Friday, January 22, 2021

Book review of The Little Swiss Ski Chalet by Julie Caplin

French Village Diaries book review The Little Swiss Ski Chalet Julie Caplin
The Little Swiss Ski Chalet by Julie Caplin

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet

It’s time to pack your bags and head to the breathtaking, snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps for velvety hot chocolates, delicious cheeses and a gorgeous love story…

Food technician Mina has always believed that chocolate will solve everything – and it’s just what she needs when her latest relationship mishap goes viral!

So with her bags packed and a new determination to sort her life out, Mina decides to drown her sorrows with the best hot chocolate in the world at her godmother’s cosy Swiss chalet. Chocolate: yes. Romance: no. Until she has a run in on an Alpine train with a mysterious but oh-so-gorgeous stranger…


French Village Diaries book review The Little Swiss Ski Chalet Julie Caplin
The Little Swiss Ski Chalet Julie Caplin

My Review

I almost turned this book down, as its location is the wrong side of the Alps, but the mention of chocolate in the description tempted me too much. Wow! All I can say is this is one of those times when I’m glad I gave way to temptation. It is a deliciously heart-warming book that I devoured like a box of my favourite chocolates. It comforted and cossetted me, sending waves of pleasure, just like when you take that first bite of soft-centred chocolate and the different flavours and textures create fireworks from your mouth to your brain and beyond.

Mina had my heart from the disastrous party, that saw her pack her bags for her godmother’s chalet in Switzerland, leaving sleazy Simon for dust. She hopes a few weeks staying with Amelie will help her decide what she wants to do with her future. What she discovers fills her heart, as she witnesses Amelie’s attention to detail with her guests, but also fills her head with ideas of her own. 

Luke was adorable, with many hidden surprises, but although he believes in the serendipity that caused their paths to cross, he has plans that might not fit with Mina’s newfound passion and direction. The chemistry between Mina and Luke melted every part of me and for someone who vowed never to return to the ski slopes, this book almost had me yearning for a cross-country ski adventure of my own. 

What a treat for all the senses this book was. A stunning location, characters who felt like friends, love, chocolate and lots of cake, what more do you need to pull you out of the winter blues?


Purchase Links đŸŒŽ


French Village Diaries book review The Little Swiss Ski Chalet Julie Caplin
Julie Caplin

Author Bio 

Julie Caplin, formerly a PR director, swanned around Europe for many years taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. 

These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for her Romantic Escapes series which have been translated into fifteen different languages.

The first book in the seven strong series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award.


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French Village Diaries book review The Little Swiss Ski Chalet Julie Caplin
Blog tour banner The Little Swiss Ski Chalet by Julie Caplin

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Looking back a year

French Village Diaries looking back a year
January 2020, fun and laughter in the village bar

We often like to look back in our photo library to see what we were doing a year ago, two years ago etc, and comparing life and the weather to today. A look back to just last year and it is difficult to believe how different life was then. My diary shows village meetings where galette des rois would have been shared as we all wished each other a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Ed was in Poitiers and Adrian was busy travelling back and forth between here and the UK, but still managed to be around for a riotous fortnight of socialising. 


On Friday 17th we apero’d with friends in their garden, laughing and having fun as we tried out our new hula hoops, that we were convinced were the latest thing in exercise and fitness. Then we were off to the salle des fĂȘtes for the annual council and village employee’s meal, a huge seafood spread, and our last council perk before the end of our six-year term of office. On Wednesday 22nd there was a live music night at the village bar, followed two days later by our sing-along Grease movie night, which rolled seamlessly into the bar’s monthly vide frigo (empty the fridge buffet night) on Saturday 25th. We then finished January off in style with our final Bollox to Brexit fish and chip soirĂ©e on 31st.


Hugs and kisses were given and received in abandon. Glasses were raised, meals were shared with friends, laughter rang out and we usually ended up singing. No one owned a mask. Today, we are living under a curfew that means no leaving home after six o’clock in the evening. There are no apĂ©ros with friends, no shared meals and as the village bar closed its doors for good last autumn, no events to attend. Even the meetings I’d normally look forward to, have lost their enjoyment thanks to the barrier of the masks, the social distancing and the fear of contamination. There is a real feeling of having retreated from village life into my own little family bubble where I’m happy knowing we are all safe and together, but I also know the longer this goes on, the more difficult it will be to get back out there.


Tonight, at nine o’clock, for a number nerd like me, will be quite a significant time, being 21h on the 21st day, of the first month, of the 21st year, of the 21st century. I’m not sure what message the universe will send, but it’s definitely been a wild and windy day today. We will certainly be taking a moment, raising our glasses to mark it, and hoping it brings positive vibes. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Book review of L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom


French Village Diaries book review L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom
L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom

L’Origine: The Secret Life Of The World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom

(historical fiction) Release date: July 28, 2020 at Little French Girl Press 255 pages

2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award


Buy It Here

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*** See the book on Goodreads


L’Origine‘ traces the extraordinary, clandestine odyssey of an iconic 19th century painting that shook up the author’s world and continues to scandalize all who set eyes upon it. Gustave Courbet’s portrait of a woman’s exposed torso and sex – audaciously entitled ‘L’Origine du monde’ (The Origin of the World) – was so shocking it was kept hidden for a century and a half, surviving revolution, Nazi plunder and the foibles of its eccentric owners. Today it draws millions of visitors to Paris’ Orsay Museum. Lilianne Milgrom brings a fresh, feminine perspective to an iconic work of art created specifically for the male gaze. ‘L’Origine‘ offers readers more than a riveting romp through history–it also reflects society’s complex attitude towards female nudity.
NB: this is a historical novel, no explicit scenes


The first part of this book is the personal journey of the author, an artist from Washington, who having reached the status of ‘woman of a certain age’, making her acutely aware of the aging process, feels she needs to do something about it. With her husband often working away from home and their children now adults, she runs to Paris, to paint. It is only when she arrives, and takes a look around the MusĂ©e d’Orsay, that she realises what it is she is going to paint; Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde. 


I’m no art expert, so I had to look it up, and can appreciate that in its day (1866) its explicitness of the female form, wouldn’t have been for all eyes. From her daily visits to the museum, in her new role as official copyist of this piece, Lilianne, studies its every brush stroke as she attempts to reproduce her own version, often under the scrutiny of the visiting public. She feels the power of the painting as she watches the varying reactions it produces and arrives at the end of her six weeks a different person.


The second part of the book is a work of historical fiction that adds the backstory from first sketch to finished work, and then from art lover, dealer and collector, as L’Origine quietly makes its almost secret journey. Lilianne takes us back to Courbet’s studio, his muse, his lovers and his life dedicated to pushing rules and boundaries. It is known that the first owner of this privately commissioned piece was a Turkish/Egyptian diplomat called Khalil-Bey, who spent his time in Paris during the 1860’s collecting fine art and gambling his family fortunes away, but it’s journey during the 20th Century is less well-known. Lilianne has done her research to uncover its owners and their secrets up to when it was acquired by the MusĂ©e d’Orsay in 1995. 


As Lilianne cleverly dips in and out of European history, culture and the troubled periods, we follow those involved and get to rub shoulders with famous names in art and literature whose paths crossed with the painting or its many owners. We see the power it has over relationships and the trouble it causes, but also the pleasure it brings too. Her passion for this piece and its story soon had me fascinated, even though it was a work of art that I’d not previously heard of. I was intrigued by its owners, their society lifestyles and the changing attitudes to the painting. This book certainly paints a colourful picture of a special work of art and opened my eyes to periods of art, history and culture I was unaware of.

French Village Diaries book review L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom
Lilianne Milgrom



Lilianne Milgrom Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an award-winning international artist, writer on the arts and author. Her art can be found in both private and institutional collections around the world and her articles have been published in Huffington Post, Daily Art Magazine, Ceramics Now and Bonjour Paris. Her 5-star, bestselling novel ‘L’Origine‘ is the result of ten years of research and was accepted into the Historical Novel Society. Lilianne lives in Washington DC with her husband. Follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Join her mailing list

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French Village Diaries book review L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom   

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book review of One Summer in Monte Carlo by Jennifer Bohnet

French Village Diaries book review One Summer in Monte Carlo Jennifer Bohnet
One Summer in Monte Carlo by Jennifer Bohnet

One Summer in Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo means different things to different people; a billionaires playground, overflowing with glitz and glamour but also where dangerous secrets hide.

For Nanette Weston, and her then fiancé, F1 racing driver Zac Ewart, their dream life came to an abrupt halt 3 years ago following a car accident which Zac walked away from, but left Nanette being airlifted back to the UK, never to return and never to see her fiancé again.

Monte Carlo was a place she wanted to forget, not revisit. But when her friend and employer, Vanessa asks Nanette to look after her children in the Principality for a few months, Nanette knew she had no choice but to return.

As the F1 circus once again comes to town, with Zac in pole position, mistakes of the past, leave legacies for the future...

This book was previously published as Follow Your Star by Jennifer Bohnet.


French Village Diaries book review One Summer in Monte Carlo Jennifer Bohnet
One Summer in Monte Carlo Jennifer Bohnet

My review

One Summer in Monte Carlo is a book with a real mix of different characters, all with their own story lines, and all entwined around the wealthy lifestyle of those lucky enough to live in Monaco. There are apartments with balconies and harbour side views, fine dining in the hills above Nice and the roar of Formula 1 that comes crashing into daily life, but there is also a secret from the past that seemed to have been forgotten. 


As the PA and fiancĂ©e of racing driver Zac Ewart, Nanette was once part of the F1 social scene. She organised parties on his yacht and attended events on his arm, until the car accident three years ago, that she can’t remember, left her ostracised and alone. Monte Carlo, Zac and the privileged lifestyle were firmly in her past, until her best friend Vanessa asks her a huge favour. Her decision to return for one summer, and face those who hurt her, might be just what she needs to help free her from the past, but it could open up opportunities for her future too.


There is more to this book than the glitz and the glamour of its Monte Carlo location, it also shows the importance of family, friendship and being there for the ones you love. Nanette discovers Monaco has changed and with the new faces it seems there are also dirty deals being done that have far reaching consequences. Who is involved and how risky it is, will be something else for her to work out as she attempts to move on with her future. This shady side of life in Monaco added suspense, tension and a few twists to the book. 


It is always exciting to be back in a Jennifer Bohnet book and although I’d read Follow Your Star, many years ago, I’ve really enjoyed reading this updated version. If the buzz of Formula 1 and the lifestyle of the rich and famous is where you want to be, if only on a short break, this book would be a perfect winter escape.


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French Village Diaries book review One Summer in Monte Carlo Jennifer Bohnet
Author 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 One Summer in Monte Carlo Jennifer Bohnet
One Summer in Monte Carlo blog tour

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hope and peace for 2021

French Village Diaries Hope and Peace for 2021
Looking forward to a new year

Hope and peace 

Hope and peace were my words for welcoming in 2021, but neither seem to be doing their bit to live up to my expectations just yet. We are two weeks into the new year and the world seems equally as mad and scary as it did in the run up to Christmas.


The situation in France

The French vaccination programme seemed to get off to slow start but after reading our local (Nouvelle Aquitaine) health authority’s recent press release, I am more reassured. The start of the vaccination programme, at the end of December, was only to obtain the consent from the residents of the care homes, to determine how many vaccine doses to order. Many residents have a legal guardian to handle all their affairs, so I guess it was quite a task to coordinate, especially over the New Year holiday period. It wasn’t until early January that vaccinations began to happen. To begin with it was for those in care homes only, but from tomorrow an online booking system will be opened up to anyone over 75, whether in a care home or not. Staff members at care homes, aged over fifty, are being vaccinated too, and a report out today claimed 200,000 people were vaccinated in France yesterday, so numbers here should soon begin to rise steadily.


The situation in UK

The UK has gone back into lockdown, mainly thanks to the new UK variant of Covid-19, that although not rampaging through France like it is in the south of England, has reached French shores. UK schools are closed once more, and exercise must be kept ‘local to home’; whatever that means seems to have caused a bit of media debate these last few days. During our lockdowns here, we knew exactly how far we could go as we were given a one kilometre from home radius, extended towards the end to a twenty-kilometre radius. It’s not rocket science Boris, just simple-to-follow rules. Our parents in the UK are still waiting to hear when they will get their vaccinations. Dad is over eighty, Mum over seventy-five and although Adrian’s mum is younger, she is still classed as a high-risk, and yet despite all of them living in a Tier 4 area, still they wait. 


French Village Diaries Hope and Peace for 2021
Our region's Covid-19 figures per 100,000 people.
We live in the top left bad pocket!

What next?

The French government were meeting this morning to determine what happens next for us. The main concerns are the effects of rising numbers following Christmas and New Year and the arrival of the English variant of Covid-19 on French soil. The press seems to think it unlikely, for now, that a new country-wide lockdown will be put in place, but it could be that the overnight curfew is brought forward to six o’clock for all of France. Our department, the Deux-SĂšvres, isn’t fairing too well compared to neighbouring departments, and whatever happens nationwide, I wouldn’t be surprised if our curfew was brought forward to six o’clock in the evening, instead of eight. As it’s cold and dark before six, this really wouldn’t inconvenience our daily lives at all.


Ed got a brief taste of freedom last week in Poitiers, as there are certain practical parts of his course that can’t be done online, but he is back home with us now, waiting to discover what will happen for the final few months. Pearl is here for a few days too, and while I’d normally be happy my nest is full, the uncertainty of so many things at the moment are definitely putting a damper on my mood. The fact that it is January and the last few days have been cold and damp, probably hasn’t helped, but we are keeping up our daily bike ride, even if it’s just for a half an hour, ten-kilometre ride, close to home. 

French Village Diaries Hope and Peace for 2021
Raindrops keep falling on my head

It can be a struggle some days to get off the sofa and out the door, and it’s not easy to see where I’m going through my raindrop coated glasses, but it’s worth it and we’ve already clocked up over two hundred kilometres this year. I just can’t help feeling that we should have learned so much from the last year and yet we don’t seem to be any more prepared now than in early 2020 when Covid-19 was something from China, occasionally making the news. 

Hope and peace 2021, you know you can do it. 

Stay safe.