Tuesday, July 25, 2017

La Rochelle to Lake Geneva
Photo Paul Draycott
You probably know by now how much I love reading memoirs, especially travel memoirs set in France, and also how much I enjoy cycling adventures in France, so it will come as no surprise to read how excited I am about this story I’m about to tell you.

In 2015 a man named Paul who lives in Leicester was involved in a serious car accident that left him needing an emergency airlift to hospital for amongst other injuries, a badly broken leg. While Paul was recuperating he did a bit of reading and one of the books he read, which also happens to be one of my favourite travel memoirs, had a big impact on him. Susie Kelly’s Best Foot Forward, her funny account of her solo walk from La Rochelle to Geneva, inspired him to plan his own adventure across France, once he had recovered fully.

Thanks to the wonderful world of social media I met Paul online right at the beginning of the planning stage of this adventure, an 11-day bike ride from La Rochelle to Lake Geneva. My first thought was “oh, wow, I’d love to do that”. La Rochelle, on the Atlantic coast of France is one of my favourite places for a day trip and if you head east from there you will eventually end up on the other side of France, in Geneva. Paul has always enjoyed cycling, although never undertaken a challenge like this, but he is not travelling alone. The other half of his team is wife Diana, whose experience on a bike is pretty much limited to what she has done in their training. I hope you are as impressed by this as I am, although you might be thinking, wow, but why? They are so grateful to the help Paul received from Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, they are doing this (in place of a summer holiday) to raise money for them. Each air rescue costs around £1,700 and that is their fundraising goal. Here is the link to their JustGiving Page, if you would like to help them on their way.

Yesterday, their second day in the saddle and almost 100 miles into their 550-mile journey, took them to a pretty little B&B just outside the Charente village of Verteuil-sur-Charente, only about half an hour from my home. It was too good an opportunity to miss meeting up, so with each of us armed with good (homemade) filling food, local author Susie Kelly, her husband Terry and I provided a little welcome committee for them. It was a lovely evening of fun conversation and I really am rather jealous of their get up and go. They may have been inspired by Susie and her book, but they were both a great inspiration to me.

I know how tired and hungry I am after a day on the bike so I was impressed at how fresh they looked and how sociable they were. Thanks for taking the time out of your recovery hours to sit and chat; bonne courage mes amis and may your route to Geneva be fast and flat!
Photo Paul Draycott
You can follow their progress on their Facebook page here and if you happen to see them as they make their way across France, do give them a wave and say hello from me.

My contribution to our dinner picnic was my courgette quiche, you can find the recipe here Susie, made without the lardons for a vegetarian option.

One day I will be planning my own La Rochelle to Geneva adventure,  it's a promise and you heard it here first.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book review of To Provence, With Love by T A Williams

Book review To Provence, With Love by TA Williams review by French Village Diaries
To Provence, With Love by T A Williams
Today as part of a blog tour I’m reviewing To Provence, With Love, the new release by TA Williams.

Escape to the south of France with this perfect feel-good summer romance!

Anything is possible…

Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!

So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…

But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?

My Review:
When the dream job falls unexpectedly into Faye’s hands, at a time when getting away from her current situation is nothing short of perfect, she jumps at it, despite many unanswered questions. As a teacher who has self-published a thriller, it seems a little strange to her that an elderly Hollywood icon, living a private life in Provence, feels she is the ideal candidate to move in for a six-month contract to write her biography.

Faye finds herself in a chateau, surrounded by lavender fields and grape vines and falling in love with Marlon, the Labrador. While the villagers are welcoming, the local farmer seems distant and aloof and she also finds there is a lot more for her to discover than just Anabelle Beech’s fascinating life and career in the movies.

I can’t deny certain parts of the plot were obvious to me from quite early on, but I still enjoyed Faye’s journey of discovery and healing. The sense of place, with fabulous descriptions of the lavender harvest, was very special and made me want to pack a bag and head straight to Provence.

This is a light-hearted read, with some weighty emotional issues, that would accompany a chilled glass of rosé (or Champagne if you prefer) and your summer holiday to perfection.

About T A Williams:
Book review To Provence, With Love by TA Williams review by French Village Diaries
TA Williams
I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, "Dirty Minds" one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn't possibly comment. Ask my wife...

I've written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I'm enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I've been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she's right.

Book review To Provence, With Love by TA Williams review by French Village Diaries

Information about the Book:

Title: To Provence, With Love
Author: T. A. Williams
Release Date: 12th July 2017
Genre: Romance
Publisher: HQ Digital
Format: Ebook

A link to Amazon can be found below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book review of Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard book review by French Village Diaries
Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

My review today is for the third and final book in the La Cour des Roses series by Helen Pollard; Summer at the Little French Guesthouse.

We find ourselves back in the Loire Valley in France with Emmy, where alongside running the guesthouse with Rupert, she is establishing her own business and planning her imminent wedding to Alain.

It was great to be back. I slipped between the pages easily, loving being back with characters that have become familiar and whose company I enjoyed like good friends.

Throughout the series Emmy has established herself as someone dependable, who can be relied on to keep calm in a disaster and organise everyone into a happy ending. However, this time it’s her happy ending that is in jeopardy. She finds herself up against her controlling mother, who has the ability (as some mothers do) to make Emmy feel like a rebellious teen once again over the finite wedding details. Things are also complicated in Alain’s family, meaning lots of drama for our usually cool and collected bride-to-be. There were certainly enough last minute hiccups to raise my heart rate as I was reading it.

I can honestly say there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about this book and although books one and two in the series are very good, Helen has left the best till last. I’m sad to be saying goodbye and can’t help feeling how lovely it would be to book a holiday there. Meet my friends for real, take a stroll around the market, listen to the Jazz band and of course sample one of Rupert’s delicious meals.

I can only hope Helen continues to take us to France in her future books.

Wherever you are going on your holidays this year, take one (or all) of these books with you; I can’t recommend them enough.

All three books in La Cour des Roses series are published by Bookouture and are available in paperback and ebook format from Amazon, links can be found below.

You might also like to read my France et Moi interviewwith Helen here and my reviews of her other books in the series can be found below.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Charroux Literary Festival 2017 Earlybird booking

Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries
Isabel Ashdown at Charroux Lit Fest 2015

Those of you who are regular readers may remember my post in August 2015 when I regaled my two days of literary heaven at the very first Charroux Literary Festival, a local event that created quite an atmosphere in our corner of rural France (read more here).

Exciting news! This August, 24th to 26th, the Charroux Lit Fest is back and if you book your tickets before Friday 21st July you will qualify for an Earlybird discount of 20%. I’ve booked mine and if you are local, or fancy a literary-themed short break in France then click here for more information on who is appearing and how to book.
Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries
Charroux Lit Fest 24-26 August 2017
My three day Earlybird ticket has only cost 28€ and I’ve put my name down for 14 sessions over the three days which works out at a bargain 2€ per session! Yes, just 2€ to meet, listen to and learn from authors whose books I’ve read as well as discovering authors who are new to me. Some of the events are talks by authors about their books, inspirations, genres or journeys to publication, but I’ve also bravely signed up for a few writing workshops too, which makes me equally nervous and excited. Last time I found it was a sensory overload, but I loved every minute of it.

Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries
Diana Morgan-Hill at Charroux Lit Fest 2015

Patron of the Lit Fest is local author Susie Kelly, one of my favourite memoir authors, whose books always make me laugh. Susie has released two memoirs so far this year, Safari Ants and Baggy Pants and La Vie en Rose, and I can't wait to see her again at the festival. This is what she had to say when I asked her about it:

"Charroux is dominated by the remains of the great 8th century tower, a reminder that the medieval town was once one of the most important centres of Christian worship in France, a place of pomp and splendour. Today it is a small, friendly town in the sunny Nouvelle Aquitaine region, with a quaint cobbled market hall, mouthwatering boulangerie and a number of welcoming hostelries. Could there be a prettier and more inviting setting for the second Charroux Literary Festival? 

While I already know many of our local writers who will be attending I’m really looking forward to meeting the other authors and poets, both French and English, who are coming from further afield. There are some very big names on the programme, and the beauty of setting the festival in a small town like Charroux is that it makes it an intimate event where visitors can get really close to meet the stars of the show. 

With all the workshops and signings, panels and book launches, this event is going to be such a treat for readers, and of course there is the incredible Shakespeare Rocks extravaganza on the Friday evening, enjoying the works of the great man as they’ve never been seen before! 

Three days of literature, friendship and fun, in the French sunshine. What more could anybody want?"

Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries Tree Magic Harriet Springbett
Tree Magic
One of the biggest surprises for me last time was when I was introduced to writer Harriet Springbett. The surprise being she was a reader of my blog and asked to be introduced to me; a surreal moment given the company we were in. A lot has changed for Harriet in the last two years, with the publication of her beautifully written young adult novel Tree Magic and this year she is not just attending but appearing at the Lit Fest on the Friday and Saturday, something she is really looking forward to: 

“I spent a wonderful weekend meeting authors and other readers at the first edition of the Charroux festival, as you can see from my blog post here. There’s something intimate about the atmosphere – perhaps because it’s so easy to sit and chat to authors over a cup of tea. After receiving such great advice and inspiration at the last edition, I’m looking forward to being able to give something back this year.”

Author James Vance, who I had the pleasure of introducing last time, will be back and officially launching his new historical fiction novel The Housekeeper at this years event. I really enjoyed Something Old, Something New, so am looking forward to finding out more about The Housekeeper.

I'm also looking forward to meeting Vanessa Couchman, author of The House at Zaronza, as she makes her debut appearance at the Lit Fest, running a workshop on creating three dimensional characters. I'm also hoping we might hear news of her latest novel.

For more information on the Charroux Literary Festival visit their website here and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter too. If you are coming along, do let me know and we can enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake together. 

This post has been linked to Dreaming of France over at Paulita's An Accidental Blog

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book review of La Vie En Rose by Susie Kelly

La Vie En Rose: Notes From Rural France by Susie Kelly review French Village Diaries
La Vie En Rose by Susie Kelly

Local Poitou-Charente author Susie Kelly and Blackbird Books are on a roll. One month after the launch of her brand new memoir Safari Ants and Baggy Pants, they have now released La Vie En Rose: Notes From Rural France.

While not an entirely new release, La Vie En Rose is a collection of Susie’s blog posts from October 2010 handily compiled in one place; her musings on daily life in rural France. From strange dreams to nightmare customer service, and dining room disasters to quirky neighbours, there is a little bit of everything, all served up with Susie’s sense of humour that never fails to make me smile.

Initially I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about reading a collection of blogs as a book, however, life has been rather hectic of late and having the energy to read, follow and remember complex plots at the end of the day was proving impossible. Being able to dip into a few snippets of Susie’s life before falling asleep put a smile on my face and was just what I needed.

Another great read Susie, thank you. 

La Vie En Rose is published by Blackbird Books and is available in ebook format for only 99p. Links to Amazon for Susie’s books can be found below. You might also like to read my France et Moi interview with Susie here or my reviews of her other books, see below:

French Village Diaries book reviews
French Village Diaries book reviews

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book review of The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux

French Village Diaries book review The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux
The Madeleine Project

Clara Beaudoux on Tour July 12-18 with 

The Madeleine Project

(biography/history) Release date: September 12, 2017 at New Vessel Press ISBN: 978-1939931498 288 pages Website Goodreads    


A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung 20th century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman's attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion. Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era.


The synopsis of this book instantly piqued my interest. The romance of a forgotten life stored away in a basement, tinged with sadness because seemingly no one who knew Madeleine was interested in the memories it contained. As Clara begins to open each box and suitcase, she shares the contents on Twitter, and like discovering buried treasure, the anticipation and excitement about what else she might find soon builds up.

I originally thought this was going to be a book based on her Twitter story, however with the addition of some of her thoughts, it is actually a direct replication of her Twitter feed. This is unusual and at first it didn’t feel much like I was reading a book, more scrolling through my Twitter feed, however I soon began to appreciate the benefit – the photos. Clara’s way sharing of Madeleine’s life is a very visual one and the images of the boxes, envelopes and other personal effects are cleverly composed. It felt like I was there each step of the way and I found it difficult to stop scrolling through, intrigued to see what came next. Alongside the pictures, Clara talks to Madeleine, asking her questions about her life and the possessions she chose to keep hold of and I enjoyed her one-way dialogue. Like Clara, I felt a lot of affection for Madeleine and I learned a lot through her life and memories. I also began to wonder how many more ‘Madeleines’ there are, hidden away in lofts and basements, forgotten for now, but awaiting the right person to discover them.

This is a fascinating social history project and I’d like to thank Clara for sharing her discovery with the world and doing so with respect and compassion.


French Village Diaries book review The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux
Clara Beaudoux
Clara Beaudoux is a Paris-based journalist for the France Info news network. The Madeleine Project has been wildly popular in France. You can follow her on Twitter at @Clarabdx In French: on Facebook, The Madeleine Project page, and the author's main website
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Buy the book: on Indiebound | on Amazon


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French Village Diaries book review The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux


Friday, July 7, 2017

France et Moi with author Jaimie Admans

Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week, as part of her blog tour for The Château of Happily Ever Afters (read my review here) I am talking to author Jaimie Admans about what France means to her.

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Jaimie Admans The Château of Happily Ever Afters
The Château of Happily Ever Afters blog tour

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Jaimie Admans The Château of Happily Ever Afters
Jaimie Admans
Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

Find out more on her website here or connect on Twitter 

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’?

Jaimie: The laid-back lifestyle. To an outsider, things in France seem like Britain in days gone by, everyone is so polite, and the focus seems to be on spending time with family rather than working as much as humanly possible, which I like. Then there’s the diversity and the culture, and they definitely know how to do food right, too!

2) What is your fondest memory of time spent in France?

Jaimie: I have family living there and all time spent with them has been my favourite! (Also, they will kill me if I say anything different!) Spending time with them, learning about their lifestyle and how things are different to life in Britain, speaking to French people, exploring gorgeous little villages and markets… I’ve loved every minute of it!

3) Would you say holidays in France have inspired your writing?

Jaimie: I wish! My time in France has been far too fleeting and I could just do with a lovely long holiday there now! I’ve set a couple of (unpublished) books in France, and it’s mostly research that’s inspired my settings there. Actual visits never last long enough for me! I’ve been learning the language for a while now, I love the rich history of the country and have studied it extensively, I also have friends as well as family living there, and a move to France is on my bucket list, although I can’t see it being in the near future.

4) Your latest novel, The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, is set in Normandy, is that an area of France you know well?

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Jaimie Admans The Château of Happily Ever Afters
The Château of Happily Ever Afters
Jaimie: Not well enough, unfortunately! Visits to Normandy have been of the ‘driving through’ variety rather than staying, but it’s a place I knew a lot about before I decided to set the book there, and where I’d choose to live if that move across the channel ever comes off. Most of my experience of the region is through friends who live there who have been quizzed and questioned incessantly for research purposes, and even though the chateau and the village where the book takes place is fictional, it is based on an actual area in Normandy for realism purposes, although I won’t tell anyone where it is!

5) Every region in France has it’s own culinary specialty, do you have a favourite regional dish?

Jaimie: Cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese. Give me all the cheese, please! I’m a vegetarian so a lot of French dishes don’t work for me, but I’m a huge fan of cheese and luckily the French are experts at all things cheese, and I’ll happily try any and all of it!

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?

Jaimie: I’m a soft and gooey Camembert because I cry at everything! It also happens to be my absolute favourite French cheese!

7) 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 in France would you go?

Jaimie: Well, as you might have guessed, I love chateaux. The vintage grandeur, the glamour, the stories they could undoubtedly tell, so the Loire Valley is top of my holiday destinations list. I also love little villages and would love to wander around places like Annecy or Giverny. Never mind a day off, I could spend years in France and I’d still never get to see all places I want to go!

8) 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?

Jaimie: A café au lait and a flaky, buttery croissant, s’il vous plait. And a pain au chocolat for good measure!

9) What is your favourite thing to buy in a Boulangerie/Patisserie?

Jaimie: Everything! I’m not fussy when it comes to baked goods, I’ll take one of everything! If I had to narrow it down, a crusty white baguette, a croissant or six, some chouquettes, and whatever else looked the most tempting!

10) Do you prefer French or New World wine?

Jaimie: I’m in the minority here but I don’t actually like wine at all!

Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Jaimie: Well, The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters has just been released, and I’m currently writing my next romantic comedy for HQ Digital, it will be set in the UK this time, much closer to home, but I’m sure I’ll be back in France again before long!

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

The Château of Happily Ever Afters is currently only 99p. Link to Amazon can be found below.

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Jaimie Admans The Château of Happily Ever Afters
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1 x The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters magnet
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