Sunday, July 21, 2019

Lazy Sunday in France by author Marie Laval

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Marie Laval A Paris Fairy Tale
A Paris Fairy Tale Marie Laval

Welcome to another Lazy Sunday in France where author Marie Laval is taking us to the Auvergne for the day. Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire with her family. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time she loves writing romance and dreaming about romantic heroes. 
She writes both historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance The Lion’s Embrace won the Gold Medal at the Global Ebook Awards 2015 (category Historical Romance), and best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit. 
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her native France, as well as her passion for history and research, very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!
Her latest romantic novel  A PARIS FAIRY TALE will be released on July 23rd and available as a ebook and audiobook on Amazon and various other platforms. 
You can read my review of her novel A Spell in Provence here and her France et Moi interview here.
You can find out more about Marie on Facebook or Twitter.You can also find on Pinterest the many beautiful photos of Paris and illuminated manuscripts which inspired the writing of A Paris Fairy Tale.

A Lazy Sunday in Auvergne By Marie Laval

Two years ago I spent a wonderful holiday in La Crotte, a tiny hamlet in the Auvergne region, where my middle sister bought a ramshackle, rundown house which used to be a sheep fold. Whilst slowly doing the house up, she has learnt to live with the local wildlife (a family of dormouses  - of should it be dormice?) and insects (a bee colony in her loft one summer). She frequently sees boars and foxes around, and last winter, the police warned everybody not to leave their dogs or little children unsupervised outside as wolves have been sighted in the vicinity – yes, wolves!
was won over by the beautiful countryside, picturesque villages and lovely chateaux (the region counts over 450, most of them private). If I could spend a lazy Sunday there again, this is what I would do…
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Marie Laval A Paris Fairy Tale
Souvigny ©Marie Laval
         I would start with a stroll in Souvigny, a quiet and unspoilt little town with winding streets lined with medieval and Renaissance houses, including the ruined former palace of the Bourbons. After a spot of shopping in the ‘Herboristerie’, I would visit the impressive Priory Church of Saint-Peter and Saint-Paul. According to a local legend, the church was built by fairies in just one night, and when a local milkmaid saw it emerge from the morning mist, she was so shocked she was instantly changed into stone. 
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Marie Laval A Paris Fairy Tale
Souvigny gardens ©Marie Laval
         What I loved the most when I visited Souvigny were the priory gardens, designed according to the capitulary De Villis, edited by Charlemagne in the beginning of the 9th century, which recommended the plantation of 90 plants known for their medicinal properties in monastic and laymen's gardens. 
         The gardens are a riot of scents and colours. We found garlic, roses, tansy, common sage, mustard, marigolds, leek, carrots, parsley, muskmelon, cardoon, coriander, cucumber, tarragon, rocket, parsnip, radishes, sage, burdock, flax, mallow, chicory, lettuce, to name but a few! I would love to send time there on my lazy Sunday. You can find more information about Souvigny here.
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Marie Laval A Paris Fairy Tale
Montaigu-le-Blin ©Marie Laval
       The second place where I would stop on my lazy Sunday 
would be Montaigu-le-Blin, a delightful village boasting a medieval castle, several bourgeois houses (‘maisons de maître’), a tiny Roman church, and a ancient wood with two ‘magic’ stones, named God’s Font and the Devil’s Font. The village square is a listed site with over 143 chestnut, oak, lime trees, many of them dating from the early nineteenth century. 
The village also has two renowned auberges on opposite ends of the square, but as they are very expensive, I would leave Montaigu and have lunch in one of the many small restaurants which offer cheap but delicious ‘menus ouvriers’ (workmen’s menus). 
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Marie Laval A Paris Fairy Tale
Charlie-Cintrat ©Marie Laval
     There are so many other places worth visiting in the area, especially if, like me, you like chateaux – for example, the chateau of La Palice with its fascinating history (more information about it here) and the charming Renaissance chateau de Chareil-Cintrat, set amongst ancient vineyards which boasts unique wall paintings (more information about it here). This chateau was the inspiration for the fictional Chavigny, which features in my latest romantic novel A PARIS FAIRY TALE. 
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Marie Laval A Paris Fairy Tale
Market shopping ©Marie Laval
 I would definitely stop at a local outdoor market to buy fruit, pastries and crusty bread for the evening meal before returning to La Crotte and enjoying an ‘apéritif’ and the tranquillity of my sister’s garden. Although all is not always so peaceful in La Crotte… and this is why.
         The first evening of my last visit, we were having a drink in the garden when there a cacophony of honking erupted in the quiet evening.    ‘What on earth is that?’ I asked. 
My sister smiled and answered that it was the gaggle of geese who lived on her (eccentric) neighbour’s small holding nearby. ‘It’s the same every evening, you’ll get used to it,’ she said. ‘However, there’s something else you must get used to…’
‘What do you mean?’
         I didn’t have to wait long to find out. The chugging sounds of a steam train soon echoed all around us and I almost dropped my glass of rosé in shock. 
‘But you said that the train line wasn’t in use any longer,’ I said to my sister, who laughed and explained that it wasn’t a real train but a CD another neighbour played most nights to retaliate for the honking of the geese.
         ‘It’s like war,’ my sister said. ‘The neighbour puts her CD player in the garden and pushes the volume to the maximum. You’ll get used to it…’
         My sister informed me recently that the feud between her two neighbours had not yet been resolved. It is therefore safe to assume that on my lazy Sunday at her place I would be treated once again to the sounds of steam train – unless the angry neighbour picked another CD from her collection of annoying noises, such as rutting stags or Formule One racing cars (yes, she has them too). 
         However, whilst there is still daylight, I would end my lazy Sunday with a stroll down the lane to say goodnight to the donkeys who live in the nearby field, before probably enjoying another glass of rosé wine before bedtime.  
         I hope you enjoyed my lazy Sunday in the Auvergne. I cannot recommend this beautiful and unspoilt area too much.


Released on 23rd July.
Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters? 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Book review of The Violin Maker's Daughter by Sharon Maas

French Village Diaries book review The Violin Maker's Daughter Sharon Maas
The Violin Maker's Daughter by Sharing Maas

The Violin Maker’s Daughter by Sharon Maas


When the Nazis march onto the cobbled streets of Colmar on November 1st 1940, Josef, a Jewish violin maker, gathers his wife and daughters closely to him and tells them everything will be alright.

But one year later, three sharp knocks on the door at midnight turn his seventeen year old daughter Sarah’s world upside down. As the oldest child, Sarah must be the first to leave her family, to make her escape in a perilous journey across France via Paris to Poitiers. And she must hide who she is and take a new name for her own safety. For now, bilingual Sarah is no longer a French Jew but a German girl.

As she bids farewell to her beloved father and family, Sarah has hope, against all odds, that she will see them again when the war is over. But, travelling through the mountains she finds herself in terrible danger and meets Ralf, a German deserter, who risks his own life to save her.

Ralf and Sarah continue their journey together, keeping their identities secret at all cost. But when Ralf is captured, will Sarah pay the ultimate price for sharing who she really is?

A gripping and heart-breaking account of love, bravery and sacrifice during the terror of war. A story of standing up for what you believe in; even if it’s going to break your heart. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Ragged Edge of Night

French Village Diaries book review The Violin Maker's Daughter Sharon Maas
Bookouture Books-on-Tour The Violin Maker's Daughter Sharon Maas

My Review:

Sarah is a child who has led sheltered life, loved and protected by parents who have hidden the threat of war from their daughters. As Jews in Alsace, however, they can hide no more. Sarah, as the eldest, must be the first to flee, and must leave on her own. Her journey from safe house to safe house, crossing tough terrain and facing danger at every step, is a terrifying experience that often had my heart racing in fear. I felt the turmoil of her emotions as she is forced to grow up quickly, especially when Ralf, the young German soldier who risked his life for her, becomes her travelling companion to Poitiers. 

Living an uncertain life where any mistakes could cost her, or those around her, their lives, it is often her emotional immaturity that lets her down and puts her at further risk. I sometimes found this book difficult to read as I feared for Sarah and the situations she found herself in, but ultimately watching her mature and become a stronger woman was worth the heartache. 

This book is well written, with strong characters and lots of emotions. We see the worst of war; the pain and grief at parting, the violence, the collaboration and the hatred, but we also see love and the power it has to win over hate. If you enjoy historical fiction that is graphic and gritty as well as emotional, this book should be on your reading list. 

Purchase Links:

French Village Diaries book review The Violin Maker's Daughter Sharon Maas
Sharon Maas

About the author:

Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1951 and educated in Guyana and England. After leaving school she worked as a staff journalist at the Guyana Graphic and the Sunday Chronicla in Georgetown.
Sharon has always had a great sense of adventure and curiosity about the world we live in, and Guyana could not hold her for long. In 1971 she set off on a year-long backpacking trip around South America.  In 1973 she travelled overland to India through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and spent two years in an Ashram in South India.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Golden days on the bikes in the Charente-Maritime

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
#KTTinyTourer in Brouage, Charente-Maritime

Ed has now finished uni for the summer and is back in my nest once more. This means it’s “Mum, can you drop me at …?” or “Mum can you pick me up from …?” on a regular basis, so we decided driving lessons were long overdue. With four sessions of highway code and two or three driving lessons each week, there is no let up on the study for him this summer. There is also no let up for us on the taxi service, for the moment at least.

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Golden fields in the marshes of the Charente-Maritime
Thursday was a golden day. The weather in the morning was not too hot, Adrian is home, Ed needed no lifts to or from anywhere and I had no meetings. We planned our escape on the bikes. The alarm was set early, a picnic was packed, our goodbyes were shouted up to Ed’s bedroom, the bikes were folded into the car and then we were off, direction Tonnay-Charente in the Charente Maritime.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Our drive took us through fields and vineyards where the wheat harvest was under way, the first sunflowers are in bloom and the landscape was glowing yellows, golds and greens. The cycle route then took us over the river Charente via the 1842 suspension bridge and onto a cycle path on an old railway line, fast and flat, that dropped us off by a lock in the heart of the marshlands around Brouage.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Storks in the marshes
Our morning was then spent slowing meandering the small tracks through the waterways, stopping for each new sighting of stork, heron, egret or spoonbill. 

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
I am still in awe that sights like these can be found so close to home and it remains one of my favourite locations for a warm weather bike ride.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Golden beer and sugary crêpes
We stopped for lunch in Brouage, a fortified village whose ramparts and turrets seem to rise from the marshland, and that is classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages du France. Our treat for the day was crêpes and beer, the location adding considerably to the price, but worth it all the same.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
#KTTinyTourer Charent-Maritime marshlands
The afternoon took us back out into the marshes where the temperature had crept up to a tarmac-melting 35º and shade was almost impossible to find. Just south of Rochefort we began following the river Charente, past the Pont Transbordeur and finally back into Tonnay-Charente. 

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Stork nest in a tree

We might have felt a little hot around the edges, but it had been a superb day out on the bikes and added another 63km to my annual total. I am now so close to my 2019km challenge that I have decided to move the goal posts. Katie the Brompton, made and bought in London, will be returning to cycle the streets of the capital in August, so I feel it would be fitting if I crossed my 2019km while in London, four months earlier than planned. In the coming weeks, I still need to complete at least 50km per week to meet this challenge, but I’m determined to succeed.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Even the cows had a golden glow
Today sees the start of the Tour de France, my annual period of wearing yellow and being glued to the TV every evening. The excitement, the colours, the views of la belle France and the cows who always make an appearance on TV, make it a special time of year I always look forward to. May the sun continue to shine down on these golden days of summer and cycling.

This post has been linked to the #AllAboutFrance blog link up, see here for more details.

Lou Messugo

Friday, July 5, 2019

Book review of A Very French Affair by Sue Roberts

French Village Diaries book review A Very French Affair Sue Roberts
A Very French Affair Sue Roberts


From Southport to the South of France – this is going to be a summer to remember!

Life just got a whole lot more complicated for thirty-eight-year-old single mum Liv. Her son Jake is practically perfect in every way, but he’s started asking some difficult questions, and the answers lie in a holiday romance twenty years ago. Back when Liv was staying with her aunt on the French Riviera…

Returning to the Cote d’Azur, with its white sandy beaches, her supportive aunt, and exquisite wine and cheese is harder than it sounds though. Because – if she’s going to give Jake the answers he needs – Liv knows she has to hunt down her first love Andre. And since she’s a professional baker rather than a professional investigator, she doesn’t even have a clue where to start.

At first, finding the one that got away proves even trickier than she thought. And if she succeeds, how will he take the bombshell secret Liv has been keeping? Liv has to do the best thing for her family, but does that mean closing the door on this very French affair?

A joyful, laugh-out-loud story about second chances, secrets and sunshine! The perfect summer read for fans of Carole Matthews, Jenny Colgan and Sophie Kinsella. 
French Village Diaries book review A Very French Affair Sue Roberts
A Very French Affair Bookouture books-on-tour

My Review:

Jake is 20 and things are not going great for him at uni, so he feels he needs a direction change. This has triggered his desire to know more about his Father than the name of a man who had left his mum’s life before she knew she was pregnant. 

Leaving her cake business in the hands of her assistant, his mum Liv realises now is the time to return to her Aunt’s patisserie in the south of France, where a holiday romance changed her life. Note, if your will power is low, this book could do serious damage to your diet! As she helps her Aunt, Liv also begins the detective work she should have done twenty years ago. Without knowing where to start, a few chance meetings get her on the right track, but even when finding André seems possible, what will she say to him after all these years and more importantly how will he feel about her and the secret she has kept from him? 

I don’t want to say too much, but there are a few surprises waiting for Liv on the Côte d’Azur and decisions to be made about Jake’s future. He might be ready for new adventures, but what about Liv, the independent woman who has brought him up alone? Whilst there are no great twists in this book, it is a warm, feel-good tale about what happens when your past catches up with you and offers you a second chance at happiness. There is a good mix of characters who form a close-knit group of family and friends and both the food and location descriptions conjured up vivid images.

If you are looking for something light and easy to add to your summer reading list, I think this would be perfect.

Purchase Links:

French Village Diaries book review A Very French Affair Sue Roberts
Sue Roberts

About the author: 

Sue was born in Liverpool and moved to Lancashire as a teenager where she has lived ever since. She has written three books, the third 'My Summer of love and limoncello.' will be published on March 6th and she is busy working on a fourth book. When not busy writing, Sue spends her time with her ever growing family. She enjoys walking, cinema and travelling. Her first book 'My Big Greek Summer.' was inspired by frequent visits to the Island of Rhodes in Greece. All Sue's books are available from Amazon in kindle and paperback format.

You can find Sue on Twitter here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book review of Le Tour de Love by Lilac Mills

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills
Le Tour de Love by Lilac Mills

Le Tour de Love

“…the opportunity of a lifetime.”
When physiotherapist Molly Matthews is offered a dream job by a guy who shaves his legs and has an obsession with his bicycle, she has serious doubts about accepting. But, as she keeps telling herself, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and she’ll never get another chance like this. So, she does what anyone in her position would do – she agrees to join a professional cycling team for the most prestigious race in the cycling world – The Tour de France.

The reality, though, isn’t exactly what she had anticipated; instead of eating out at restaurants in pretty French villages and spending her free time lounging around the hotel pool, Molly finds herself living out of a suitcase for three weeks, massaging eight pairs of sweaty legs, administering ice baths and treating saddle sores.

And neither did she anticipate falling for a gorgeous, passionate, professional rider by the name of Alexander Duvall…

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills

My Review:

This weekend sees the start of the 2019 Tour de France, my favourite sporting event of the year, a kaleidoscope of colour and speed, as the best of the best battle mountains, sprints and long distances on their bikes. Imagine my excitement when I was offered a novel that brings the tour to life, offers insights into team life and a hint of romance. I was buzzing!

Molly is a physio who knows her sports injuries but knows next to nothing about cycling and even less about the world of professional cycle racing, until Alexander Duvall arrives for a last-minute appointment. She soon realises his drive and determination are different from her other clients and agrees to get him race fit in record time. Alexander soon realises Molly is just what his team need with the Tour de France due to start and no physio in their team. 

Molly is thrown straight in, learning the job, living out of a suitcase and doing whatever is required, whenever it is needed. It was great fun seeing the weird world of the Tour from the eyes of a total newbie, but I did feel for her when she assumed she’d be able to spend equal time sightseeing as working, while the team pedalled around France. She soon learns the Tour is intense, the days are long and the distances covered are extreme. There is a hierarchy to adhere to, it has an etiquette all of its own and the rules for the cyclists, on and off the bikes, are strict. Emotions soon run high when the chemistry between Molly and Alexander becomes difficult to ignore and with the highs of wins against the lows of accidents and injuries, has Molly got what it takes to be a team physio?

I really enjoyed this fictional look at life on tour and while it’s probably not one for the racing purists, I’m sure those (like me) with an interest in the Tour de France will enjoy it and its peek into team life. It is fun and fast paced, and just the book to get you into the mood for watching the 2019 Tour de France.

Purchase Link: 

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills
Lilac Mills

Author Bio: 

Lilac spends all her time writing, or reading, or thinking about writing or reading, often to the detriment of her day job, her family, and the housework. She apologises to her employer and her loved ones, but the house will simply have to deal with it!

She calls Worcester home, though she would prefer to call somewhere hot and sunny home, somewhere with a beach and cocktails and endless opportunities for snoozing in the sun...

When she isn't hunched over a computer or dreaming about foreign shores, she enjoys creating strange, inedible dishes in the kitchen, accusing her daughter of stealing (she meant to say "borrowing") her clothes, and fighting with her husband over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.

Social Media Links:

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills