Saturday, November 2, 2019

Book review for Until We Meet Again by Rosemary Goodacre

French Village Diaries book review Until We Meet Again Rosemary Goodacre
Until We Meet Again by Rosemary Goodacre

Until We Meet AgainSynopsis:

The Great War drove them apart – but love kept them together
Summer 1914: Shy young woman, Amy Fletcher, lives a quiet life in Sussex. An office worker, she lives at home, along with her parents and spirited younger brother, Bertie. But her life is transformed when she meets handsome young man, Edmond Derwent, son of one of the wealthiest families in the small town of Larchbury, and student at Cambridge University.
The couple are falling deeply in love when war breaks out and, eager to do his duty for England, Edmond signs up as an officer. The couple plan to be wed, eager to start a new life together - but their happiness is short-lived when Edmond is sent to Flanders to lead his men into battle. Amy trains as a VAD nurse and is soon sent to France, where she sees the true horror of war inflicted on the brave young men sent to fight.
Separated by war, Edmond and Amy share their feelings through emotional letters sent from the front line. But when Edmond is critically wounded at Ypres, their love faces the biggest test of all – can their love stay strong while the world around them is crumbling?
A romantic, emotional saga set in WW1 – readers of Rosie Goodwin, Katie Flynn and Val Wood will be captivated by this story of love.

French Village Diaries book review Until We Meet Again Rosemary Goodacre
Until We Meet Again blog tour banner

My Review:

What struck me immediately with this novel was the perfect sense of time. We meet Amy just before the outbreak of the First World War, a young lady working in an office, the daughter of a school master, but with strong views on Votes for Women. Tea is taken in the afternoon, the parlour used for guests and young couples walk out together. Life is calm and everyone knows their place in society. 

Life is soon to change dramatically for Amy. She becomes involved in a local suffragette group and her involvement at a protest will return to haunt her more than once. She attracts the attention of Edmond, second son of the Derwents, the local family in the large manor house. With the onset of war and Edmond signed up to fight for his country, a marriage is arranged, despite his mother’s reservations.

Their time together is limited, but when Amy signs up to be a VAD nurse, as soon as she has completed her basic training she too is sent to France, to work at a hospital near the front line. As the story follows her work at the hospital, Edmond’s time in the trenches and their snatched days of leave together, we never know if each heartfelt letter or meet will be their last.

This book tells their story with feeling. There are many emotional scenes of love and grief, and the changing dynamics of life pre and post war is portrayed well. I liked the characters, especially Amy, who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and think outside the framework of what was perceived to be normal and right for her.

If you enjoy historical fiction, then I’m sure you will love Until We Meet Again. I’m looking forward to returning to the Derwents for the next book in the series.

French Village Diaries book review Until We Meet Again Rosemary Goodacre
Rosemary Goodacre

Author Bio:

Rosemary Goodacre has previously worked in computing and teaching. She has had short stories published and a novella, A Fortnight is not Enough.
Her father's family came from continental Europe and she loves travelling.
She enjoys country walking, bridge and classical music. She lives with her husband in Kent, England. 

Purchase Links:

Friday, November 1, 2019

Book review of The Paris Girl by Natalie Meg Evans

French Village Diaries book review The Paris Girl Natalie Meg Evans
The Paris Girl by Natalie Meg Evans

The Paris Girl by Natalie Meg EvansSynopsis:

Paris, 1920s. Tatiana Vytenis has worked hard to leave her past behind. Once a ruined Russian princess in hiding, she is now a sought-after model and engaged to Gérard de Sainte-Vierge – a handsome, if occasionally overbearing, aristocrat. With the Sainte-Vierge heirloom ruby sparkling on her finger, Tatiana feels as though she should be happy. Not long ago she was penniless and now she’s about to become a marquise.

But fate still has a final hand to play. One night in a bohemian café in Montparnasse, Tatiana discovers she’s been the unknowing plaything of the Sainte-Vierge family. Hidden beneath their genteel exteriors, Gerard and his brother have a secret darker side, and her darling fiancé will gladly ruin Tatiana’s life to save his own reputation.

As Tatiana’s situation becomes ever more desperate, she crosses paths with an unlikely guardian angel. Serious, dark-haired Regan Dortmeyer is an American in Paris – a war photographer running from his own hard knocks in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. He’s no fancy French nobleman, but Regan has seen the lengths to which a wicked man like Gerard will go. As the consequences of her disastrous engagement threaten to swallow Tatiana up, he might be the only one who can save her now…

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Milliner’s SecretThe Paris Girl is a beautiful novel full of twists and turns, set against the breathtaking backdrop of 1920s Paris. Perfect for fans of Chanel Cleeton, Kathleen Tessaro and The Alice Network.  

French Village Diaries book review The Paris Girl Natalie Meg Evans
The Paris Girl blog tour banner

My Review:

This book gives you 1920’s Paris glamour, fashion and romance. From the swish of fabric, the latest colours and the attention to detail of accessories, often seen through the eye of a photographer, the excitement and anticipation of each new collection comes to life. There is the backstage drama, the rivalry and the Paris night life, all set alongside a complex family who are struggling to come to terms with their losses in Russia after the First World War. 

It is not easy to like Tatiana. Her tantrums, her emotional outbursts and the way she treats those around her; she is the perfect spoiled princess who is determined to marry into French aristocracy in order to secure her future. Where her older sister Katya (partner at the fashion house where Tatiana is a model) is strong and makes decisions for the good of those around her, Tatiana thinks only of herself. 

It is when Katya leaves Paris with her husband Harry Morten, under a shroud of secrecy, that Tatiana’s life begins to crumble. Her fiancé tricks her and his actions leave her alone and vulnerable, and without Katya in control, their mother retreats into herself and the fashion house struggles with the lack of direction. Snubbed by those she called her friends, it is American photographer Regan who has a knack of always being there to help pick up the pieces. As disaster after disaster befalls Tatiana, she begins to change for the better, but her road to recovery is a long one and she can’t seem to help but hurt those around her. Does she have the strength to undo all the wrongs she has done? Will Katya and Harry return in time to save the family and the business? This book kept me guessing.

Having enjoyed The Secret Vow, where we followed Katya, Tatiana, their mother Irina and niece Anoushka’s journey from Russia to Paris, it was good to return and catch up with them once more.

If you enjoy historical fiction, this one, that opens the doors to Paris of another era, should be on your to-be-read list.

French Village Diaries book review The Paris Girl Natalie Meg Evans
Natalie Meg Evans

Author Bio:

Natalie Meg Evans has been an art student, actor, PR copywriter, book-keeper and bar tender but always wanted to write. A USA Today best-seller and RITA nominee, she is author of four published novels which follow the fortunes of strong-minded women during the 1930s and 40s. Fashion, manners and art are the glass through which her characters’ lives are viewed. Each novel is laced with passion, romance and desire. Mystery is never far away. An avid absorber of history – for her sixth birthday she got a toy Arthurian castle with plastic knights – Natalie views historical fiction as theatre for the imagination. Her novels delve behind the scenes of a prestige industry: high fashion, millinery, theatre, wine making. Rich arenas for love and conflict. Most at home in the English countryside, Natalie lives in rural Suffolk. She has one son.  

Monday, October 28, 2019

Poitiers Insolite

French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Parc de Blossac Toussaint
Floral display Parc de Blossac, Poitiers

Poitiers Insolite (Unusual)

We recently found ourselves in Poitiers with an afternoon to spare. As we had the bikes with us, and for once it wasn’t raining, a bimble to some of our favourite places, with a few new sights too, seemed to be the perfect idea.

French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Parc de Blossac Toussaint
Floral snake, Poitiers

Our first stop was the Parc de Blossac where the winter floral displays were looking beautiful. With Toussaint (1st November, All Saints Day) approaching, the florists of France are alive with chrysanthemums in the rich colours of autumn. We are not the only Brits in France to have received odd looks from our French neighbours as we’ve decorated our gardens with these beautiful displays - that the French reserve for the cemeteries and gardens of remembrance on All Saints Day. However, the municipal gardeners of Poitiers seem to have followed our lead as not only were the flower beds full of colourful chrysanthemums, but a floral snake sculpture has appeared just outside the Parc de Blossac too.
We then crossed the town centre, where there is currently a multi-location contemporary art exhibition in place, the Traversées \ Kimsooja. In my opinion, it is art, but not as I know it, but some of the pieces certainly got us talking about them! 

French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Traversées Kimsooja
Palais du Justice, Poitiers

One benefit of the exhibition is that the old Palais du Justise (court house) that was once Eleanor of Aquitaine’s residence in the 12th century and has been closed to the public for over 30 years, is now open. The grand hall, (salle des pas perdus – hall of the lost footsteps) with its impressive windows and fireplaces would certainly have been some place for a medieval banquet. 
French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Clain
River Clain, Poitiers
We then joined the river Clain to the north of the town, where quiet roads took us through residential areas. 
French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite
Hollyhocks in October
I was delighted to find hollyhocks still in bloom at the end of October.
French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Tour de France 2020
Tour de France 2020, finish line in Poitiers
We then decided on a mission to find the newly installed signage that marks the finish line for when the Tour de France will arrive in Poitiers on 8th July 2020. Cav, if you are reading this, it will be a slightly uphill sprint finish, on a wide section of the ring road, that I hope will have been resurfaced before you race here. I won’t be camping out just yet, but certainly plan to be there on the day.
French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Toussaint les lanternes des morts
Lanterne des Morts, Poitiers
With Toussaint so close, we took a detour through the cemetery, where as well as many family mausoleums and chrysanthemums we found a French military cemetery with a Lanterne des Morts as its centrepiece. Les Lanternes des Morts, or Lanterns of the Dead are a peculiar feature, found in only a handful of locations in our area of France. In fact, there are only 36 lanternes left in the whole of France that survived the Revolution (and the subsequent administrative destruction) and 11 of these are in the old region of Poitou-Charentes, with the remainder in the Aquitane. These needles of stone, built between the 11th and 13th centuries, sit near the church or in the cemetery and are a symbol of remembrance to those we have lost. At the top is a cross and an opening and at the bottom, a door where a lamp was placed. The lamp was lit at each death and only extinguished once the burial had taken place. They are always positioned so the opening looks towards the east and the direction of the sun rise, as a symbol of resurrection. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of those that remain and find them fascinating. 

Next to the French cemetery was an area of German military crosses; the final resting place of 104 German soldiers who died as prisoners of war in Poitiers, during the First World War. We were both quite shocked to see so many crosses in a cemetery so far from the Front Line and battlefields.
French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Dolmen Pierre-levée
Pierre-Levée, Poitiers
Our route back towards the cathedral took us past an ancient stone, or Pierre-Levée that has been classified as an historical monument since 1862. This large broken slab supported by three pillars is the remains of an ancient dolmen, a megalithic monument used as a burial chamber.
French Village Diaries Poitiers Insolite Traversées Kimsooja
Traversées \ Kimsooja, Poitiers
Right outside Ed’s place is another art installation from the Traversées \ Kimsooja exhibition. This igloo-like frame is covered in life jackets and represents an emergency dwelling where protections at sea are turned into shelters on land. Designed by an architecture student who has helped with humanitarian work in Lesbos, Greece and invented the shelter based on the life vests found on the island’s beaches.

Our short 13km bike tour certainly took in the unusual and with megalithic stones, 12th century palaces and First World War graves, to modern art depicting the current migration crisis, floral displays and a cycle race still eight months away, was probably as varied as it’s possible to get.

The blog has been more than quiet recently, but then as our lives hurtled towards the 31st October Brexit deadline; neither my mood nor heart were in the right place. We now have another reprieve to 31st January 2020, which although drags on the uncertainty we have lived with since June 2016, I would much rather leave with a fully formed plan in place than crash out with no deal. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Book review of Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table by Carole Bumpus

French Village Diaries book review Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table by Carole Bumpus
Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table
by Carole Bumpus

My review today is for Searching for Family and Traditions at the French table by Carole Bumpus.


This culinary food and travel memoir reveals French families at their best and at their own dinner tables. It is an intimate peek inside their homes and lives; it is a collection of traditional French recipes (cuisine pauvre or peasant foods); and it is a compendium of culinary cultural traditions, sprinkled with historical anecdotes and spiced with humor and seasoned with powerful, candid memories. 

My review:

This book is a gem. American food writer Carole, her husband Winston and her French friend Josiene (who lives in the US) make a pilgrimage to France visiting the homes and tables of Josiene’s family and friends to discover the importance of food and family meals. It was to have been a journey that included Josiene’s mother, however, she sadly died before they set off, but this just added an extra emotional layer to their food pilgrimage.

From the beginning the food was not what I was expecting for a journey in France, but it certainly opened my eyes to the rich culture of immigration and food sharing to be found in the eastern departments. The iron mining towns of eastern France were a hot spot for immigrant workers after the war. In the terraced streets where mothers stayed at home, children played outside and fathers headed to the mines each day, Polish, French, Italian and others lived side by side. Food and money were scarce, but recipes and meals were exchanged and many of these dishes became family favourites for generations to come.

It was fascinating learning about traditions from a different area of France to where I live and gaining a better understanding about the history of the two world wars in the Alsace and Lorraine areas. These areas have been both French and German over the years and many of the personal accounts Carole discovered of the evacuations following the invasions were heart-breaking to read.

Throughout this book, food is described with love and passion, and a real bonus are the recipes Carole shares for us all to enjoy. First on my list to try will be the Mandelbaebbe Taertel (cream and almond tart) as it contains all the flavours I love.

We seem to be living in a political climate where immigration is portrayed as the enemy, so it was refreshing to read this book that certainly highlighted the positive impact immigration can have on culture and our tables. If food, France, history and culture interest you, then don’t miss this book that perfectly combines all of these and more.

About the author:

A retired family therapist, CAROLE BUMPUS began writing about food and travel when she stumbled upon the amazing stories of women and war in France. She has travelled extensively throughout France and Italy, where she has interviewed more than seventy-five families to date for her food and travel blogs. Her historical novel, A Cup of Redemption, was published October 2014, and her unique companion cookbook, Recipes for Redemption: A Companion Cookbook to A Cup of Redemption, was released August 2015, both by She Writes Press. Visit her at  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Book review of The Art of Regret by Mary Fleming

French Village Diaries book review The Art of Regret Mary Fleming
The Art of Regret by Mary Fleming

My review today is for The Art of Regret by Mary Flemming.


Now in his late 30’s, Trevor McFarquhar lives a controlled, contrary existence. Traumatized by early childhood loss, the silence surrounding those losses, and then a sudden family relocation from the United States to France, he has no ambitions for his struggling Parisian bicycle shop or himself. His romantic relationships are only casual; his friendships, few. He’s both aloof and exacting, holding everyone to his own high standards while being unforgiving of their faults. But then, in the midst of the 1995 Paris Transit Strike, Trevor himself makes an unforgivable mistake. Humbled and ashamed, his veneer cracks, and he slowly emerges from his cocoon to reconnect, to rediscover possibility, and ultimately to redeem himself.

My review:

This book had intrigue from the start. I love a complex character who has issues; someone who doesn’t conform or fit in and Trevor McFarquhar is complex. An American who was raised in Paris from a young age, following the traumatic loss of his sister and father, he has a difficult relationship with his step-father, is disdainful of his mother and brother and intrigued by his sister-in-law. Feeling neither French nor American, Trevor exists in his own world, a world consisting of his minimalist studio, as bare of possessions as he is of emotions and a bike shop that he inherited but never really feels ownership of. He keeps all relationships at a distance and has few friends.

The 1995 transport strike in Paris is a pivotal point for Trevor, saving his business as the bicycle becomes popular. However, the madness of the moment takes over and he makes a mistake, subsequently losing touch with his family, until an unexpected call from his brother a few years later. His actions have changed him and as they try to come to terms with a new family dynamic, he begins to get the answers to questions from his past, but time is running out to make sense of everything that happened in his early years. 

I enjoyed watching his character unravel, discovering his history and pain from the past, never really knowing where it was leading me. There is a lot of sadness in this book, but I was ever hopeful that Trevor would be able to make sense of his life, come to terms with his losses and become someone who is able to connect with those around him, rather than push them away.

Paris of the 1990’s also plays its part in this book as Trevor takes us between the rue des Martyrs where he lives, near to the Sacré Coeur, to the grand apartment on the rue de Verneuil in the 7ème where his mother and step-father live, not to mention the many bistros and cafés he frequents and quiet corners he walks. If you enjoy reading about complex relationships and want to wander the backroads of Paris through the pages of a book, this could be for you.

About the author:

Mary Fleming, originally from Chicago, moved to Paris in 1981, where she worked as a freelance journalist and consultant. Before turning full-time to writing fiction, she was the French representative for the American foundation The German Marshall Fund. A long-time board member of the French Fulbright Commission, Mary continues to serve on the board of Bibliothèques sans Frontières. Having raised five children, she and her husband now split their time between Paris and Normandy. THE ART OF REGRET is her second novel. Find her online at her website here.