Thursday, March 31, 2022

Book review of Date With Betrayal by Julia Chapman

French Village Diaries book review Date With Betrayal by Julia Chapman
Date With Betrayal by Julia Chapman


Date with Betrayal by Julia Chapman

I’ve been a huge fan of Julia’s writing since I first fell into Fogas, the community she created in the Pyrenees, and the series of novels that brought this typical French mountain village to life. With the Dales Detective Series, the location may have changed to the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, but Julia’s eye for detail and ability to bring a fictional community to life is still very much there. It was a real treat to receive a review copy of Date With Betrayal and find myself back with Delilah, Samson and the Bruncliffe community. This is book seven in a series that just keeps on giving.

 

Death is coming to Bruncliffe: its target is Samson O’Brien.

 

The danger that has been following Bruncliffe black sheep, Samson O’Brien since his return from London has just got closer to home and his business partner Delilah must work out who can be trusted as she attempts to protect him. In the time she has been around the disgraced Met detective, Delilah has picked up a few tips and by playing on the strengths of those around her, prepares the townsfolk to do their best against an invisible threat. What they lack in skills and experience, they make up for in grit, determination and enthusiasm. 

 

I tried to take my time when reading this book, to savour every Yorkshire nuance and enjoy every twist and turn in the plot. I wanted to keep a clear head so I could draw my own conclusions and work out where it was taking me. However, from the first page, time took on a life of its own as I devoured chapter after chapter, barely having time to breathe.

 

As the events of an extraordinary day in Bruncliffe slowly play out, each minute ticking by only adding to the drama, the suspense was palpable. It is a cruel pen that makes the reader suffer alongside characters they have come to love. A small victory for the community is followed by another twist, and my heartrate rose once more, and then the next minute, I’m laughing - being in Bruncliffe has this effect on me. The combination of the attention to detail in the mannerisms and complexity of the characters and the storyline make me believe I’m there, in the pub, at the allotment or over at the Dales Detective Agency, with Tolpuddle the dog carefully keeping watch. 

 

It was great to start to see a few loose ends and suspicions that have been with me for a few of the books begin to be explained and tied up, but this book has left plenty of questions that will play in my mind as I patiently await book eight.

 

This book raised my hopes, dashed them, and had me holding my breath more often than is healthy. Despite the seriousness of the threat to life, it is also hilarious in places and made me smile a lot when I was reading it. It is pure escapism from life, but be warned, if you read one book, you will want to read them all.

 

Date With Betrayal and all the books in The Dales Detective Series are available in paperback and ebook format, in English and in French.

 

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Author Bio

Julia Chapman is the pseudonym of Julia Stagg. Julia has lived in Japan, Australia, the USA and France. She ran an auberge with her husband in the Pyrenees for six years, which inspired The Fogas Chronicles series of novels. She is now glad to call the Yorkshire Dales home, its distinctive landscape and way of life providing the setting for her latest series, the Dales Detective.

 

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book review of The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp

French Village Diaries book review The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp
The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp


The Painter’s Girl by Helen Fripp 

 

The Painter's Girl: Absolutely heartbreaking historical romance set in Paris by Helen Fripp

 

‘I want to paint you,’ he whispers. In his high-ceilinged studio filled with golden light she takes in the canvases propped against every wall, the paints like jewels. She thinks of the pictures she longs to paint, of her lost little girl playing in sunlit gardens. Will she ever see her daughter again?

Paris, 1860s. 
For Mimi Bisset, survival is everything on the cobbled streets of the Paris slums. She tries to forget the pain of losing her daughter Colette: born out of wedlock and forcibly given away to a rich family. But Mimi’s world turns upside down after a chance encounter with handsome artist Édouard Manet. Boldly posing for portraits on Manet’s chaise longue, Mimi feels a wild freedom – and as Manet teaches her how to layer the vivid paints on canvas herself, a passion grows between them that breaks all the rules…

At Manet’s side, Mimi is caught up in his world. They dance all night at Paris’s new can-can clubs and drink absinthe at masked balls. But one day, strolling by the Seine on her lover’s arm, Mimi catches a glimpse of familiar green eyes… it’s Colette, with a family who Manet knew all along.

Although she’s reeling that the man she loved kept such a secret from her, Mimi is filled with hope she’ll finally get her daughter back. But when a terrible rumour begins to circulate about Mimi, the only place she has to go is back to the slums. Destitute, hungry and alone, can Mimi clear her name? Or will her heart shatter all over again when she loses her daughter for a second, final time?

A completely gripping and heartbreaking read that will whisk you away to 19th-century Paris. Perfect for anyone who loves Marie Benedict, Chocolat and Dinah Jefferies.



French Village Diaries book review The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp
The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp Books-On-Tour

 

My review


What struck me most in this book was the colour, movement and vibrancy of 19th century Paris that the author has created. The slums of Montmartre with ragpicker children and steamy laundries, contrast with the sparkle and spectacle of the circus and the hazy absinthe world of the artists. It all came alive through Mimi, a young woman who gives life everything she has got, which is nothing in terms of wealth or status, but everything in terms of steely determination to succeed. She wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries – her own and those imposed on her by society, and I couldn’t help but be drawn into her life and want her to achieve her dreams, despite the social inequalities of the time. 

 

Her friendship with Edouard Manet was as destructive as it was inspiring for them both. There was passion, but nothing could take away the sadness that drove Mimi, the desperation to succeed in order to get her daughter Colette back, and the impossibility of what she was asking of herself.

 

I know it’s fiction, but I finished this book really believing I’d had a glimpse into Paris of the Impressionists and felt a kinship with the Batignolles group that included Monet, Degas and Renoir, just as their day was dawning. I even found myself googling some of the works of art that made an appearance in the book and if I could, I’d be in Paris knocking on the door of the Musée d’Orsay, ready to feast my eyes on the real things. 

 

This is a book for the dreamers, a reminder to never let that fire within you go out. There was passion, love and life in abundance, and like a great work of art, there was always some little detail on the pages to catch my eye. 


 

French Village Diaries book review The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp
The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp


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French Village Diaries book review The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp
Author Helen Fripp


Author Bio

 

I love delving into the past and uncovering new stories, and in my writing, the tiniest historical detail can spark an idea for a whole chapter. My 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 my characters that I love to bring life, against sweeping historical backdrops - and I will find any excuse to take off and research a captivating location or person for my next story.

 

I spent a lot of time in France as a child, have lived in Paris and spent a year with my family in a fishing village in South West France, so that’s where my books have ended up being set so far. Who knows where next!

 

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Book review of The Villa by Clare Boyd

French Village Diaries book review The Villa Clare Boyd
The Villa by Clare Boyd


The Villa by Clare Boyd 

 

One perfect family. Two weeks in the sun. A secret that will tear them apart.

Nora just wanted some time with her daughters, away from everything, in the stunning stone villa under the heat of the French sun. Lazy days by the pool, freckles appearing on tanned cheeks, laughter over cocktails on the terrace. She’s so proud of her girls. They might have their differences, but they’ve grown into confident, independent young women, with their own way of seeing things.

But when Nora gathers everyone around the table on that first night, she realises it’s time to tell them. And as she tops up her wine, her hand shakes. She knows nothing could have prepared them for what she’s about to say. But what she doesn’t know, is that hers is not the only secret…

A heartbreaking and totally addictive page-turner about motherhood at its best, and its worst, and the lies we tell to protect the ones we love. Anyone who adores Liane Moriarty, Jodi Picoult and Kerry Fisher will stay up all night reading.


 

French Village Diaries book review The Villa Clare Boyd
The Villa blog tour


My review


Wow, this book packs a punch of emotions that left my head reeling.

 

When Nora treats her daughters and grandchildren to a summer holiday to remember – a fortnight in a luxury villa in the south of France, none of them realise her reasons for doing so, or how her secret is going to change them and their relationships forever. This is a difficult book to review because I really don’t want to give anything away – it is one of those reads where it’s best you fall headfirst into the shocks and emotions as the story unfolds.

 

This extended family with their complex relationships gives us lots of lovely characters to get to know, all very different and all with their own issues and secrets. While Libby is dreamy, her older sister Emma is organised and controlling, and their partners Conner and Patrick are also equally different. The drama that is about to unfold will test both their relationships and sisterly bond, and not everything will survive. Nora thinks she is in control of the situation, but as always in life, we can never fully imagine how those around us are going to react, no matter how prepared we are in our heads. 

 

I would describe them as a perfectly flawed family, and it was the intrigue around how and when things would come to a head that kept me turning the pages. Unusually, despite their secrets, lies and differences, I warmed to them all, flaws and all and found myself worrying about them, even those whose actions were meant to shock. 

 

This book does deal with some sensitive emotional issues where decisions that are made, are those that some people won’t agree with. I surprised myself by not being as shocked as I imagined, probably because of the skilful way that Clare Boyd introduces the topics and lets them play out in the book. I found this gave me more of an understanding of their point of view, rather than just an initial shock reaction.

 

It might not be an uplifting summer holiday read, but it was one that I enjoyed and gave me lots to think about. If there was one thing that stuck in my mind at the end it was bravery, and although I can’t say too much more, I think all three of the women proved their bravery at some point during the book.


With the UK kindle version currently only 99p, if you are looking for something different this summer, The Villa is ready and waiting for you.


 

French Village Diaries book review The Villa Clare Boyd
The Villa by Clare Boyd


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French Village Diaries book review The Villa Clare Boyd
Clare Boyd

 

Author Bio

 

Clare lives with her husband and their two daughters in Surrey, where her little green shed at the bottom of the garden provides a haven for her writing life. Before becoming a writer, she enjoyed a career in television, as a researcher in documentaries and then as a script editor in drama at the BBC and Channel Four, where her love of storytelling took hold.

 

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Book review of the Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet

French Village Diaries book review Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet
Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet


Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet

 

Everyone deserves a second chance…right?


Escape to the Villa in the South of France with Top 10 international bestseller Jennifer Bohnet, for an uplifting story of family, love and second chances.

 

Run by sisters Rebecca and Delphine, Villa Sesame is a popular venue for small intimate weddings on the sparkling French Riviera. Beautiful terraces and a horizon pool all over look the Mediterranean setting the scene to make memorable days and dreams come true.

When recently widowed Delphine unexpectedly announces her desire to retire and live a different life, Rebecca feels her own life could be slipping into free fall.

How can she possibly carry on with the business without her sister at her side? Could this be the beginning of the end for Villa Sésame and Rebecca’s life as she knows it?

As the guests gather for the June wedding of Freya and Marcus, Freya’s two childhood friends bring their own problems to the villa and cousin Verity has her own agenda.

But it's the arrival of a certain guest who throws Rebecca’s whole world into turmoil and she finds herself asking the question, where do I go from here?



French Village Diaries book review Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet
Villa of Second Chances blog tour


 

My review

It would be fair to say most of my reading is done at the end of the day, and very quickly, this became one of those books that saw me keen to dash off early to bed for some extra reading time, and then be reluctant to put it down and turn off the light.

 

Villa Sesame’s owners, Delphine and Rebecca, might have known tough times in their personal lives, but they have dedicated their working lives to creating the perfect setting for weddings, doing all they can to ensure everything goes to plan on the day. As we join in the celebrations for Marcus and Freya’s slightly unusual late-in-life wedding, change is afoot for both Delphine and Rebecca, as well as the guests. 


It was easy to picture the villa and its location near Antibes on the French Riviera. Luxurious but intimate, great food, a relaxed atmosphere and not forgetting a little healing magic too. This book is also packed with engaging characters whose intricately woven stories had me hooked. I loved getting to know Marcus, Freya and their guests - best friends for many years, Angela, Clemmie, Rufus and Hugo. The beginning of the book gives us just enough of their back stories and what had brought them to the villa for this special week of celebrations, I couldn’t wait to see where it would take them. There was love, heartbreak, jealousy, grief and guilt, but also time to heal and discover new paths for the future. 


There is nothing quite as refreshing or heart-warming as happy stories of late-life new beginnings, as well as will-they-won’t-they intrigue. 

 

The world is an unhappy place at the moment, but this book gave me a much-needed escape that lifted my spirits and made me smile.

 

Jennifer Bohnet has done it again, The Villa of Second Chances would be the perfect book to add to your summer 2022 reading list. 



French Village Diaries book review Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet
Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet


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Amazon 

 

French Village Diaries book review Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet
Jennifer Bohnet


Author Bio

 

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 14 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.

 

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French Village Diaries book review Villa of Second Chances by Jennifer Bohnet
Villa of Second Chances Jennifer Bohnet blog tour