopped at the bottom, the tyres were smoking and, in the absence of water, my mother poured orange squash on them! We limped along to the nearest village where we sat in the café while the local mechanic spent hours making temporary repairs and the other villagers turned up to inspect the odd foreign car – and us. Luckily, the rest of the holiday passed without incident.  

3) Having lived in France and spoken French for many years do you have any top tips for my readers on how to learn French?

Vanessa: Despite learning it at school, my French was hopeless when we arrived – not assisted by the impenetrable local accent. What saved me was taking lessons in a group for four years. That’s probably the key tip I can give. But I’d also suggest reading as much as you can in French to expand your vocabulary and not being afraid to speak to French people, even if it’s daunting at first. Also, getting involved with local associations and clubs is a great way not only to improve your French but also to integrate further into the local community and make friends.    

4) With plenty of space and lovely scenery, France is a great place to explore. If you were to take a day off from writing where would you go?

Vanessa: Gosh, that’s a difficult one. I have a bucket list as long as my arm! Since we live en pleine campagne, I’d choose a day trip to a city. We live 1 ½ hours’ drive from Toulouse, the pink city, but very rarely go there, despite the fact that it’s steeped in history and full of things to do. I’d wander around the streets and have coffee in the magnificent Place du Capitole before visiting a museum. I’d certainly have lunch in one of the restaurants above the market halls, where you sit on benches and carve chunks off the bread before passing it on.  (FVD: Toulouse is on my bucket list too).

5) Every region in France has its own culinary specialty; do you have a favourite regional dish? Do you attempt to make it yourself?

Vanessa: We live in duck country and I’ve eaten every possible permutation of recipes that include duck! However, a speciality of the Aveyron (the next department to ours) is aligot, a mixture of mashed potatoes, young Tome cheese and plenty of garlic. You beat it with a wooden spoon until it’s elastic and unctuous. It goes very well with grilled sausages or meat and is traditionally eaten at local fêtes because it’s best made in large quantities. In view of that, I’ve never tried to make it and you can buy very good ready-made aligot. A little goes a long way.

6) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Vanessa: I love smelly cheeses; the smellier the better. But I’d hesitate to describe myself as one of those! So I’ll choose a Brillat-Savarin, named after the savant of that name. It’s a creamy but flavoursome cheese, so it combines sophistication with earthiness (I have my tongue firmly in my cheek here...) 

7) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Vanessa: Mmm. Too early for a kir, my favourite apéro. So how about a café noisette, strong coffee with a dash of milk? Or, if I’m feeling slim, a hot chocolate.

8) Do you think the French have a different attitude to food than the British and if so, is it a healthier one?

Vanessa: I think they do, but it’s changing. There is still the attachment to the main meal at lunchtime (something I have never got used to), which is said to be healthier. But few office workers these days indulge in the two-hour lunch break. And obesity is on the increase in France because of snacking and grazing.

In my experience, French people are very proud of their local dishes but are not very adventurous when it comes to trying different types of cuisine (a generalization, I know, but I’ve seen a lot of examples). And, of course, there’s the paradoxe français, which allows people to eat large quantities of cheese and foie gras and quaff red wine with impunity. Local French people buy far more cheese and meat than we do but they live to a ripe old age.  

9) Best French tipple, and yes I know there are many to choose from?

Vanessa: It has to be champagne but I’ll settle for a good Sancerre, a flinty, dry white from the Loire.  

10) How does France inspire your writing?

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Vanessa Couchman
The House at Zaronza
Vanessa: Where do I begin? I’ve lived here for so long that I feel a fraud writing about the UK, where I now feel a bit like a fish out of water. Most of my short stories are set either in France or on Corsica, the beguiling Mediterranean island that has belonged to France since 1768. I set my first novel on Corsica, which we have visited six times. It’s a place apart, with a fascinating history and culture and I find it incredibly inspiring. But there is also so much history in my own locality that I draw on that a lot, too. Writing historical fiction is my preference and there’s no shortage of subjects in France.

Do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Vanessa: I’m working on two novels. One is set on Corsica in the 18th century, and is based on a true story. I’ve written about half of that. The other is a spin-off from The House at Zaronza, following a minor but interesting character into World War II in SW France. And I still intend to write the sequel to The House at Zaronza!

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.

Vanessa: Thank you for asking me, Jacqui. It’s been fun!

You can read more from Vanessa and follow her writing via the following social media links.
France blog, Life on La Lune
Writing site
Amazon author page
Facebook page

I thoroughly enjoyed her novel set in Corsica, so I have included a link to Amazon below. For a limited time The House at Zaronza is reduced to only 99p on Kindle UK.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book reviews of two memoirs by Kristin Louise Duncombe

A good memoir, in my opinion, needs an interesting and if possible exciting life and the ability to write about it openly, honestly and in a way that engages the reader. Kristisn Louise Duncombe is an author who has written two very good memoirs.

French Village Diaries book review Trailing: A Memoir by Kristin Louise Duncombe
Trailing: A Memoir

In Trailing: A Memoir Kristin tells us how passion and love led her from the US to Kenya, Uganda and then Paris as a trailing spouse prepared to put aside her dreams in pursuit of her husband’s career as a doctor with the French organisation Médecins Sans Frontières. She immediately finds herself alone in Kenya in an area with many problems that include poverty, health issues and violent crime and finds settling into her new life a challenge. She shares the great work undertaken by organisations like MSF, but she also witnesses many things that leave her in a fragile and anxious state. Camping trips with scary beasts in the night, car jackings and worms that attach themselves to drying clothes and then burrow into your skin, to name just a few. Kristin also learns a lot about herself, but at times it was an uncomfortable journey.

When things get tricky she retreats to Paris, to lick her wounds and work out where her future lies. Paris is always a good decision in my book and it proved to be very healing for Kristin and helped her to see things in a clear and calm way. It is so difficult to imagine a life so different but I do know I wouldn’t have coped as well as she did.

French Village Diaries book review Five Flights Up by Kristin Louise Duncombe
Five Flights Up, Kristin Louise Duncombe

Having enjoyed Kristin’s first memoir I couldn’t wait to start her second one Five Flights Up: Sex, Love, and Family, from Paris to Lyon as I was keen to find out what had happened to this very international family, who had settled in Paris. This was an important move for Kristin as most of her life has been spent moving from location to location, first with her Father’s work and then her husband’s. She is happy in Paris. They have an apartment, a sense of belonging and an extended family relationship with the other families that live in the apartment block. Kristin has her own practice and more importantly, financial independence and a sense of worth. The children are settled at school and happy and all is well in their relationship.

Then her husband Tano gets a job in Lyon, the money is better and he wants to relocate the family there, but Krisitin desperately wants to stay in Paris. The family becomes divided, firstly with Tano commuting each week and then, when she finally agrees to the move, Kristin returns regularly to Paris for her work.

This is the emotional, honest, amusing and very readable account of everything that goes right and wrong as they make a new life in Lyon. We discover their new city, meet the interesting new acquaintances they make and witness all their teething problems. Then there are a few other little things France throws at them, just when they thought things were settling down nicely.

I enjoyed both of these memoirs as they are well written and Kristin’s family really does have a different story to tell than most expat families. I’d also love to visit Lyon.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rocking the Café Bar

French Village Diaries cabaret night Café Boulevard Melle
Rocking the Café Bar

It is not often your 15-year-old headlines at a real gig, so I thought I’d proudly share my Saturday with you, despite it turning out to be a long nine and half hours of combined taxi-ing Ed and waiting around, all for a twenty-minute performance of heavy rock. I felt like a real groupie, albeit an old and rather tired one. Much as I love our French village life, the older Ed gets the more I realise village life with teenagers has certain drawbacks and the running around is certainly one of them. I will be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it and had resorted to bribery – I’ll make you (myself) coffee and walnut cupcakes, if you’re (I’m) brave enough to go. They helped, they really did and the bonus is that there is enough to share (with myself) this week too.

French Village Diaries fuel shortages strike action France
No fuel notices as seen in most petrol stations
The current fuel issues in France, where thousands of petrol stations have run dry due to industrial action at the fuel depots, plus the threat of a big storm, had all added to my pre-event worrying, but I’m pleased to report it actually all worked out for the best and there were even a few nice surprises. I decided that to drop Ed off, go home and then return to collect him later, which would mean an extra 50 km of driving, would be a waste of fuel. To occupy my time when he was at his first rehearsal, I went on a fuel treasure hunt and rather undramatically found fuel in the first supermarket I tried and unbelievably there were no queues and no restrictions, so I filled up the tank, with a rather smug smile on my face and scoffed a cupcake as my reward.

I have since read a lot of online criticism of people ‘panic buying’ and filling up before they would usually and I’ll admit that yes, that was me! You see I’m actually a lazy wimp. I still mourn the loss of the lady who used to fill my car up for me at our local supermarket, replaced by a machine that is happy to take my money, but offers nothing in terms of service and so we seem to have slipped into a routine. On our way to the airport Adrian fills the car with diesel, I then drive happy, easily covering about 80km a week just running Ed around plus the return trip to the airport, which could be anything from five to ten days later, without having to soil my hands filling up and Adrian sorts out the fuel on his return. So you see, filling up his mucky diesel was quite an accomplishment and unscheduled, but the last thing I want is not to be able to collect him from the airport later this week – obviously assuming the air traffic controllers will let the plane fly. Planning any form of travel in our poor troubled France (except by bike) is quite tricky at the moment.

French Village Diaries Cabaret night Boulevard Café bar Melle
Cabaret night at the Boulevard Café, Melle

After the excitement of the fuel it was a long and lonely afternoon of waiting, mostly sat alone with nothing but an empty chair, my ipad, my notebook and my cupcakes for company. Then I found a friend, a French lady I used to do yoga with but hadn’t seen for over a year. This was a lovely surprise and it was so much nicer to be sat at a table with someone to watch the much-anticipated cabaret that Ed was performing in. However, it was like no cabaret event I had ever been to before and I’m not sure TV talent show judge Simon Cowell has ever had to sit through quite what I had to sit through. 

A funny duo with outfits that really stood out kicked things off and were also the entre-act compares. She was a French Sue Perkins (British comedian), equally as funny and very talented, so long as you understand a very particular type of French humour. There were also lots of gentle folk-type music acts, humourous ballades (well, everyone else was laughing), flutes, violins and guitars. Bits I followed, bits I didn’t, but the cupcakes helped. There were French people singing in French and surprisingly in English too; political numbers with poor pronunciation that seemed a real hit with the almost totally French speaking audience. Right at the end of the night – midnight to be precise, Ed and the band he was an honoury member of for the night came on stage. This instantly shifted the night from French folk and humour to serious heavy rock, head banging, jumping, noise and some rather ripe language in one of the songs. They went down a storm with lots of cheers and whistles and at least one proud Mum in the audience. Here is a little video I took of one of their numbers:

Although the wind and rain arrived during the evening, the storm and power cuts that hit at home missed us. The drive home, with the clock ticking ever closer to 1.00am was very dark (despite the full moon), very quiet and on roads strewn with the debris of trees and hedgerows that had been bruised and battered by the storm. I was so pleased to get home, I treated myself to another cupcake and collapsed into bed.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Comforting coffee and walnut cupcakes

Coffee and walnut cupcakes

Today is going to be a busy day and with Adrian in UK, the running around will all be down to me. Ed is taking his first step to fame and fortune as a real rockstar. As well as an afternoon rehearsal for an upcoming event for the music school he is at, he has been asked to stand in as guitarist for a real band with a real gig in a real bar. 

Perfecting my Rock-Chick look!
This means another rehearsal followed by the event itself this evening, all of which he needs chauffeuring to and from. Add to this the current panic buying of fuel in France, thanks to the manifestations by anyone and everyone (or so it seems) that has affected supply at petrol stations and an orange alert for stormy and windy weather this evening, I decided that I needed a boost. Enter my coffee and walnut cupcakes - sweet, delicious and a real comforting treat. We all have those days when only comfort food will do, so here is my recipe.

115g softened butter
115g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
1 tsp of baking powder
strong black coffee
1 tbsp of walnut oil (optional)
1 tbsp of walnut flour (optional)

75g softened butter
100g icing sugar
Halved walnuts to decorate

Preheat the oven to gas 4
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the walnut oil if you are using it.
Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time and add a spoonful of flour if you are worried about it splitting. Beat until smooth.
Add in the flour, walnut flour and baking powder. Mix well and then add a tablespoon of the cold coffee. If it is still a little thick add a little more coffee.
Divide equally between your cupcake cases, I made 18 small(ish) cupcakes. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden and springy to touch.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the buttercream topping, mix together the butter and icing sugar and add some coffee in small amounts until the desired consistency. Pipe onto the cold cakes and decorate each cake with a walnut half. If your piping is as haphazard as mine, the walnut disguises any mistakes. Enjoy every mouthful, if possible in a quiet and calm place with a cup of coffee on the side.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cover reveal for All That The Heart Desires by June Moonbirdge

Today I am taking part in a cover reveal (with giveaway), not something I have done before, but a great way to help authors promote their books by giving them a social media shout out. All That The Heart Desires will be available at the end of June 2016, but was previously published as Racing Heart and you can read my review here.


At twenty-five, Desire Hart has experienced enough grief for a lifetime.
Changing everything in her life - her identity, her hometown and her country of residence, Desire is determined that nothing will prevent her achieving from finding her missing son. Not even love.
On a spring evening, she meets the golden boy of F1 racing, Lorcan Shore, and finds herself falling for him. Struggling to suppress her feelings, she realises he could help her get closer to the child she believes is her long lost son.
But nothing goes according to plan. Her identity is revealed by the press, Lorcan has a terrifying accident, and the trail to her son finishes in another dead end. So Desire does what she does best - she runs away.
Set against the glamorous backdrops of Monaco, Paris and Nice, ‘All That the Heart Desires’ mixes romance and mystery as Desire struggles to come to terms with her past.
Will she allow herself to accept love into her life again?

About the Author

June was born in June and she always loved the moon. She comes from Slovenia, a country which got its independence almost three decades ago.

She studied economics, and quickly realised she hated it. Afterwards, she found herself working in a mainly male-dominated business; at first in automotive and later steel products. She can choose the best steel for your project, but don't, please don't, ask her which lipstick brand you should use.

She started to write in high school and was criticised by her teacher. Stubborn as she is, that didn't stop her. Under different pen names, she had stories published in magazines, and then went on to publish three books.

After having two children, and learning that her second child has autism, she married their father and carried on working. Work and family life left her with little free time. But the desire to write didn't die. When life somehow sorted itself out, she decided to write a novel in English and her first submissions were rejected…

For what happened then, re-read the third paragraph, second sentence above...

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book review of I Promise You This by Patricia Sands

I Promise You This
I Promise You This by Patricia Sands 

Patricia Sands on Tour 17th to 26th May with

I Promise You This


Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price's midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she's in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him. But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she's helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again? Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection. With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Côte d'Azur, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible if you're willing to let your heart lead you home.

Release date: May 17, 2016 at Lake Union Publishing ISBN: 978-1503935723 365 pages Author's page | Goodreads  



Katherine, who we have already witnessed being left by her rat of a husband and then losing her mother, now finds herself back in a cold, wintry Toronto, just when she thought her life would always be in the south of France with Philippe. Her best friend Molly needs her and it is a tough and emotional time for everyone. Patricia’s books always have a traumatic sad part, before France can soothe and heal as only France knows how to and this book, the third in the series, is no exception. Being back in her Mother’s house, away from Philippe and alone, but surrounded by memories of ‘home’, she questions her decision to start a new life in France. Philippe, however, is never far from her thoughts and as she opens up about her feelings she begins to understand the importance of love, family, friendship and what it means to feel at ‘home’.

This book is very emotional with simmering passion, lots of surprises and tears, well for me at least. As with the other books in the series it is the colours and scents of Provence that stand out for me when reading it and really take you there. Patricia’s obvious love for the area is present in every page. I can’t not mention the flavours too, as you would expect from a novel with a character who is French and in the business of cheese, the food they eat plays an important role and is described to perfection.

It was lovely to be back in France with Katherine and to see how her life has changed so much in a short time, I’ve really enjoyed following her journey and I'm sure you will too. I would recommend starting with book one, The Promise of Provence and if you can, read all three together. This will save you from having to trawl through your memory to place characters and events from previous books who reappear here.

If you are looking for a virtual holiday in Provence, this series of books will give you the perfect escape along with a warm, feel-good feeling too.


I Promise You This Patricia Sands A confessed travel-addict, best-selling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn't somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. I Promise You This, is Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence series. Find Patricia on Facebook, on Twitter on Instagram at her Amazon Author Page or her website Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases. Buy the book : | | | | available on Barnes & Noble on May 17


You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 10 participants will each win a copy of this book, print or digital



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Monday, May 16, 2016

Book review of A Perfumer's Secret by Adria J. Cimino

French Village Diaries book review A Perfumer's Secret by Adria C Cimino
A Perfumer's Secret by Adria J. Cimino

This is a well researched novel set in Grasse, the perfume capital of the south of France, but at the same time it is also a great family drama with mystery, suspense and emotions that have been bottled up and divided a family for too many years. It really drew me in and I was happy to give in and let myself be immersed within the pages.

Perfumer Zoe Flore travels to Grasse from New York to collect a perfume formula left to her in a will and is suddenly thrust into a family who she never knew existed and most of them knew little about her. There is suspicion from both sides and when someone steals the formula she doesn’t know who to trust, or why anyone else would want it so badly. Then there is her journey of discovery; maybe someone here can explain why her mother left Grasse for New York so suddenly?

Philippe, Zoe’s rival, is lovely; a slightly nerdy guy for whom work comes first. He is stuck in a routine until everything he thinks of as normal suddenly dissolves with one sniff of a mysterious perfume that possesses him and has the power to change his life forever. When Philippe and Zoe find themselves competing for a big contract, this just adds pressure and more drama.

I especially loved the character of Loulou; full of teenage hormonal anger that seeped within me as I was reading it. Things are not easy for Loulou, but her independent streak and zest for life never let her down.

The characters are strong and there is so much detail that gives them layers and depth, ensuring they stay with you long after you turn the final page. I loved that we came to know the unique scent of each character, the scents they smell, the scents they create and their funny quirks, as well as the colour of their hair and eyes.

Interwoven throughout the pages are passion, love, secrets and tears as well as the cutthroat business of the perfume industry. The descriptions of the scents that are all around in this novel really added an extra dimension to the storyline and made me determined to add Grasse to my list of ‘must visit soon’ places. I need to be among the jasmine fields and I would love to know what happened next for Zoe. I’m sure you’ll feel the same having read this book.

A Perfumer's Secret: A Novel is published by Velvet Morning Press and is available in ebook and paperback format. Amazon links to this novel and others by Adria can be found below.