Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book review of When We Were Brave by Suzanne Kelman

French Village Diaries book review When We Were Brave Suzanne Kelman Bookouture #BooksOnTour
When We Were Brave Suzanne Kelman

When We Were Brave by Suzanne Kelman Book Description:

The face of the woman in the photograph was tilted upwards, as if enjoying the sunshine just for a moment, even as the wreckage of the bombed-out street lay behind her…

1944, Cornwall: Blinded by love, Vivienne Hamilton eloped to Paris with a Nazi prisoner-of-war, never to be seen again. A disgrace to her family, her name would not be mentioned by any of her relatives for over 75 years.

Present day, London: When Sophie discovers a photograph of her great aunt Vivi from World War Two, it throws her into a world of confusion. Because, as she learns about this secret relative, she quickly realises that the photograph doesn’t fit with her family’s story. It shows Vivi leaving an address associated with a spy network in London – a place she had no reason to be – and it is dated right before she disappeared.

Meanwhile Sophie’s own life feels as blasted and bombed as the blitzed city in the photograph she’s looking at. Her beautiful daughter – as full of joy and wild energy as Vivi had apparently once been – is gone; and Sophie’s heart has been left broken into pieces.

Retreating to the family home in rural Cornwall to seek solace from her pain and the feelings of guilt that she could have done more to protect her daughter, Sophie finds herself becoming obsessed with Vivi’s life.

But nothing can prepare Sophie for what she is about to uncover – the story of a woman who risked everything for the person she loved the most; and a secret family history that could be the key to Sophie’s own future.

A powerful, haunting and unforgettable read about love, heartbreak and betrayal set in Second World War Britain and France. Perfect for fans of The NightingaleUnder a Scarlet Sky and My Name is Eva.  

French Village Diaries book review When We Were Brave Suzanne Kelman Bookouture #BooksOnTour
Bookouture #BooksOnTour
When We Were Brave Suzanne Kelman

My Review:

A chance discovery from a photograph of bombed-out London during the war and Sophie realises there is a skeleton hidden in her family; Great Aunt Vivi, who no one has spoken about for years. A nurse during the war, one night Vivi Hamilton helped a German prisoner escape to France, and left her family to be with him. Decades later, the pain of her actions is still raw for the older members of her family.

The first thing I felt about Sophie was the weight of her sadness and loss, something that had left her and boyfriend Matt in separate lonely places. With a background in law but currently occupied archiving historical materials, Sophie needs a break from her usual routine, so is just the person to get to the bottom of the family mystery. She carefully follows the clues from London to Cornwall, then on to Brittany, Paris and Berlin. It is an emotional journey for her and what she discovers isn’t always easy to accept or understand, but it’s a journey she needs to make to help her heal her own broken heart.

Interspersed with Sophie’s journey we get to read Vivi’s story. Young, stubborn and reckless, but strong and independent, Vivi’s war journey is unexpected and full of risk. She is trained to know who not to trust, but can she trust her instincts, or is her heart ruling her head?

I loved the flicking back and forth from Sophie to Vivi and although the reader knows more than Sophie, I was still gripped and desperate to know how Sophie would tie up all that she discovered about her Great Aunt Vivi. 

Sophie is vulnerable but determined and I so wanted her to find peace and closure, both for events from the past as well as with her own problems. She needed to discover the strength Vivi possessed to realise she too can boldly step into her new future.

If you enjoy historical dramas, set in Occupied France, with a bit of mystery, romance and family drama, add this to your To Be Read list for 2020.

French Village Diaries book review When We Were Brave Suzanne Kelman Bookouture #BooksOnTour
Suzanne Kelman author When We Were Brave

Author Bio:

Suzanne Kelman is a 2015 Academy of Motion Pictures Nicholl Finalist, Multi-Award-Winning Screenwriter and a Film Producer. As well as working in film she is also an International Amazon Bestselling Fiction Author of the Southlea Bay Series – The Rejected Writers’ Book Club, Rejected Writers Take the Stage and The Rejected Writers’ Christmas Wedding. Born in the United Kingdom, she now resides in Washington State. 

Buying Links:


Book review of A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

French Village Diaries book review A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman
A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

Let Lucy Coleman transport you to glorious, sun-drenched France, for the perfect feel-good read. Paris and the Palace of Versailles have always meant a lot to TV producer Lexie. Her grandma Viv spent a year there, but her adventures and memories were never discussed, and Lexie has long wondered why they were a family secret.

When work presents the perfect excuse to spend Springtime in Versailles, Lexie delves into Viv’s old diaries and scrapbooks, and with the help of handsome interpreter Ronan, she is soon learning more about the characters that tend to the magnificent gardens, now and in the past.

In amongst the beauty and splendour of the French countryside, a story of lost love, rivalry and tragedy unfolds. Can Lexie and Ronan right the wrongs of the past, and will France play its tricks on them both before Lexie has to go home? Will this truly be a Springtime to Remember…?

French Village Diaries book review A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman
A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

My Review:

We meet Lexie as she arrives in Versailles to film a documentary about the Palace gardens, a project that has a lot at stake both financially and personally for her. Immersed in the history of the gardens, a mystery from her Grandma Viv’s past sparks an interest in Lexie that she feels compelled to find out more about. Why was her Grandma’s time spent working at the gardens of Versailles so important to her, yet never spoken about?

Working alongside translator Ronan, friendship blooms between them over their shared interests as they work on the film project, but also as they try to piece together the mystery of her Grandma’s past. Some of those she encounters seem to be hiding what they know, so finding out why and what it has to do with her Grandma’s time at Versailles becomes all the more important for Lexie.

This is a beautifully written book and the sense of place and descriptions of Versailles meant I instantly felt I was there, in the heart of the gardens, on location with Lexie and her film crew. I was intrigued by what she’d find out about her Grandma’s time spent there and wanted so much for a romance between her and Ronan to bloom.

There is history, family drama, romance and a mystery to be solved as she seeks to tie up the loose ends of a hidden past. With a great cast of characters and a superbly described setting, the magic of France touches more than one generation of the same family. 

This was one of those books I kept finding excuses to pop back into and carry on reading. Do add A Springtime to Remember to your kindle this year, you won’t regret it, especially as it's only 99p at the moment.

Summer in Provence, also by Lucy Coleman, will be released in April and I can’t wait. It is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

Purchase Links:


French Village Diaries book review A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman
Lucy Coleman author A Springtime to Remember

Author Bio:

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton - who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman - says 'it's been a fantastic journey!'
Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels - including Summer on the Italian Lakes, Snowflakes over Holly Cove, The French Adventure and A Cottage in the Country. She is represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she's not writing, or spending time with the family, she's either upcycling furniture, working in the garden, or practising Tai Chi.
Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her 'rock', Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she is an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the SoA and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Social Media Links:

French Village Diaries book review A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

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French Village Diaries book review A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman
Blog tour A Springtime to Remember Lucy Coleman

Monday, February 17, 2020

Loving being a tourist in Poitiers

French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
Cathedral St Pierre, Poitiers

Poitiers Love Tour

I loved playing the tourist in Poitiers on Saturday, as my silly selfie photos show, and following a morning mooch around the historic town centre, a spot of retail therapy and a tasty Turkish treat from a smiling vendor at the market, in the afternoon I joined a love themed guided walk run by the tourist board. Even our guide commented on how different this walk was from her usual tours. Rather than focus on the architecture or a specific period of history, she had devised a route to include locations important to some unusual ‘love’ stories from the past.
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, Poitiers
We were shown where on the façade of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, situated in the cobbled market place, we could spot the statues depicting the temptation of Adam and Eve, the original lovers. (Just above my right eye, if you fancy zooming in).
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
The dark and sombre interior of Notre-Dame-la-Grande
We heard about the young man who, disgraced by dying in the arms of a prostitute, was denied a Christian burial and his body buried in a ditch. His salvation came about when a pure white rose grew and bloomed in the ditch one winter. When his body was exhumed, between his lips a piece of paper with the name of Maria written on it was discovered. It was believed that only the Virgin Mary could have been behind this miracle. He now has an almost invisible column with a rose motif in the wall of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, where his body was reburied.

The clothes shop Zara was certainly a surprise location for a historical tour, but its branch in Poitiers is rather unique as it’s built around the ruined columns of a convent chapel. This had links to both Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon, ladies of favour (and bearers of many illegitimate children) of King Louis XIV.

No guided tour of Poitiers could ignore Aliénor of Aquitaine (1122-1204), whose presence is felt all over town. Married to Louis VII when she was only 15, and then fifteen years later to Henri Plantagenêt, ten years her junior, there are many stories to be told about her travels in the area, her liaisons and her troubadours. Guillaume le troubadour, Comte de Poitou-duc d’Aquitaine, famous for pleasing the ladies with his poems and love songs, also has quite a few links to the town.
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
The Couvègnes statue of Mercury at the chamber of commerce, Poitiers
The residents of the 1930’s were a little more reserved than our medieval ancestors, as the statue above the chamber de commerce shows. Here the sculptor Couvègnes depicts a naked Mercury, but his manhood was deemed too much for the young women of the era and was brutally sliced off!
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
Hotel de Ville, Poitiers
Fitting for a love themed weekend, there was even a wedding at the impressive Hotel de Ville. As I took a well-earned pause to read my book on a sunny bench, the wedding party appeared on the steps, accompanied by a celebratory cheer from friends and family that quickly rippled around the square, as those enjoying an al fresco lunch echoed their congratulations.

Feeling every one of the 8km I had walked, as I made my way back to Ed’s flat for a reviving cup of tea and slice of cake, the five o’clock bells began to ring out all over the town, and as Poitiers is also known as the city of 100 bell towers, you can imagine how lovely a sound that was.

I’m so glad I went, despite the group mostly consisting of couples and being the only English person there. For an interesting walk that took almost two hours, with lots of information from our animated guide, it was worth the 5.50€ charge and I’ll certainly be looking out for future walks.

I might not have been with my love this weekend, but I certainly felt the love in the air in the beautiful city of Poitiers.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

British Embassy outreach meeting, Civray February 2020

French Village Diaries British Embassy Outreach Meeting Civray February 2020 Brexit
British Embassy Outreach meeting with Mathew Lodge, Civray 2020 

British Embassy outreach meeting, Civray February 2020

Yesterday afternoon, in a theatre full of worried British citizens (and a few concerned French ones), I listened with interest to Mathew Lodge, deputy to the UK Ambassador in France, talk about the current situation for British citizens living in France. 

Here is a quick summary of the major points that stood out for me, but at the bottom I will include some useful links to more detailed information.

1) I thank fuck that a Withdrawal Agreement was put into place before Boris ‘Got Brexit Done’. I can’t imagine the shit we would all be in if we didn’t have it.

2) Those of us already legally resident in France (or those who become resident here before the 31st December 2020) will evolve to become a new species of British citizen from 1st January 2021. For the purposes of this blog post, let’s call ourselves the ‘WA Brit’. We might not have super powers, but we do have protected rights in many areas. 

3) Our rights to live and work in France, and to access the services and benefits system are to be maintained, as they were when we were EU Citizens, now and forever. I can picture the confusion already:

“Mais Madame la Fonc, I am no ordinary Brit (see me puff out my chest and stand as tall as my 5ft-and-a-biscuit frame will allow). I am a WA Brit. I need my own tick box on your form please, for I am not an EU citizen, but then neither am I classed as a third country national.” 

This will no doubt be met with a gallic shrug of her shoulders and prove to be a sticking point for many years to come.

4) Our pension contributions, both here in France and the UK are protected, and we will benefit from a lifelong uprating of pensions, even for those of us who have not yet reached retirement age.

5) Those of us registered with the French healthcare system (and if you are living here and haven’t yet registered DO IT NOW) will continue to benefit from the French issued EHIC (European health care card) for use in the UK and for our travels in other EU states.

6) Our children will continue to be treated like EU citizens in terms of education provision, including university and higher education courses, although access to teaching degrees seems to be an issue as we can no longer work in the public sector. Our children who choose to return to the UK for university will benefit from ‘home’ as opposed to ‘overseas’ student fees until 2028.

7) We will all need to apply for a WA Brit titre (carte) de séjour, even if you are in possession of a recently issued EU card. The French authorities have already issued a detailed directive to all Mairies, a translation of which I have included at the bottom of this post. 

8) The WA is already a legally binding agreement and everything within it is protected, no matter what issues arise during the trade negotiations that are currently taking place. 

French Village Diaries British Embassy Outreach Meeting Civray February 2020 Brexit
Talking to Mathew Lodge, deputy Ambassador

Buoyed by his words of reassurance, I took myself onto the stage afterwards to have a one to one chat with him. Having first thanked him for coming and for having such positive news to share, I then asked a more specific question for our circumstances, that of Adrian’s work providing services. It was at this point his smile dropped just fractionally. Services it seems is a hot bed of shit thanks to the City of London and its Financial Services, (which is oddly enough the world I used to live in pre-Ed and moving to France). His view is that there are just too many regulations and tax implications surrounding services, that an agreement on services is unlikely, ever.

This is the worry I have had since June 2016 and despite the reassurance given in so many areas yesterday, I can’t help but feel why us? Of all the great things covered in the WA, what is not covered is voting in France or standing for election in France, something that has been a major part of my French life for the last six years, and more importantly the provision of services across borders, which is exactly what Adrian’s French operated company provides and where our family income comes from. Up shit creak without a paddle comes to mind.

This meeting wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Kathryn Dobson and the British in Europe team. They have been, and hope to continue to be, our voice in France, in the EU and in the UK as the negotiations proceed. They have a legal team who ensure they can provide jargon-free accurate information as quickly as possible, as and when our situation changes. If you haven’t already, do visit their website where there are explanatory guides to the WA. 

Also on their website you can find details of their crowdfunder appeal. In order for their small team of ten volunteers to continue to work to help us, they need our help financially. Without donations towards travel expenses and fees, they can’t guarantee being able to continue to fight for our rights. Click here to help secure our future.

Translated message sent to all Mairies concerning Titre de Séjour for British citizens living in France before the end of the WA:

“The Withdrawal Agreement for the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on 1 February 2020 provides for a transitional period until 31 December 2020 during which all the current rights of British nationals, acquired as European Union nationals, are maintained.

British nationals are therefore not currently subject to the obligation to hold a residence permit.

The provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will apply to British nationals and their family members already settled in France on the date of withdrawal of the United Kingdom or those coming to settle in France before 31st December 2020. As per the Withdrawal Agreement, British nationals will be issued specific residence permits which they will have to apply for from July 2020 and before 1st July 2021.

They will not be required to hold a residence permit until this date.

To facilitate this, a new online application site adapted to the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will be opened in early July 2020.

The site that was opened on 9th October 2019 in anticipation of a No Deal Brexit is now closed. The information that has already been uploaded has been kept so those who have already submitted an application will not need to make a new request. A standard email will be sent out to the those concerned.

Consequently, British nationals living in the department are invited to wait for the opening of the new dedicated online system which will be available in July 2020.”

Further detailed information can be found at these websites:

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Book review of For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy

French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy

For Love or Money

Lesley has always fancied herself as an amateur sleuth, a sort of modern day Miss Marple without the support stockings.

So when Al wants to hire her to investigate his elderly uncle's young fiancée, she jumps at the chance. It doesn't hurt that the job will involve posing as Al's girlfriend and joining his glitzy, star-studded family on holiday in Nice.

Stella still can't quite believe she's engaged to legendary actor Sir Peter Bradshaw. She accepted what she thought was a deathbed proposal. Now she has a living, breathing fiancé and a wedding to plan.

First, though, she has to get through a holiday in the South of France with Peter's extended family, who all seem convinced she's a gold-digger with her sights set on the family fortune.

As Lesley bonds with Stella over shopping trips and bottles of rosé, she thinks she has it all figured out. After all, it's no great mystery why a young woman would marry a fabulously wealthy seventy-two-year-old with a heart condition, is it? It's an old story.

And Al may be the nicest boyfriend she's ever had (even if he is fake), but Lesley believes in instant attraction and there's just no spark ... no matter how fit he looks in his swimming trunks. So there's no chance he's going to grow on her.

But people have a way of surprising you, as she's about to discover ...
French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy

My Review:

When Lesley meets Al, she thinks it’s a one-off until he turns up at her door and makes her an offer she can’t refuse. After all what could be better than two weeks in the south of France, with your boyfriend and his famous acting family, even if he’s not really your boyfriend, but someone who has asked you along undercover to investigate his uncle Peter’s new fiancée, Stella. 

How hard can it be to sit in the sun and play the girlfriend, even if his cousins are total heartthrobs and you find yourself bonding with the lady you are supposed to be snooping on. Stella’s love for Peter seems genuine enough and she’s delighted to have a friend in Lesley, but with the mystery surrounding her past, they can’t help but feel there is something she’s hiding.

I loved this book; the characters were great fun and the chemistry and dynamics between them really brought them to life. There is glitz and glamour, emotions and heartache, plus lots of humour too, all brought together with a mystery to be solved. No one is being totally honest when it comes to relationships, but can they keep to their stories when real feelings begin to bubble to the surface.

This book has a bit of everything, and the intriguing plot kept me page turning well into the night. If you are looking to escape the winter blues with some fun and frolics in a villa in the south of France, look no further.

Purchase Links: 

French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
Clodagh Murphy, For Love or Money

Author Bio: 

Clodagh Murphy lives in Dublin, Ireland and writes funny, sexy romantic comedies. She always dreamed of being a novelist, and after more jobs than she cares to (or can) remember, she now writes full-time. For more information about her books or to sign up to her newsletter, visit her website at

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French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
For Love or Money Clodagh Murphy

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Significant days, dates and times

French Village Diaries significant days, dates and times Chandeleur brexit

Today is La Chandeleur, or Candlemass Day, significant for being the mid-way point between the shortest day and the spring equinox, as well as the Catholic feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary, forty days after Christmas. 

There are many traditions associated with Candlemass day. Here in France pancakes are eaten and it is believed that successfully tossing them while holding a coin in your writing hand, will bring prosperity for your family this year. Tossing pancakes, in either my left or right hand, has never been one of my talents, but as Bernadette at the village boulangerie had made the effort to cook a stack of real French crêpes this morning, I have placed my chances of prosperity for the year in her expert hands.

This year the date is also palindromic 02/02/2020 and it happens to be the 33rd day of a leap year, leaving 333 days remaining. For number nerds like me, these numeric patterns are quite significant, although I can’t say I can feel any positive vibes coming from them this year.

French Village Diaries significant days, dates and times Chandeleur brexit
Citizen of Europe

What is also significant is the seismic shift that occurred in our lives this weekend. No longer are we EU citizens living in another EU state from where we were born. We are now classed as third country nationals. We have lost our right to vote in France or stand for election to the local council, and as we have been out of the UK for over fifteen years, we now have no right to vote anywhere. I would feel like a citizen of nowhere if it weren’t for the love and support we have had from our French friends in the village.

President Macron has also publicly shown his support for the British living in France with his message assuring us we have a place here.

“À tous les Britanniques qui vivent en France depuis tant d'années : vous êtes en France chez vous, aujourd'hui et demain.”

You can read his full statement in English here and also the touching words of Alain Rousset, President of the Region Council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine here.

French Village Diaries significant days, dates and times Chandeleur brexit
The Maire joins us for an apero of solidarity
The Maire in our village, who I have had the privilege to work alongside as a councillor for the last six years, spoke of his regret that I can no longer be included in the list for re-election this March, and many others in the village have told me they feel the same way.

“Jacqui, une nouvelle fois, tu avais toute ta place sur une liste constituée en vue de l’élection de mars prochain. Je regrette sincèrement que ton nom risqué de ne pays y figurer. Si j’en avais le pouvoir, je te ferais conseillère municipal d’honneur de Loubillé !”

We have entered a period of transition, from now until the 31st December, a mere 333 days, during which, with the exception of voting rights nothing much will change. I can only hope that clarity for our position after that will be made clear sooner rather than later. In much the same way that the UK government have focussed solely on the wishes of those who voted to leave the EU in the last three and half years, they are currently only concerned with brokering a trade deal with the EU in terms of goods. The current Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t cover the provision of services across borders, which is the crux of our business and our income, so for us the uncertainty of the full effects of Brexit is still as big an issue as it was at the referendum in 2016.

On Friday night we marked the official leaving of the UK from the EU in our own way, surrounded by friends and a community that is there for each other. We dined on fish and chips, then crooned our way through lyrics that included ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Never Gonna Give EU Up’ and ‘Why, Why, Why, Delilah’, all washed down with copious amounts of French wine. As midnight approached, we played Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, followed by a candlelit minute’s silence, before a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’. It was quite an emotional moment for us all.

The dates this weekend might well be significant, but I for one have never felt so insignificant. Heartbroken doesn’t come close.