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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Book review of The Riviera House Swap by Gillian Harvey

French Village Diaries book review The Riviera House Swap Gillian Harvey
The Riviera House Swap by Gillian Harvey


The Riviera House Swap by Gillian Harvey 

Would you swap houses with a stranger?

Nina has always played it safe. But when her divorce papers come through on her fortieth birthday she decides enough is enough.

She’s always chosen the sensible route, staying in her stable job and marrying her rather boring ex. In fact – she realises – she’s chosen security over excitement for years. Ever since she refused to elope with her first love: beautiful, poetic, thoughtful Pierre, the man she met aged 17, on her French exchange. The only man who ever made her heart race.

Maybe it’s time to take a few risks?

Impulsively she goes online and finds another kind of French exchange… a house-swap. She can’t imagine what French businessman Jean-Luc wants with her terraced home in rural England, but she can’t wait to stay in his beautiful, spacious, bougainvillea-strewn villa on the French riviera.

She’s not just there for the house though. She’s decided to find the love she missed all those years ago. But will Pierre still be the man of her dreams after all this time?

As two lives collide, will love bloom on the French riviera? 


French Village Diaries book review The Riviera House Swap Gillian Harvey
The Riviera House Swap by Gillian Harvey


My Review

Nina has hit crisis point. Her divorce papers smother the 40th birthday cards on her doormat, the house she shared with her ex has been sold, so she’ll have to move back to her parents, and she’s lost the excitement for her steady, reliable job. I felt for Nina. Her best mate Bess has a husband, children and a job she loves, everything Nina is missing, plus she’s always there with a listening ear and sound advice to help pick Nina back up. It’s no wonder Nina finds herself looking to the past and Pierre, hero of the life-changing French exchange when she was 17. 

Taking a break from work and returning to Cagnes-sur-Mer, just along the Mediterranean cost from Nice, gives her the time to think about her future as she dips her toes back to her teenage past and reflects (a lot) about her life choices. I loved the alternating chapters that relived her memories of the French exchange and the letters exchanged between her and Pierre. Swapping houses with Jean-Luc gives her independence and space to plan what comes next, with the bonus of his family on hand, if she needs a friendly face or a favour. Some of the best bits of this book for me were the plotting that went on about how to find herself ‘just by chance’ at the same location as Pierre. 


French Village Diaries book review The Riviera House Swap Gillian Harvey
The Riviera House Swap by Gillian Harvey


If you want to know if Nina was successful, you will have to read the book, but I will say Cagnes-sur-Mer opened her mind and heart to what she really wanted from life, and I finished another Gillian Harvey book with a smile on my face. So far, Gillian has only written standalone novels, but I really think there is plenty of milage in these characters to return one day (fingers crossed).

If you need the pick-me-up of sunshine on the Riviera, an inspiring emotional journey and a heroine who learns a lot about herself, then let the magic of The Riviera House Swap whisk you away. 

Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

Amazon UK purchase link 

Purchase here 


French Village Diaries book review The Riviera House Swap Gillian Harvey
Gillian Harvey


About the author

Gillian Harvey is a freelance journalist and the author of two well-reviewed women’s fiction novels published by Orion. She has lived in Limousin, France for the past twelve years, from where she derives the inspiration and settings for her books such as A Year at the French Farmhouse and A Month in Provence.

I am a great fan of Gillian’s novels, and you can read my previous reviews here:

The Bordeaux Book Club

A Month in Provence

The French Château Escape

One French Summer

A Year at the French Farmhouse


French Village Diaries book review The Riviera House Swap Gillian Harvey
The Riviera House Swap by Gillian Harvey


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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Book review of The Golden Gals' French Adventure by Judy Leigh

French Village Diaries book review The Golden Gals' French Adventure Judy Leigh
The Golden Gals' French Adventure by Judy Leigh


The Golden Gals' French Adventure by Judy Leigh

Sixty-nine-year-old Fliss has lived a life!

A career running her own successful business, a beautiful home, a wardrobe full of designer clothes – Fliss has everything she ever wanted. So why does she feel so lonely?

Sixty-six-year-old Shirl didn’t expect to be looking after a baby again, let alone a grown woman who should know better. But with her daughter Gemma struggling to adapt to motherhood, and her boss Fliss increasingly reliant on Shirl to run her life, Shirl never gets a moment to herself.

Fliss might not be great at life’s chores, but she is great at seizing opportunities, so when the chance for a jaunt to France’s beautiful Brittany comes her way, she decides it’s just what she and Shirl need. And as the sun-soaked town of Plouvannec-Sur-Mer begins to work its magic on the women, they realise there’s another way to live.

From cake-laden patisseries, to joyous local fetes, from food, views and beaches to die for, to a community quick to embrace them, not to mention some rather fine French men for company, perhaps it’s not too late for Fliss and Shirl to embrace a new adventure and look forwards to a totally different future.


French Village Diaries book review The Golden Gals' French Adventure Judy Leigh
The Golden Gals' French Adventure by Judy Leigh


My Review

As we join unlikely travelling companions Fliss and Shirl, plus their not so insignificant baggage, I honestly had no idea where this book would take me, aside from a small coastal town in Brittany. The two women are not close friends, neither are they returning to somewhere that has meant a lot to either one of them, and Fliss, who is the instigator of the holiday, seemed initially to float from one flaky plan to the next. 

Shirl had reached a point in her life where she knew the value of hard work, had accepted her lot and had no desire to change. Fliss was lost. Her retirement was not what she had envisaged, she missed the sense of purpose working had given her and she soon realised ex-colleagues weren’t the same as friends. While I adored Shirl from the beginning, Fliss took a little time to grow on me, but a little bit of Breton magic certainly helped us both.


French Village Diaries book review The Golden Gals' French Adventure Judy Leigh
The Golden Gals' French Adventure by Judy Leigh

This book plunged us into life in Brittany where food was served with love and laughter, there was a real sense of community spirit and even some colourful local characters that put a huge smile on my face. Whether the scene was an extended family meal, served outdoors with a view of the sea, or an organised event with music and dancing into the night, everyone was welcome and there was always lots of laughter, fun and friendship. It was a delight to lose myself in as Judy beautifully entwined the lives of old and new friends, French and English customs, and four generations from baby Macey Roux to Maurice in his nineties, mourning the loss of his wife but happy to have his house full once again.

The Golden Gals’ French Adventure is another great read from Judy Leigh that will leave you with a wide grin on your face and either remind you of time spent in Brittany or have you planning your next holiday there – I’m packing my bags.


Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

Amazon UK purchase link 

Purchase here 


French Village Diaries book review The Golden Gals' French Adventure Judy Leigh
Judy Leigh


About the author

Judy Leigh is the USA Today bestselling author of The Old Girls’ Network and Five French Hens and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

Here are two other books written by Judy (and set in France) that I have also enjoyed:

Lil’s Bus Trip

The Golden Oldies Book Club

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French Village Diaries book review The Golden Gals' French Adventure Judy Leigh
The Golden Gals' French Adventure by Judy Leigh

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Book review A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack

French Village Diaries book review A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack
A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack


A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack

Four exes and a wedding. And a road trip no one expected…

Jo Watters would rather do anything than go to her ex-husband Ben’s wedding to perfect Monica, and if it wasn't for her beloved children she would already be far, far away. But having promised to be civilised for the sake of their soon-to-be-blended family she is headed to Spain with a fixed smile and hoping for a very fixed drink!

But when Jo realises that she’s on the same plane as Monica's ex-husband, the devastatingly handsome but equally cantankerous Adrián, she thinks her trip can’t get any worse... she’s wrong. When bad weather forces the plane to land the wrong side of the Pyrenees, and the hotel they’re sent to only has one double room available Jo begins to wish she was anywhere - anywhere - but here...

Determined to get to the wedding however they can, Jo and Adrián make an unlikely team, but as their disastrous trip continues, Jo starts to wonder if fate has other ideas for her and Adrián, especially when he seems to be getting more handsome by the day…maybe this trip won't be so terrible after all?


French Village Diaries book review A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack
A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack


My Review 

Jo and Adrián are in the unenviable position of having been summoned to the wedding of their ex-spouses in Spain, and despite them rather being anywhere but there, they are both determined to grin and bear it for the sake of their respective children. Fate, on the other hand has other ideas and their travel plans unravel in the most hilarious ways imaginable. 

As the weather grounds their aircraft the wrong side of the Pyrenees, they have no choice but to embark on a road trip together, that begins in the pilgrimage town of Lourdes. As our unlikely travelling companions get caught in all Lourdes has to offer, Leonie’s ability to add in Hells Angels motorcyclists was genius and I was hooked. 


French Village Diaries book review A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack
A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack


What begins as awkward and embarrassing, soon becomes friendship and healing as they bond over reliving what went wrong in their failed marriages, and the disasters they find themselves in. The closer they get to Spain, the more emotions bubble to the surface, but what warmed me the most was the focus on family at the heart of this book. It was a highly entertaining read, at the expense of two stressed out parents, desperate to emotionally support their children who have been drawn into the fiasco of a nightmare wedding celebration. I couldn’t put it down.

This is now the third book from Leonie Mack that I have devoured from page one and I’m already looking forward to her next one. If you are a fan of romance with a good twist of humour, then add this book to your summer reading list.

You can read my reviews of two of Leonie’s previous novels here:

Snow Days with You

Twenty-one nights in Paris

Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

Amazon UK link 

Purchase Link 


French Village Diaries book review A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack
Leonie Mack


About the author

Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! Her titles take readers across Italy and as far as the Caribbean.

Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.


French Village Diaries book review A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack
A Wedding in the Sun by Leonie Mack


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French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. This book nicely ticks off “A book set in the mountains”.


French Village Diaries French-themed reading bingo challenge 2024
French-themed reading bingo challenge 2024


Monday, May 13, 2024

Book review The Takedown by Evie Hunter

French Village Diaries book review The Takedown Evie Hunter
The Takedown by Evie Hunter


The Takedown by Evie Hunter

A woman scorned...

On board the superyacht Perseus, moored in the glamorous harbour in Antibes, Freya Addison is settling into her new role as hostess.

The other crew members all like Freya, she is calm and diligent and a hard worker, but what they don’t know is that Freya has a secret and an ulterior motive for being on board.

Revenge will be hers.

Because Freya isn’t here to travel the world in style. She has her sights set on one thing only, bringing down the owner of the yacht - the rich and arrogant Julian Falcon.

A man who ripped the heart out of Freya’s family.

And a man she will make pay…


French Village Diaries book review The Takedown Evie Hunter
The Takedown by Evie Hunter


My Review

Having visited Antibes and gawped with wonder at the size of the superyachts in the harbour, I couldn’t wait to step on board, even if this book is not my usual go-to read. 

It soon became clear that it is a book about risks, revenge and achieving goals. There is little place for emotions and the excesses and greed were a world away from anything I am used to, but I was easily absorbed within the pages. 

 

French Village Diaries book review The Takedown Evie Hunter
The Takedown by Evie Hunter

Freya risks everything putting herself in such a prominent position on Julian Falcon’s superyacht, integrating into the small team of dedicated staff, ready to drop anything for him. Hiding her motive for revenge, while living in close proximity to everyone else, was never going to be easy.

Julian didn’t get to where he was without taking risks along the way, but what he considered his strength, his ability to use those around him for his own advantage, made him enemies. As the interesting back stories of the guests and staff onboard were slowly revealed, so were other risk-takers and game players. These constantly changed my ideas of where the book was going and how successful I thought Freya was likely to be. One by one, she makes discoveries that she has to judge, will they help her in her goal, or will they become a threat? 

Julian was a nasty piece of work and seeing him sweat when his plan began to unravel was as enjoyable for me as it was for Freya, but his power and influence over others was not to be underestimated. 

Revenge, in this case, is best served with a chilled glass of Champagne and a view of the sparkling Mediterranean. 

 

Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

Amazon UK link 

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French Village Diaries book review The Takedown Evie Hunter
Evie Hunter

 

About the author

Evie Hunter is a British author and a bit of a nomad, who's spent the last twenty years roaming the world and finding inspiration from the places she's visited. An animal lover and recently widowed, she's now settled back in the UK with her rescued Spanish Podenco, Markos. Keep up to date with all her releases by joining her mailing list 


French Village Diaries book review The Takedown Evie Hunter
The Takedown by Evie Hunter


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French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. This book nicely ticks off “A thriller set in France”.


 

French Village Diaries reading bingo challenge 2024
French Village Diaries reading bingo 2024

  

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Book review Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid

French Village Diaries book review Annie in Paris Carmen Reid
Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid


Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid

Personal shopper Annie Valentine is back! Older and bolder!

Fashion guru Annie is struggling to cope with her hectic life. With the demands of two older children, plus four-year-old twins, her marriage to Ed is in a romance-free rut and she’s clinging by a couture thread to her job as the nation’s favourite fashion fixer.

And where is Svetlana, her multi-millionaire friend, when Annie needs her? Busy with an expensive mid-life crisis, that's where!

When Ed gets the chance to teach in Paris, Annie thinks time apart could be the answer. Wrong!

In Paris, Ed transforms into a debonair silver fox, attracting the attentions of stylish siren Sylvie.

Annie can’t lose her man or the job she loves, so bundling her bags, her babies and a reluctant Svetlana onto the Eurostar, she sets off to the rescue. But can the City of Love deliver the ooh la la that her marriage, and her fashion series, so desperately needs?

Another brilliant laugh out loud emotional read, perfect for fans of Fiona Gibson, Tracy Bloom and Sophie Ranald! 


French Village Diaries book review Annie in Paris Carmen Reid
Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid


My Review

I should start this review by admitting that I am no fashion guru, I dislike shopping and tragically, until reading this book, was new to the whole world of Annie Valentine and personal shopping. I blame twenty years living in a forgotten French village, but helpfully this book starts with a great introduction to bring all readers up to date with who is who. My initial panic about not being fashionable enough even to carry on reading was calmed by Carmen herself admitting she loves to recycle clothes and buy second-hand where possible, phew, and by the end of the prologue I was as hooked as any fan.


French Village Diaries book review Annie in Paris Carmen Reid
Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid

This book is full pace from the beginning as we are thrown into the chaotic life of Annie Valentine, who is just about managing to juggle 101 tricky family and work situations without losing the plot. These challenges, and her calm outward manner, immediately warmed me to her and ensured that throughout the book I was fighting her corner when things got more complex. 

I loved the French snippets of advice that headed up each chapter, despite it being a book that is as much about relationships as it is about fashion. 

Paris as a location sparkled and provided some classic scenes, including inside bistros, hidden courtyards and the contents of a real Parisian woman’s wardrobe. This book is great mix of entertaining situations that often had me grinning away as I read it, as well as being moving and thought provoking. With Annie, Ed and Svetlana experiencing new emotional stages of their lives, it highlighted the changing perceptions we all encounter as we mature and dip our toes into a mid-life crisis.

If you are looking for a quick, fun escape to Paris, this is the book for you.

Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

 

Amazon UK link 



French Village Diaries book review Annie in Paris Carmen Reid
Carmen Reid

 

About the author

Carmen Reid is the bestselling author of numerous woman’s fiction titles including the Personal Shopper series starring Annie Valentine. After taking a break from writing she is back, introducing her hallmark feisty women characters to a new generation of readers. She lives in Glasgow with her husband and children.

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French Village Diaries book review Annie in Paris Carmen Reid
Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Book review of The French Cookery School by Caroline James

French Village Diaries book review The French Cookery School Caroline James
The French Cookery School by Caroline James

The French Cookery School by Caroline James  

Mix together a group of mature students:

A culinary Sloane, a take-away cook and a food journalist.

Add in:

A handsome host

Season with:

A celebrity chef

Bring to the boil:

At a luxurious cookery school in France!

Waltho Williams has no idea what he’s letting himself in for when he opens the doors of La Maison du Paradis, his beautiful French home. But with dwindling funds, a cookery school seems like the ideal business plan. 

Running away from an impending divorce, super-snob Caroline Carrington hopes a luxurious cookery holiday will put her back on her feet. Blackpool fish and chip café owner Fran Cartwright thinks she’s won the lottery when her husband Sid books her on a week working alongside a celebrity chef. Meanwhile, feeling she is fading at fifty, journalist Sally Parker-Brown hopes her press week covering the cookery course will enable her to boost her career.

But will the eclectic group be a recipe for success, or will the mismatched relationships sink like a souffle? 

Whip out an apron, grab a wooden spoon and take a culinary trip to La Maison du Paradis, then sit back and enjoy The French Cookery School!

 

French Village Diaries book review The French Cookery School Caroline James
The French Cookery School by Caroline James

My Review

A good chef will always say that recipes should start with quality ingredients and this book had those aplenty, from a fabulous mix of characters to superb descriptions of a location that came to life. It is always a lovely surprise to find myself in a book that is set in a less well-known area of France, but to find myself close enough to home that I recognised where I was, put a huge grin on my face. Chauvigny with its medieval castles, the famous macarons of Montmorillon and the abbey at St Savin, are just a stone’s throw from Poitiers, and this book made me want to plan return day trips.


French Village Diaries book review The French Cookery School Caroline James
The French Cookery School by Caroline James


Everyone present at La Maison du Paradis cookery retreat is looking for something or escaping their demons, and that included owner Waltho. At the beginning they didn’t seem an obvious friendship group and I wondered how easily they would gel together, but gently simmered in the heat of the French countryside, the chemistry soon began to happen. The author cleverly crafted the plot so that everyone’s strengths and weaknesses had their moment in the spotlight, yet no one personality (flavour) dominated. In fact, I’d say they all complimented each other and were enhanced by a little bit of French magic. 

I always looked forward to finishing my day lost in the pages of this book and often fell asleep wondering where tomorrow’s chapter would take me.

There is so much more to this book than the delicious food served between its pages. It’s about emotions and recovery, and left me with a warm, satisfied feeling, much like a fine meal savoured in the company of great friends. If you enjoy books where the characters embark on uplifting personal journeys, and you want a location that sticks with you (hopefully making you open your map of France and plan a visit), then do add this to your summer reading list. I might even see you wandering the steep cobbled streets of Chauvigny or Montmorillon one day and we could chat about books from the terrace of a café.

French Village Diaries book review The French Cookery School Caroline James macaron Montmorillon
Montmorillon macaron museum, as featured in
The French Cookery School by Caroline James



Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

Amazon UK link 


 

French Village Diaries book review The French Cookery School Caroline James
Caroline James

About the author

Caroline James always wanted to write, but instead of taking a literary route, followed a career in the hospitality industry, which included owning a pub and a beautiful country house hotel. She was also a media agent representing celebrity chefs. When she finally glued her rear to a chair and began to write, the words flowed, and several novels later, she has gained many bestseller badges for her books.

The French Cookery School is Caroline’s tenth novel. Previously, The Cruise, described as: ‘Girl power for the over sixties!’ was an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller. Caroline’s hilarious novels include The Spa Break and The Best Boomerville Hotel, depicted as ‘Britain’s answer to the Best Marigold Hotel’.

She likes to write in Venus, her holiday home on wheels and in her spare time, walks with Fred, her Westie, or swims in a local lake. Caroline is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the SOA, ARRA and the Society of Women’s Writers & Journalists. She is also a speaker with many amusing talks heard by a variety of audiences, including cruise ship guests.

 

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French Village Diaries book review The French Cookery School Caroline James
The French Cookery School by Caroline James

 

Books by Caroline James

The French Cookery School might be the first of her books I’ve read, but I’ll be looking up her others:

The Cruise

The Spa Break

Hattie Goes to Hollywood

Boomerville at Ballymegille

The Best Boomerville Hotel

Coffee Tea the Gypsy & Me

Coffee Tea the Chef & Me

Coffee Tea the Caribbean & Me

Jungle Rock


French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. This book nicely ticks off “A book about French food”.

 

French Village Diaries French themed 2024 reading bingo challenge
French themed reading bingo challenge