Monday, March 22, 2021

Book review of You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham

French Village Diaries book review You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham
You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham

You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham


After her beloved grandmother Rozenn’s death, Morane is heartbroken to learn that her sister is the sole inheritor of the family home in Cornwall—while she herself has been written out of the will. With both her business and her relationship with her sister on the rocks, Morane becomes consumed by one question: what made Rozenn turn her back on her?


When she finds an old letter linking her grandmother to Brittany under German occupation, Morane escapes on the trail of her family’s past. In the coastal village where Rozenn lived in 1941, she uncovers a web of shameful secrets that haunted Rozenn to the end of her days. Was it to protect those she loved that a desperate Rozenn made a heartbreaking decision and changed the course of all their lives forever?


Morane goes in search of the truth but the truth can be painful. Can she make her peace with the past and repair her relationship with her sister?

French Village Diaries book review You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham
You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham Blog Tour


My review 

Morane is troubled, not only has she lost her beloved grandmother Rozenn, she is also suffering post-traumatic stress following a tragic accident and a crippling financial blow to her business. The realisation that she has been left out of Rozenn’s will raises more questions than answers, especially as she knows something is missing, something Rozenn was trying to explain but the stroke had robbed her of her ability to speak. There are some clues, a compass and a few pages of a longer letter, written in French, that mentions a small fishing village in Brittany. Her obsession with the past and her decision to leave Cornwall, looking for answers, leaves her Dad and sister concerned by her actions, but gives her a focus as she thinks about the future.


In this book we also get to follow Rozenn as her family leave Occupied Paris for a fishing village in Brittany. Her father takes up the respectable position of the local doctor, but they have a secret that must be kept from the villagers as they settle into their new life. The hardships, lack of food and living in constant fear of interrogation isn’t easy for Rozenn, who came across as strong, determined and quite different to her siblings. I felt her frustrations with her family and the situation, as she questioned her parent’s motives. She might have missed the city life she was forced to leave behind, but the descriptions of the coves, cliff tops and stone cottages of Brittany made it easy for me to imagine her falling in love with the coast. I also found it interesting to see the comparisons of life in Paris and then Brittany during The Occupation.


In France, Morane finds herself in a close-knit community, where the local people are wary of questions from so long ago, but a good Breton name and the ability to speak French slowly opens some doors. With so few survivors still alive, a lot of what she initially learns, gives rise to more seemingly unanswerable questions.


I love a good mystery and as events from the past and the present slowly unfurled, I tried to piece together Rozenn’s story and work out what had happened to fracture her family all those years ago. 


If you like historical fiction, with plenty of mystery, family drama and heartbreak, I’m sure you will enjoy this one. With its choice of location and plot, this book certainly had something different to other books set in Occupied France that I’ve read.


You Let Me Go will be released on 25th March, but you can pre-order the kindle version now, for only 99p.

Purchase Links 




French Village Diaries book review You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham
Eliza Graham

Author Bio  


Eliza Graham's novels have been long-listed for the UK's Richard & Judy Summer Book Club in the UK, and short-listed for World Book Day's 'Hidden Gem' competition. She has also been nominated for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

Her books have been bestsellers both in Europe and the US.

She is fascinated by the world of the 1930s and 1940s: the Second World War and its immediate aftermath and the trickle-down effect on future generations. Consequently she's made trips to visit bunkers in Brittany, decoy harbours in Cornwall, wartime radio studios in Bedfordshire and cemeteries in Szczecin, Poland. And those are the less obscure research trips.

It was probably inevitable that Eliza would pursue a life of writing. She spent biology lessons reading Jean Plaidy novels behind the textbooks, sitting at the back of the classroom. In English and history lessons she sat right at the front, hanging on to every word. At home she read books while getting dressed and cleaning her teeth. During school holidays she visited the public library multiple times a day.

Eliza lives in an ancient village in the Oxfordshire countryside with her family. Not far from her house there is a large perforated sarsen stone that can apparently summon King Alfred if you blow into it correctly. Eliza has never managed to summon him. Her interests still mainly revolve around reading, but she also enjoys walking in the downland country around her home and travelling around the world to research her novels.


Social Media Links  






French Village Diaries book review You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham
You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham blog tour

Giveaway to Win 3 x Paperback copies of You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham (Open to UK / USA only)


*Terms and Conditions –UK and USA entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

French Village Diaries Reviews of books set in France
Reviews of books set in France

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Queen's Dressmaker by Meghan Masterson

French Village Diaries book review The Queen's Dressmaker by Meghan Masterson
The Queen's Dressmaker Meghan Masterson

The Queen’s Dressmaker by Meghan Masterson


Book Description


One woman must choose between loyalty to her queen and the man she loves…

Giselle always dreamed of making beautiful dresses, but never thought she would be chosen to attend to the elegant, but troubled, queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Within the glittering, mirrored walls of the palace, Giselle ensures the queen shines brighter than anyone, with not a single feather or ruffle out of place, no matter how she might feel inside.

Being so close to the queen, Giselle is there for her most private and unguarded moments. As whispers spread through the court about the violent protests sweeping across the country and the growing threat to the royal family, Giselle sees the cracks in Marie Antoinette’s perfect image.

On a visit home to her family in Paris, Giselle experiences the troubles first-hand, getting caught up in a dangerous riot. When handsome Léon comes to her aid, she falls in love with this kind, clever young man. But Léon does not share her admiration for the royals, siding with those who believe they should no longer be in power.

Returning to the palace, Giselle is shocked to find the very lives of the royal family now at stake. Marie Antoinette appeals to her to help them escape France and Giselle faces a heart-wrenching choice. Will Giselle risk the guillotine herself to save the life of her beloved queen? And can she do so without betraying the man she loves?

Based on true events, this is an absolutely gripping historical novel of loyalty, betrayal, power and passion. Fans of Les MisérablesGirl with a Pearl Earring and My Dear Hamilton will be totally swept away by this heart-breaking page-turner.

Previously published as The Wardrobe Mistress.

French Village Diaries book review The Queen's Dressmaker by Meghan Masterson
The Queen's Dressmaker blog tour


My review 

This book takes you to the heart of Versailles at a turbulent time for France and the royal family. It is an historical novel that cleverly weaves the lives of real people and events alongside the stories of the fictional characters we meet. This is a love story of two young people thrown together during a riot, who are carried along in the wave of revolution fever and the heady excitement of romance. The tension in Paris is as palpable as the passion between them as the story builds to its inevitable outcome. 


Giselle is sharp, observant and clever, with an eye for fashion and an ambition to design her own clothes. As one of Marie-Antoinette’s wardrobe ladies, these traits get her noticed within the royal household, but also attract interest from life outside the palace. 


I felt the conflict and turmoil for Giselle, who despite her young age, could see and understand both sides of the revolution that was tearing Paris and France apart. She witnessed the riots on the streets, the food shortages and difficulties everyone was facing first hand, but alongside her frustration at the king and queen’s lack of comprehension of life outside the palace, she also understood their vulnerability at the hands of revolutionaries. She is loyal and has the courage to stand up for what she believes is right, putting her in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations. 


The tension, emotion and eye for detail in this book swept me along, adding the real-life grit to the knowledge I’d learned in history.


This is definitely one for the historical fiction lovers out there and with the Kindle version currently only 99p, don’t miss out.

Buy Links






French Village Diaries book review The Queen's Dressmaker by Meghan Masterson
Meghan Masterson

Author Bio


Meghan Masterson graduated from the University of Calgary with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies, and has worked several unrelated jobs while writing on the side. When not writing, Meghan can often be found reading at all hours (even at breakfast), practicing archery and roaming through the woods with her dog.

You can find Meghan here:






French Village Diaries reviews of books on a French theme
Reviews of books on a French theme

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Covid-19 one year since confinement

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement one year on
Covid-19 confinement one year on

Wednesday 17th March 2021, one year since confinement began.


Today at midday marked exactly one year since confinement in France began, initially for two weeks, extended to a total of fifty-five days for phase one, then another forty-six days later in the year, followed by ninety-four days (so far) of overnight curfew. Not that I’m counting. 

There should be so much to say about the anniversary of so many extraordinary events, and yet the words aren’t forthcoming. We have gone from a normal where we were free to travel, to cross borders, to mix and to socialise, to coping with the strict restrictions of confinement and curfews, and where wearing masks out in public and maintaining a distance from others, have now become the norm. 

It has been one year since Adrian last ran an on-site training job. A year since his wings were clipped, throwing him into full-time village life for the first time, and a subdued, muted village life at that. No soirees at the bar or salle des fetes, no socialising and no meetings. Everything we had come to regard as normal for village life, put on hold. His job gave him stimulating face to face interaction with a different set of delegates each week, and I know from the way he casually slips processes, results, outcomes and accountability into day to day conversations, that he misses it. 


One year since he was last with his Mum, and fourteen months since I last saw my parents. 


One year since his last pub meal in the UK.


One year since the last airport run, not that I’m missing those at all.


One year since the three of us sat in silence as President Macron addressed the nation with talk of being at war with the virus.


One year, and the first ever entire year, that Adrian and I have spent together, with no nights apart, since we moved into our first house in 1997. Miraculously neither of us have yet found the need to feign illness and retreat to the spare bedroom for a few days.


Despite France being free of lockdown (except for a few hot spots currently in weekend lockdown) since mid-December, I don’t feel free and Covid-19 is still very much all around us. Hospitals in some areas are struggling and our local ones are expecting high dependency transfers from Paris and Lyon to help ease the situations there. 


A year ago, I had the safety net of confinement to protect me. I felt grounded and strangely in control, journaling my thoughts in daily blog posts. Now the risks and concerns are still present, but with a greater freedom of movement and I feel far less in control. Subdued and uncertain are probably what I feel the most this week.


Some days, I can feel the fatigue of the situation, a physical ache weighing me down. I’m curfew weary too; the longer, lighter evenings feel wasted when we have to be home by six o’clock. On days when the weather is kind, we have promised ourselves we’ll do an hour in the garden post-curfew, meaning we won’t feel as guilty being out on bikes in the afternoon, when we should be working in the garden.


I should be sowing seeds for the potager, something Ed and I tackled at the beginning of confinement a year ago but I can find little enthusiasm for it this year. I think the soil in the potager would benefit from a rest, as would we from the constant demands of watering and weeding. I know I’ll miss the produce if I don’t sow the seeds, but thankfully there are plans in the pipeline and new adventures to look forward to this year.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Book review of The French House by Helen Fripp

French Village Diaries book review The French House by Helen Fripp
The French House by Helen Fripp

The French House by Helen Fripp


The vineyards stretched away in every direction as he plucked a perfect red grape, sparkling with dew. “Marry me,” he’d said. “We’ll run these vineyards together.” But now he is gone. There is no one to share the taste of the first fruit of the harvest. And her troubles are hers alone…

In sleepy little Reims, France, grieving Nicole Clicquot watches her daughter play amongst the vines under the golden sun and makes a promise to herself. Her gossiping neighbours insist that the rolling fields of chalk soil are no place for a woman, but she is determined to make a success of the winery. It’s the only chance she has to keep a roof over her head and provide a future for her little girl.

But as the seasons change, bringing a spoiled harvest and bitter grapes, the vineyards are on the brink of collapse. Without her husband’s oldest friend, travelling merchant Louis, she’d truly be lost. No one else would stay up all night to help count endless rows of green bottles deep in the cellars, or spread word far and wide that Nicole makes the finest champagne he’s ever tasted. One magical night, as a shooting star illuminates their way under a velvet sky, Nicole gazes up at his warm smile and wonders if perhaps she doesn’t need to be quite so alone…

But when Louis shrinks from her touch after returning from a long trip abroad, Nicole fears something is terribly wrong. And as an old secret about her husband – that only Louis knew – spreads from the cobbled village streets all the way to the Paris salons, her heart and fragile reputation are shattered. Was she wrong to put her trust in another man? And with Napoleon’s wars looming on the horizon, can she find a way to save her vineyards, and her daughter, from ruin?

Fans of ChocolatCarnegie’s Maid, Dinah Jeffries and anyone longing to sip champagne under the stars will adore this stunning historical read, inspired by the true story of how Nicole Clicquot blazed her own path to build the world’s greatest champagne house: Veuve Clicquot.

French Village Diaries book review The French House by Helen Fripp
Bookouture Books-On-Tour
The French House by Helen Fripp


My review

Unlike most ladies in nineteenth century France, Nicole was a wild-child tom-boy who refused to marry for society but married François Clicquot for love, and to live her life her own way. Theirs was a love that grew like the vineyards they tended together, but also one fraught with depression and loss, leaving her alone in a world where women were not welcome. 


The vineyards, terroir and Champagne making process are all easily visualised in this book, along with the French customs of the era. There are many who want her to fail, so knowing who to trust and who would sell out to her rivals is never easy, but her stubborn refusal to give in was what drove her on, even in the darkest of days. From dependable Xavier, to all-seeing Natasha, loyal Louis, exotic Thérésa and mysterious Alexei, we get passion, respect and deception, as well as a colourful cast of characters who intrigued and entertained me as we travelled through the French Revolution, 19thcentury Parisian society and Napoleon’s war with Russia.


This imagined story of a real-life remarkable woman is a fascinating read, as fate, mother nature, family feuds and war all have their part to play as the fortunes of Nicole Clicquot and her vineyard, ride high on success one minute and are plunged into disaster the next. I was with her every step of the way, from her most unladylike daring adventures in horse drawn carriages from Reims, to Paris, to Amsterdam, willing her to find the happiness and success that she deserved. Desperately wanting her to gain the respect from the men who were her rivals, and to prove to herself as much as the town’s gossips, that she was right to fight.


I don’t know the story behind the widow Clicquot name, although a glass or two of Veuve Clicquot Champagne has passed my lips over the years, but I’d like to think that this book does her, her hard work and extraordinary life justice.


The French House is available in ebook and paperback formats and if you enjoy historical fiction, with strong female characters and a fast-moving plot, all washed down with a glass of Champagne, add this book to your 2021 reading list.


Purchase links   


French Village Diaries book review The French House by Helen Fripp
Author Helen Fripp, The French House

Author Bio 

Helen loves historical fiction, and in her writing, she's fascinated by the women throughout history who have made their mark against all the odds. She finds researching the architecture, art and customs of the time really inspirational, and the tiniest detail can spark an idea for a whole chapter. Her female characters rail against the social constraints to which they are subject and often achieve great success, but they are of course flawed and human, like the rest of us. It's the motivations, flaws, loves and every-day lives of her characters that she loves to bring life, against sweeping historical backdrops - and she will find any excuse to take off and research a captivating location or person for her next story.

Her first novel is set in the Champagne region in France, and she is currently working on her next one, set in late eighteenth-century Paris. She spent a lot of time in France as a child, has lived in Paris and spent a year with her family in a fishing village in South West France, so that's where her books have ended up being set so far. Who knows where next!


Author Social Media Links




French Village Diaries reviews of books set in France
French Village Diaries reviews of books set in France

Book review of The Women Who Ran Away by Sheila O'Flanagan

French Village Diaries book review The Women Who Ran Away Sheila O'Flanagan
The Women Who Ran Away Sheila O'Flanagan


The Women Who Ran Away by Sheila O’Flanagan



'One of my favourite authors' Marian Keyes

'If you've had to cancel your holiday plans this summer, don't worry - this beautiful new novel will transport you to sunnier climes...' - HEAT'S READ OF THE WEEK

In Sheila O'Flanagan's stunning new novel, two women face up to shocking truths about the men they've loved - and start to make their own decisions about what to do next...

Deira isn't the kind of woman to steal a car. Or drive to France alone with no plan. But then, Deira didn't expect to be single. Or to suddenly realise that the only way she can get the one thing she wants most is to start breaking every rule she lives by.

Grace has been sent on a journey by her late husband, Ken. She doesn't really want to be on it but she's following his instructions, as always. She can only hope that the trip will help her to forgive him. And then - finally - she'll be able to let him go.

Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Grace and Deira find that it's easier to share secrets with a stranger, especially in the shimmering sunny countryside of Spain and France. But they soon find that there's no escaping the truth, whether you're running away from it or racing towards it . . .


French Village Diaries book review The Women Who Ran Away Sheila O'Flanagan
The Women Who Ran Away paperback release 4th March 2021

My review

This was such an easy book to get into, but a difficult one to put down. 


Grace and Deira were engaging characters, thrown together on the ferry from Ireland to France; two very different women, in the similar situation of holidaying alone whilst coping with the traumatic grief that comes with unexpected life-changing events. 


They form an unlikely bond as they both try to unravel their thoughts and work out what comes next in life, while solving the clues to a rather unusual treasure hunt. As they make their way from Nantes, to La Rochelle, Bordeaux and down through Spain to Cartagena, their journey takes them to museums and cafés where the lives of literary greats including Jules Verne, George Simenon, Earnest Hemmingway and Cervantes are remembered. This book actually made me want to look up these authors and learn more about their works and especially the places in France they were connected to. I found myself thinking about the clues and the characters even when I’d put the book down, and as much of this book is set in the west of France, close to home for me, it was great to glean some new understanding of some of my favourite places to visit. 


This book is more than just a literary road trip, it takes us on an emotional journey too. The destructive emotions we all experience when situations beyond our control throw our lives into chaos, like grief, anger, hurt and regret, were normalised as Grace and Deira learned to put the past behind them and began their road to recovery.


I was sorry to get to the end of the journey with them but felt a lovely sense of peace and calm descend in my head when I finished the book.


The Women Who Ran Away is available in ebook and paperback formats and if you enjoy a good book that will whisk you along on a journey and open your mind to new experiences, then this is one for you.


Purchase Links

French Village Diaries book review The Women Who Ran Away Sheila O'Flanagan
Sheila O'Flanagan


Author Bio

Sheila O’Flanagan is the author of bestselling chart-toppers, including Her Husband’s Mistake, The Hideaway, What Happened That Night, The Missing Wife, My Mother’s Secret and All For You (winner of the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award). After working in banking and finance for a number of years, Sheila’s love for writing blossomed into curating stories about relationships in all their many forms.


Social Media Links 


Twitter Headline Publishing 




French Village Diaries book review The Women Who Ran Away Sheila O'Flanagan
The Women Who Ran Away
Publication Day Push 4th March 2021


'Didn't want it to end' *****

'I would have given this 6 stars if I could'

'Within the first chapter, I had left reality and social distancing behind and joined two amazing women on a life-changing adventure' *****

'A great summer read'

'Five stars all the way!' *****

'Sheila O'Flanagan never disappoints' *****

'Fantastic read!'

'Couldn't put this book down!'

French Village Diaries reviews of books set in France
French Village Diaries reviews of books set in France