From the writing desk, of Jennifer Bohnet
A bit about Jennifer
Your writing space
Writing during Covid-19
Your latest release
Life outside of writing
You can read my reviews of some of Jennifer’s novels here:
Jennifer Bohnet's Social Media Links
You can read my reviews of some of Jennifer’s novels here:
|Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire|
With a broken arm to heal, filmmaker Lily Martin is forced to leave her current project in Columbia and return to her Grandmother’s (Mamie) house in France for the summer. Mamie is a reminder of her happy summers as a child, with best friend Olivier by her side; memories she has worked hard to push to the back of her mind for many years now. With the knowledge that Olivier is also home for the summer, she is determined to keep her focus, get better and get back on the road with her camera.
Lily and Olivier were interesting characters, and right from the beginning of the book there was so much bubbling under the surface, I just knew there would be tension and turbulence as their stories were revealed. Lily is feisty and fiery, Olivier is calm and calculated, and together they bring out the best and the worst in each other, with the friction between them making for a great read.
With a bit of help from Mamie, Lily and Olivier are thrown into daily contact once more and they try to re-establish their shared bond of childhood friendship. However, lots has passed in the intervening years, from a disastrous teenage kiss to family traumas that have left both physical and psychological scars, resulting in them wanting very different things from life. Can they reach an understanding of each other’s point of view, or with the heat of a summer in Provence, will things spiral out of control? I can honestly say I had no idea how this book would end.
I fell in love with Sophie’s writing when I read her first novel A Forget-me-not Summer and now I’ve finished her fourth book, I’m an even bigger fan.
With Summer at the French Olive Grove, Sophie has done it again; this is a book full of passion that really packs a punch of heart-hammering emotions as you read it.
For a hot summer read, that brings alive the villages of Provence, look no further.
|Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire|
Summer at the French Olive Grove will be released on 27th May by Hodder and Stoughton in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below. You can follow Sophie on Facebook and Twitter and visit her website here.
I am delighted that Sophie will be joining me back here soon for a From the Writing Desk interview.
You can read my reviews of Sophie’s previous books here:
|Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire|
|Reviews of books set in France or on a French theme|
Mourning the death of her police inspector husband, Margot Renard moves to a small seaside town in the south of France. But when the body of a small boy washes up on a beach, Margot is drawn into a dangerous world of drug smugglers and people trafficking, and forced to cross paths with two feuding gangsters.
Having made the decision to move from Paris and begin her life again on the Mediterranean coast, recently widowed Margot is struggling to find her feet. She has a routine of swimming in the sea every morning, something that gives her purpose and a structured start to her day, but for the rest of the day, she is lost. The morning she witnesses the finding of a child’s body, an unknown migrant boy, something within her fires into life.
From the beginning of the book, I found Margot an easy character to engage with. I could sense her pain and grief from the trauma of losing her husband Hugo, but there was a spark of something that gave me hope she would find the strength to push through. With her determination to see justice done and her stubbornness to not let obstacles get in her way, nor take no for an answer, Margot finds herself in some precarious situations, where the risk of danger to herself and others is quite high.
In places this is an emotional read with some touching, sad moments, but overall, I felt a sense of optimism where good can triumph over evil. Margot’s need to fight gave her a reason not to focus on her grief and opened up some new possibilities for her future too.
This book was quite different from my usual reads, and as I can be a bit of a wimp, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the danger, especially as Margot walks into situations I would do my best to avoid at all costs.
If you are looking for something a bit gritty with plenty of action to get stuck into, add this book to your summer reading list.
Body on the Rocks is released today in ebook format and is currently only 99p on kindle UK.
Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set.
Reviews of books set in France or on a French theme
|At the Civray vaccination centre|
Social media can be a funny old thing. Some people rant, some boast, some just seem to be out for a fight, but we all share and, from my experience this week, many people out there also care.
I had a bit of a wobble this week, caused by the frustration around booking my covid-19 vaccination. As Adrian is over fifty, I was able to look for a date and time that suited his work schedule and book his appointment a week in advance. As I’ve not yet reached that golden age, I was only allowed to book last minute, for an available slot in the coming twenty-four hours. I naively assumed, with three centres within twenty-five kilometres from home, I would find a slot and pop out, possibly even while Adrian was working, and be home to pour his morning coffee. I was wrong. I soon found myself caught in a negative loop of continually refreshing the online booking platform, so much so that by Wednesday the phrase “Aucun rendez-vous de vaccination n'est disponible dans ce lieu d'ici demain soir” began to play on a loop in my head. (No vaccination appointments are available here between now and tomorrow evening.) Every now and then an appointment or two would appear, but they were in places like Rochefort, Royan, Poitiers or Chauvigny, all over eighty kilometres from home. The only ones more local were at a time that clashed with Adrian’s appointment, and at a centre in the opposite direction.
The weather certainly didn’t help as it was either raining, threating to rain, or dry and sunny, but with a fierce wind. Getting out on the bike is a great way to clear my head and put things into perspective, not being able to get out just added to my vaccination frustrations and made me cranky. Having rolled my eyes at a particularly heated post on Facebook, where a fight had broken out over whether our department of the Deux Sèvres was or wasn’t far enough south to be classified as south-west France, I took to Instagram with a vaccination whinge.
I was quite bowled over by how many people commented on my post with advice, ideas and generally trying their best to help and make me feel better. Thank you it really did help. As luck would have it, on Thursday morning I found myself an appointment for Friday afternoon, at the same centre in Civray Adrian was headed to on Thursday afternoon. This did mean two eighty-kilometre round trips in two days, which is not ideal for people who rarely take the car out these days, but it did mean I was able to book our second slots at the end of June for the same place, on the same day, one hour apart.
The centre in Civray, who are vaccinating around one thousand four hundred people with the Pfizer vaccine every week, was superb and worth the drive. The spacious double hall is well laid out, and the Red Cross volunteers who run it are friendly, helpful and efficient. The form you fill in prior to vaccination was available in English and French and everything was calm and organised. It is a real relief that we are both now part of the 22,587,920 people in France who have had their first injection. Reports from the UK today claim that the Pfizer vaccination looks to give 88% protection from the latest Indian variant, once both doses have been administered.
As Ed is twenty, I could go back to the continual searching for a last-minute appointment for him, but this week the government announced that from 31st May, anyone over eighteen will be eligible to book a time that suits. He has quite a bit going on at the moment, so I think it will be much less stressful for both of us, to wait a week.
With the excitement of vaccinations, the reopening of bar, café and restaurant terraces on Wednesday, seemed to pass me by. Adrian did stop for a coffee on his Thursday morning bike ride, while I was on my yoga mat, but it’s been five days now and I haven’t yet managed to partake. Every evening, when we’ve witnessed clear skies and no wind, we’ve planned a morning coffee ride for the following day. Every morning, we’ve woken up to rain once again. Let’s hope this week brings a bit more warmth, a lot less wind and rain and the chance to get out on the bikes, stretch our legs, clear our heads and enjoy a coffee with a spot of people-watching. It’s the simple things.
Keep safe and sane, it will get better.
|Flapjacks for cyclists|
When you wake up to yet another rainy day in May, a lazy Sunday seems the only option. My usual distraction for dull, damp days would be to bake a cake, but having already made a carrot cake this week, I decided on a batch of cycle-fuel flapjacks, that I can freeze. The recipe was inspired by the one from the Global Cycling Network, but I’ve tweaked it for our tastes and reduced the sugar a little, as the mashed banana makes it quite sweet.
150g coconut oil (I sometimes use half butter, half coconut oil)
75g Agave syrup (or golden syrup)
75g brown sugar
75g walnuts (or mixed nuts)
75g mixed dried fruits (today I used dates, goji berries and apricots)
1 ripe banana mashed
Melt the sugar, oil and syrup in a saucepan over a medium heat.
In a large mixing bowl add all dry ingredients, mix in the mashed banana and then coat everything in the oil/syrup and mix well.
Push it into a lined baking tin and cook at 170º for half an hour, or until golden brown on top.
Leave to cool, cut into squares and enjoy (ideally) on a bike ride.
|Comfort food, meatballs|
While the flapjacks were cooking, I focussed my efforts on tonight’s dinner and the sauce to go with my homemade meatballs. Meatballs are our go-to special meal, often served for birthdays and celebrations, but tonight we’ll have them just because they are warm and comforting and cheer us up. My little burst of kitchen activity kept me occupied and filled the house with warm, sugary aromas, but did mean that by early afternoon dinner was done and the weather still hadn’t improved enough to get out on the bikes. We braved the wind to walk the dog, but that just reinforced the belief that despite some sunny spells, today wasn’t a day to take the bikes out, so I might as well curl up with a good book and a flapjack.
|If this was a video it would be wild and windy!|
May shouldn’t be a month when we need to resort to comfort food, but then the warm leggings and chunky knit jumper, that I thought had been packed into the drawer to be forgotten about for the coming months, have also been dug out once more. I really can’t wait for shorts and t-shirt weather, when all meals are enjoyed in the garden. The hazelnut tree in the courtyard, bowing and bouncing from side to side in the wild winds, was enough of a sign that eating outside wouldn’t be much fun today. A quick walk around the orchard also showed a disappointing sight; the damage of late frosts, cold winds and not enough sunshine this spring means there are very few cherries on our trees this year. I hope the plums, apples and pears have coped better.
This week will see many changes to life in France as the second of the four-stage plan to get back to normal comes into effect on 19th May. The main points are that café, bar and restaurant terraces, that have been closed for over six months, will be reopening, as will museums, theatres and cinemas, and the overnight curfew will come into effect at 21h, rather than 19h. Let’s hope there is an improvement in the weather so we can at least enjoy a coffee and a spot of people-watching from a café terrace, or an evening bike ride as the sun begins to set.
France has reached the magic twenty million mark for people who have received at least one vaccine and Adrian will soon be joining them. The opening of a four-day gap between courses for him, enabled me to book an appointment for his first vaccination this week, with the second one in the diary for later in June. As youngsters under fifty, Ed and I are only eligible to book a last-minute slot for the following twenty-four hours, and despite regular searching for the last four days, there has been nothing at all within 100km of us. Refreshing the page has become a bit of an obsession but I’ll keep checking until successful.
May this week bring sunshine and freedom.
Every end has a new beginning... All NEW from bestselling author Jennifer Bohnet.
When Pixie Sampson's husband tragically dies, she inherits the beautiful Château Quiltu in Brittany, Northern France.
But unbeknown to her, she also inherits a mysterious lodger, Justine Martin and her 4-year-old son Ferdie.
Heartbroken and with her adventurous Mum, Gwen in tow, they travel to France to put the Château on the market but are soon drawn into a quest to seek the Château's secrets.
Who is Justine? Why is she living at the Château? How did she know her husband?
Over the Summer months, the Château fills with family and laughter and secrets are discovered and old wounds begin to heal.
I was rather excited to be back in Brittany with another one of Jennifer Bohnet’s novels. It is obvious from her writing that this north-west corner of France holds a special place in Jennifer’s heart and Summer at the Château more than lived up to my expectations.
Pixie was having the worst of times; recently widowed, she then discovers her husband Frank had kept some significant things from her surrounding their plans to retire to France. Without him to answer her many questions, she has to find the strength to discover the truth behind his actions, and deal with the consequences. Her arrival at Château Quiltu in Brittany, with her Mum Gwen, raises more questions and doubts in her mind as another of Frank’s secrets, lodger Justine, is revealed.
I loved the intrigue and mystery around Justine’s presence in the château’s cottage and how her story was slowly drawn out, allowing my mind to keep second guessing what the truth would be. I was heart-broken for Pixie as her world was rocked and her emotions were all over the place, but I felt for Justine too.
Too many people have kept too many secrets for too long, but with the backdrop of a château, good family bonds and a bit of healing French magic, this summer will reveal all.
This book certainly had that something different, from the detail behind purchasing in France with the viager scheme, to the thoughtfully created, older, characters who grow as their stories unfurl, and it was also a great reminder that it is never too late to follow your dreams or open your heart to new adventures. The cameo catch-up with Fern, Scot and Anouk, who we met in A French Affair was a really nice touch too.
I really do think each one of Jennifer’s books I read becomes my new favourite. Summer at the Château left me with a contented feel-good feeling as wrongs were righted, people forgiven, and new plans for the future put into place.
If you are looking for your next read to give you that escape from reality, lockdown and life with Covid, that I think we all need right now, this is one for you.
Summer at the Château was released today by Boldwood Books in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below.
Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.
I am delighted that Jennifer will be joining me back here soon for a From the Writing Desk interview.
You can read my reviews of some of Jennifer’s other novels here:
|Reviews of books set in France|