Sunday, October 24, 2021

Lazy Sunday in France with author Alison Morton

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance author Alison Morton Double Pursuit
Author Alison Morton by the Loire, #LazySundayinFrance

This week saw the release of book two in the Mélisende Thriller series by local Poitou-Charentes author Alison Morton (read my review here), and I’m delighted that Alison is joining me today with a #LazySundayinFrance guest post. 


Not only has Alison given us an insight into a typical Sunday for her main character Mel, she has also let us see how she spends her Sundays at home in the north of the Deux-Sèvres department.


French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance author Alison Morton Double Pursuit
Double Pursuit by Alison Morton, book two in the Mélisende thriller series

Lazy Sunday, eh?


The heroine in my new series, Mélisende des Pittones, known as Mel to her friends, would be up at seven (a lie-in from her weekday six a.m.), go for a run in her home woods in Poitou, shower, eat a healthy breakfast of eggs, yoghurt and fruit. Next, she’d leap up from the table, then cycle or walk to see a friend for a chat over a cup of coffee, eat a salad lunch, catch up on her emails and social media, help her mother in the garden, read a book, go out with friends later, probably including dancing at some time in the evening. If she has a boyfriend/lover at the time, she’ll spend the rest of the evening/night with him, and we know what that means. This will re-energise her for the rest of the week.


French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance author Alison Morton Double Pursuit
Poitou countryside, home to Mélisende des Pittones, photo Alison Morton

I feel exhausted reading that, but she is just thirty and as a member of the French Army, pretty fit. I’m several decades older than her and my British Army days are a distant memory. A bad back and dodgy foot put me a world away from Mel’s. 


So, back to reality… A cup of tea in bed about eight-ish, half-wakes me up, then I read on my Kindle, check my phone, get totally diverted by some cat video or weird historical post on Facebook. After dragging myself out of my pit, I bumble through a shower and stagger to the kitchen for coffee and muesli, sometimes toast. 

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance author Alison Morton Double Pursuit
Alison's geraniums


I look out of the window and experience guilt. The garden is a mess; burnt grass, weeds in the herb garden, shrivelled up flower heads. On with the old jeans and top. Down to the basement for the old trainers dotted with paint dribbles (euphemistically called my gardening shoes). A quick whip round with the secateurs deadheading geraniums and a few weeds pulled out between the herbs. Bash my head on a branch of the olive tree, but the autumn sun shows up how bountiful the olives are this year.


Oh, there’s my neighbour, son of a farmer. We chat. He’s a proper French gardener with a beautiful allotment-like vegetable garden laid out in neat rows; strawberries, beans, tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, leeks, lettuce, courgettes – the whole banana. Well, no bananas; we are in the Deux-Sèvres, not the Côte d’Azur.


Out comes his wife to join in the chat and we solve all the world’s problems. Easy.


Lunch is home-cooked accompanied by a glass of white wine; red at midday makes me fall asleep. Afterwards, we might indulge in an amble through the local fields. If it’s raining, and there really isn’t a good film on the television, I go down to our basement office and sigh at the state of it. I promptly turn round, switch off the light and go back upstairs. If it’s not too chilly or too hot, I sit on the patio and read a book. 


Sometimes we go out! It’s been a bit awkward for eating lunch in a restaurant during the pandemic, but a stroll along the Loire or through a château town like Montreuil-Bellay makes a pleasant afternoon. Simple things like watching the ripple of water or running your hand over stone worked five hundred years ago and warmed by sunshine have a lot going for them.

In the evening, I may type a few words of the latest book, but I tend to leave that until Monday morning. Time for another glass of wine. As we say here, c’est le weekend!


Lazy Sunday in France for French Village Diaries 



French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance author Alison Morton Double Pursuit
Double Pursuit by Alison Morton

You might also like to read:

My review of Double Pursuit

My review of Double Identity 

My ‘From the Writing Desk’ interview with Alison Morton.


You can connect with Alison, or follow her, on her thriller site, Facebook author page, Twitter, writing blog, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon and sign up to her newsletter.        



Buying links for Double Pursuit 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Book review of Double Pursuit by Alison Morton

French Village Diaries book review Double Pursuit Alison Morton
Double Pursuit by Alison Morton

Double Pursuit by Alison Morton



She’s hunting arms smugglers. But who is hunting her?


One dead body, two badly injured operatives and five crates of hijacked rifles. 


In Rome, former French special forces intelligence analyst Mélisende des Pittones is frustrated by obnoxious local cops and ruthless thugs. Despite the backing of the powerful European Investigation and Regulation Service, her case is going nowhere. Then an unknown woman tries to blow her head off.


As Mel and fellow investigator Jeff McCracken attempt to get a grip on the criminal network as well as on their own unpredictable relationship, all roads point to the place she dreads – the arid and remote African Sahel – where she was once betrayed and nearly died. Can Mel conquer her fear as she races to smash the network and save her colleague’s life?


French Village Diaries book review Double Pursuit Alison Morton
Double Pursuit by Alison Morton

My review

Having enjoyed Double Identity, the first book in the Mélisende thriller series, I was looking forward to returning to her action-packed life in Double Pursuit and I wasn’t disappointed.


This book is fast paced from the beginning as Mel and her colleagues continue to investigate the arms smuggling network they attempted to break in book one. In Rome, not only are there dead bodies replacing contacts at each rendez-vous point, but her team are in danger too. In Brussels, she is the one under fire, and as she makes her way to Strasbourg and the south of France, she is being followed. In London, it is only her quick thinking that saves her and Jeff from attack. With her team reduced in numbers and more questions than answers, Mel is in the unusual place of feeling one-step behind a ruthless enemy.


I loved the international chase in this book, and the adrenaline and excitement of not knowing where it would take me, or what would happen next, meant I sometimes forgot to breathe. There was rivalry and hostility, but ultimately cooperation, between many agencies and units, but I was never quite sure who to trust. There is a little bit inside of me who would love to be as fearless, strong and clever as Mel, but I’m not sure I could cope with the adrenaline or danger of her life. For all her strengths and ability to think clearly in a crisis, this book also showed her vulnerability, and the real test came when the enemy targeted her weak spot. I never doubted her, but with a climax so personal, I wasn’t quite sure who would have coolest head at the end of the chase.


This was a great read and sufficiently different to many of my usual books, that it refreshed my mind and awakened my senses. 


If you are looking for a bit of action and a series of books that make you think, I’m sure you’ll love Double Identity and Double Pursuit.


Buying links






B&N Nook 



French Village Diaries book review Double Pursuit Alison Morton
Alison Morton

About the Author 

Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her nine-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue. 


She blends her deep love of France with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.  


Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of the heroine of her latest two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.


Social media links

Connect with Alison on her thriller site 

Facebook author page 


Alison’s writing blog 


Alison’s Amazon page 

Newsletter sign-up 


Alison will be joining me back on the blog tomorrow with a Lazy Sunday in France guest post. 


You might also like to read:

My review of Double Identity 

My ‘From the Writing Desk’ interview with Alison Morton.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Book review of Sophie Valroux's Paris Stars by Samantha Vérant

French Village Diaries book review Sophie Valroux's Paris Stars Samantha Vérant
Sophie Valroux's Paris Stars by Samantha Vérant

Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars by Samantha Vérant


In the first book in this series, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux, we left chef Sophie at the chateau in rural France she had inherited from her Grand-mère Odette (you can read my review here). A lot had changed in her life, in a short time, but I was hopeful she had found herself, and her home in France, and I was looking forward to following her adventures once more. 


Right from the start of Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars, the changes and surprises continue to come at her thick and fast, and she finds herself pulled in different directions, leaving her unsure as to where her dreams lie. To take her mind off the grief of losing her Grand-mère, and her inner fears of settling down with her childhood sweetheart Remi, she throws herself into work at the chateau. 


It was great to be back in her kitchen, where I could almost smell and taste the dishes she lovingly creates – warning, this book should not be read on an empty stomach – but I was a little sad that she didn’t seem as happy and settled with her new life as she wanted to be. 


With her reputation spreading far beyond rural France, it wasn’t long before an offer to cook at a celebrity event in Paris arrives. With the backing of her team, but against Remi’s wishes, she knows she must focus on Paris, despite the many challenges. Sophie still has a lot to learn about herself, her Grand-mère, and Remi, but will Paris offer her the answers she is looking for? I have to say, I was with Remi here, shouting at the pages as if I could influence her decisions, although I did enjoy the glamour and drama Paris provided. 


This is a book that is easy to get stuck into, with great fun characters who left me with a huge smile on my face, as well as feeling like I was part of their chateau family. 

The sense of loyalty is heart-warming, the passion and emotions breath-taking, the food descriptions delicious; it tickled my tastebuds and so much more. 

We all need a luxury break from reality every now and then and this book gave me that. Now the nights are drawing in, I recommend treating yourself to a bit of escapism and fun in France with chef Sophie and her team. 


Samantha Vérant has also published two memoirs about her extraordinary love affair with France and her Frenchman.


Read my reviews here:

Seven Letters from Paris

How to Make a French Family


The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux


Read Samantha’s France et Moi interview here 









Friday, October 15, 2021

A Year in Provence with Carol Drinkwater

French Village Diaries A Year in Provence with Carol Drinkwater Channel 5
Cosy Sunday nights in with A Year in Provence with Carol Drinkwater

A Year in Provence TV series with actress and writer Carol Drinkwater


The changing of the seasons has brought with it cold and clear morning commutes to work, lit with sunrises that hold so much promise for warm, sunny days - perfect for drying the washing. Knowing what to wear to keep warm first thing, but not overheat later is proving tricky, and digging out my winter wardrobe has just added to my already huge to-do list. As we approach another well-needed weekend, I just had to share the news that Sunday night TV (for those of us able to pick up UK TV) has just got a bit more exciting. 


Last Sunday the first of six programmes aired on Channel 5, set in the south of France with actress and writer Carol Drinkwater. I have been following Carol’s French life for longer than I have been living my own; her Olive Farm memoirs about life at Appassionata in the hills above Cannes, were a comforting companion for my early days in France seventeen years ago. It is always a privilege when a writer lets you into their personal life, sharing the highs and the lows, but writing about your homelife isn’t quite the same as opening the doors to your private life and inviting the cameras in. 


For an actress who has concentrated on her memoir and fiction writing in recent years, I imagine it was a big step for Carol to get in front of the camera again and for it to be such a personal documentary. Part home life on the farm she and husband Michel have owned for over thirty years, part out and about with her in Provence and the south of France; all I can say is that I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. Having loved reading her memoirs, there was a tiny part of me that worried a TV programme could take away some of the magic I’d found in her books. Would the reality of the villa and land match up to what I’d imagined it to be when I read the books all those years ago? I needn’t have worried. It was a great reminder of how much I’d enjoyed the books, and it made me want to read them all again. The highlights for me were Carol's natural confidence in front of the camera, the loving looks between her and husband Michel and her bravery as she clambered around moving boats, while talking to the camera, and then went snorkelling to see an underwater art installation. It was an honour to be invited in, to virtually share Michel’s passion for cooking, and I can’t wait to see what other gems we will see in the five remaining episodes. For me at least, as the nights draw in, I know this series will make Sunday evenings that little bit warmer.


If you don’t have access to UK TV, the first episode is already available on the UKTvShows YouTube channel, see here, so hopefully they will have the rest of the series as it airs.


As you wait for Sunday night to arrive, you might like to read my interviews with Carol, or the guest post she wrote for the blog:


France et Moi with Carol Drinkwater 

From the Writing Desk of Carol Drinkwater 

Lazy Sunday in France with Carol Drinkwater