Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book review of The Secret of the Abbey by Kathleen C Perrin

French Village Diaries book review The Secret of the Abbey by Kathleen C Perrin France Book Tours
The Secret of the Abbey by Kathleen C Perrin    

The Secret of the Abbey, on tour August 14-25, 2017

(historical fiction) Release date: June 3, 2017 Self-published at Langon House 565 pages ISBN: 978-0692877975 Website | Goodreads


After unwillingly leaving a comatose Nicolas behind on Mont Saint Michel in 1429, Katelyn Michaels is distraught to be back in the United States in modern times. When a series of remarkable events facilitates her taking up residence on the Mount and reveals why Katelyn was called as a Watchman, her fondest hope is to be reunited with Nicolas, regardless of the circumstances. However, when Nicolas unexpectedly arrives with a new mission for her, Katelyn is devastated to learn that his head injury has deprived him of any memories of their relationship. Nonetheless, she is determined to once again save the Mount this time in sixteenth-century France amidst violent religious turmoil and rekindle Nicolas's feelings for her. The couple's love and loyalty is tested as she and Nicolas attempt to unmask the true source of the threat their adversary Abdon, sort out their conflicting emotions, and deal with the consequences of an astounding age-old secret.


Having really enjoyed books one and two in this trilogy I couldn’t wait to get back into the exciting world of Watchman Katelyn Michaels, whose travels through time for her missions to save the abbey on Mont St Michel bring French history to life. Yet again Kathleen Perrin has filled in the gaps of my historical knowledge of France with her easy to understand descriptions, which always include plenty of drama to keep me turning the pages.

Katelyn is a great character, believable (despite her ability to travel through time), intelligent, strong and independent. This time she and Nicolas are sent to Mont St Michel in 1577 when France is being torn apart by religious differences. Katelyn finds her place in the male dominated era she arrives in, and proves yet again why she deserves to be a Watchman. This book also reveals to her why she, an 18-year-old American girl, was chosen for the important role as Watchman; answers she needed for the strange events that have occurred in her life since she first arrived on Mont St Michel as a reluctant tourist. 

This book is action packed and full of real history woven into readable fiction. Emotions run high when Katelyn is reunited with Nicolas, who has lost all memory of her, the special bond between them and the work they have carried out together as Watchmen in the past. There are also plenty of heart stopping moments as she carries out her risky plans to save the abbey from destruction, often working in dangerous situations, alone and undercover.
I’m really quite sad to be leaving Mont St Michel and this series of books behind. Although written for young adult readers, they are perfect for anyone with an interest in French history, told with excitement and the fresh ideas of youth. If you haven’t yet read them, do take a closer look, but be warned, one book won’t be enough.

You can read my review of the second book in the series on the link below.


French Village Diaries book review The Secret of the Abbey by Kathleen C Perrin France Book ToursKathleen C Perrin holds bachelor's degrees in French and Humanities from Brigham Young University and is a certified French translator. Besides being the author of The Watchmen Saga, she has published several non-fiction articles, academic papers, and a religious history about Tahiti. Kathleen has lived in Utah, New York City, France, and French Polynesia. She and her French husband have spent years investigating the mysteries and beauties of his native country where they have a cottage and have taken tourist groups to France. The Perrins have three children and currently reside in Utah.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My new bike, the Liv Beliv 2

French Village Diaries Liv Beliv 2 new bike cycling France touring
Liv Beliv 2 with pannier rack and mudguards 
While I spent two days last week rediscovering my love of stretchy yoga positions (more about that later) and learning about Mindfulness (both positive experiences), the downside was I left Adrian home alone. With no structured project to keep him occupied he took to the internet with no supervision. While Mat and Agi from Matagi Mundax Yoga Workshops were teaching me to appreciate the here and now and learn to live without letting my desires for the future give me an illusion of happiness just waiting for me around the corner, ironically Adrian was busy researching new bikes.

Following his algebraic principal of N+1 with N being the number of bikes you own and N+1 being your optimal number of bikes, he felt I was lacking. When Adrian gets an idea in his head he’s a little like a dog with it’s favourite toy and it’s not easy to persuade him to drop it. This is how I found myself in a bike shop in Niort last Saturday just ‘looking’ at their ladies selection of bikes.

Now, it’s not that I’m fussy, but being short generally means it’s not possible to try a frame that fits me without ordering it in advance. Most bike shops hold stock in the more popular medium or large frame sizes, rather than small or extra small. My current bike is good enough but not great. I’ve never really got ‘comfortable’ with only having brakes on the drops of my handlebars and although it’s easier for me when Adrian carries all the luggage on tours, the fact that my bike has no rack mounts isn’t ideal as we do love our touring adventures. In the Sarthe I managed to wear out a whole set of brake pads in the week as I’m a little too cautious downhill, but this brake-happy squeezing could one day create so much heat on the tyres I get a blow out. I wouldn’t like that.

French Village Diaries Liv Beliv 2 new bike cycling France touring
Liv Beliv 2 stripped down for road rather than touring
Back to the bike shop and tucked away in a corner was a little ladies bike, a Liv Beliv2, not the prettiest of paintwork, but not only was it the only ladies drop handlebar bike in the shop it also had a lot to offer. Disc brakes to start with (meaning no overheating), pannier rack already fitted, drop handlebars but with raised brake levers too and a 30% reduction label hanging tantalisingly from the handlebars. The icing on the cake was that it was in my size, almost of if she was sitting there just waiting for me.

Adrian was as excited as a puppy as this was one of the models he’d looked at online but had no idea was in stock and the discounted price really appealed to him. However, I don’t make rash decisions; in fact decision-making is something I’ve always found difficult and up to this point I hadn’t realised I needed a new bike!

While she is certainly an upgrade in many ways on my current bike, she’s not perfect. The gear set is still the same, albeit with an extra Granny Gear to help me climb the tough hills, and the frame shape will make fitting a second water bottle carrier quite a challenge. What she is though is more of a touring bike than a speedy road racer, and so am I, which means she is so much more of a perfect fit for me.

French Village Diaries Liv Beliv 2 new bike cycling France touring
Beer stop in the Charente
I have now had a three test rides out on her (and clocked up over 100kms) and can’t quite believe that so many of the aches and niggles I had assumed were normal when cycling on a road bike have disappeared. I’m now even more excited about setting off on the Tour de Rêves, our six day charity adventure, touring the Deux-Sèvres department, that is now less than three weeks away. We would be very grateful for any donation, so if you would like to help us to help children suffering from long-term medical conditions please click here, thank you.

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike tour Deux-Sèvres

Looks like, yet again, Adrian was right, I did need a new bike after all.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book review of A Very French Christmas

French Village Diaries book review A Very French Christmas France Book Tours
A Very French Christmas

A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time, on Tour August 8-14

(short story collection) Release date: October 10, 2017 at New Vessel Press ISBN: 978-1939931504 142 pages Website Goodreads  


A continuation of the very popular Very Christmas Series from New Vessel Press, this collection brings together the best French Christmas stories of all time in an elegant and vibrant collection featuring classics by Guy de Maupassant and Alphonse Daudet, plus stories by the esteemed twentieth century author Irene Nèmirovsky and contemporary writers Dominique Fabre and Jean-Philippe Blondel. With a holiday spirit conveyed through sparkling Paris streets, opulent feasts, wandering orphans, kindly monks, homesick soldiers, oysters, crayfish, ham, bonbons, flickering desire, and more than a little wine, this collection encapsulates the holiday spirit and proves that the French have mastered Christmas. This is Christmas à la Française delicious, intense and unexpected, proving that nobody does Christmas like the French.


August seemed rather an odd time of year to be reading and reviewing a book about Christmas, especially for someone who never likes to think about Christmas until October is on it’s way out. However, I am ashamed to admit I don’t have enough experience of reading the great French authors, so with contributions from names like Guy de Maupassant, François Coppée and Anatole France I thought this collection of short stories would be a perfect introduction and I wasn’t disappointed.

This selection of Christmas tales was full of beautifully written pieces, where the descriptions of winter helped to cool me down on a hot summer day, although I wasn’t really filled with the Christmas cheer I was expecting. These traditional tales set in years gone by often reminded me of Dickens. Many of the stories seemed to show how lonely Christmas can be for some; the old man struggling to fit in with his family, the hermit and his pig, the young gambler bankrupt on Christmas Eve, the dying soldier far from home and the wealthy but lonely merchant are just a few examples to be found, along with a good smattering of ghostly apparitions and orphans. They were certainly stories that made me think and I enjoyed this different perspective.

Culturally I learned a lot and was certainly glad to make my acquaintance of some of France’s great writers. I am looking forward to re-reading this book nearer the festive season and now that I’ve dipped my toes into the literature of some of France’s greats, I’m keen to read more.


Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant, Anatole France Irene Nèmirovsky, Jean-Philippe Blondel, Dominique Fabre, Paul Arene, Francois Coppee, Antoine Gustave Droz, Anatole La Braz
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Tour de Rêves en Francais

Tour de Rêves d'information Français French Village Diaries cycling Deux-Sèvres
Tour de Rêves tour four
photo credit Megan Macdonald

Pour mes amis Français un peut d'information de notre tour des Deux-Sèvres à vélo:
Le lundi 4 septembre 2017, deux couples d'Anglais qui habitent actuellement dans les Deux-Sèvres, se proposent de réaliser un circuit à vélo de 425 km autour du département afin de recueillir de l’argent pour l’association “Rêves”.

Sarah Berry, 41 ans propriétaire d’un magazine anglophone “The Deux-Sèvres Monthly” et son mari Rob, 50 ans chef d’entreprise de plâtre, débutent à vélo quand ils ont accepté ce challenge. Ils se sont beaucoup investis en achetant de nouveaux vélos et ont passé le plus de temps possible à pédaler cet été. Tout cela afin de s’entraîner pour le tour car ils veulent effectuer un maximum de 85km par jour pendant 6 jours.

Les accompagneront dans le tour, Jacqui et Adrian Brown, cyclistes amateurs. Gérant d’entreprise Adrian, 47 ans a réalisé le parcours du tour qui débutera et se terminera à Secondigny en passant par le Pays Mellois, Niort et le Marais Poitevin, Parthenay, Thouars et Bressuire. Jacqui, 45 ans bloggeuse souffre d’épilepsie depuis ses cinq ans, alors cet événement pour l’association “Rêves” sera difficile pour elle, mais elle s'entraine régulièrement. Elle est prête.

L’association “Rêves” recueille de l’argent pour réaliser les rêves d’enfants et d'adolescents atteints d’une maladie grave. Sarah a choisi cette association car ne pouvant avoir d'enfants, elle veut aider ceux en difficulté. Grâce à “Rêves” ces enfants peuvent s’échapper à la vie quotidienne et vivre des expériences inoubliables avec leurs familles, ce qui leur apporte force et confiance pour se battre contre la maladie.

Pour faire un don à cette association visitez cette page:

Si vous voulez soutenir les cyclistes sur la route ou même participer avec eux sur une partie du trajet, inscrivez-vous sur le site internet
Les horaires de départ et d’arrivée sont notés ci-dessous.
Des mises à jour seront affichées régulièrement sur la page Facebook Tour de Rêves

·       Lundi 4 septembre: 10h00 grand départ Place de Maréchal Leclerc, Secondigny 79130
              Arrivée prévue à Loubillé: 17h15
·       Mardi 5 septembre 09h30 départ: Bar à côté de l’église de Loubillé 79110
              Arrivée prévue au port d’Arçais: 15h30
·       Mercredi 6 septembre 10h00 départ à l’église de Coulon
              Arrivée prévue à Parthenay au parking en face de Hyper U: 16h45
·       Jeudi 7 septembre 10h00 départ Parthenay au parking en face de Hyper U
              Arrivée prévue à Thouars, au parking de Mon Brico: 16h40
·       Vendredi 8 septembre 10h00 départ Thouars, au parking de Mon Brico
              Arrivée prévue à Etusson 15h30
·       Samedi 9 septembre 11h00 départ à Bressuire, Bar La Promenade, en face de la Place St Jacques
              Arrivée prévue à Secondigny 15h00

Tous ces horaires ne sont pas fixes et peuvent changer.

An English translation of this can be found on The Good Life France here.

Tour de Rêves d'information Français French Village Diaries cycling Deux-Sèvres

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

La Rochelle to Lake Geneva
Photo Paul Draycott
You probably know by now how much I love reading memoirs, especially travel memoirs set in France, and also how much I enjoy cycling adventures in France, so it will come as no surprise to read how excited I am about this story I’m about to tell you.

In 2015 a man named Paul who lives in Leicester was involved in a serious car accident that left him needing an emergency airlift to hospital for amongst other injuries, a badly broken leg. While Paul was recuperating he did a bit of reading and one of the books he read, which also happens to be one of my favourite travel memoirs, had a big impact on him. Susie Kelly’s Best Foot Forward, her funny account of her solo walk from La Rochelle to Geneva, inspired him to plan his own adventure across France, once he had recovered fully.

Thanks to the wonderful world of social media I met Paul online right at the beginning of the planning stage of this adventure, an 11-day bike ride from La Rochelle to Lake Geneva. My first thought was “oh, wow, I’d love to do that”. La Rochelle, on the Atlantic coast of France is one of my favourite places for a day trip and if you head east from there you will eventually end up on the other side of France, in Geneva. Paul has always enjoyed cycling, although never undertaken a challenge like this, but he is not travelling alone. The other half of his team is wife Diana, whose experience on a bike is pretty much limited to what she has done in their training. I hope you are as impressed by this as I am, although you might be thinking, wow, but why? They are so grateful to the help Paul received from Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, they are doing this (in place of a summer holiday) to raise money for them. Each air rescue costs around £1,700 and that is their fundraising goal. Here is the link to their JustGiving Page, if you would like to help them on their way.

Yesterday, their second day in the saddle and almost 100 miles into their 550-mile journey, took them to a pretty little B&B just outside the Charente village of Verteuil-sur-Charente, only about half an hour from my home. It was too good an opportunity to miss meeting up, so with each of us armed with good (homemade) filling food, local author Susie Kelly, her husband Terry and I provided a little welcome committee for them. It was a lovely evening of fun conversation and I really am rather jealous of their get up and go. They may have been inspired by Susie and her book, but they were both a great inspiration to me.

I know how tired and hungry I am after a day on the bike so I was impressed at how fresh they looked and how sociable they were. Thanks for taking the time out of your recovery hours to sit and chat; bonne courage mes amis and may your route to Geneva be fast and flat!
Photo Paul Draycott
You can follow their progress on their Facebook page here and if you happen to see them as they make their way across France, do give them a wave and say hello from me.

My contribution to our dinner picnic was my courgette quiche, you can find the recipe here Susie, made without the lardons for a vegetarian option.

One day I will be planning my own La Rochelle to Geneva adventure,  it's a promise and you heard it here first.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book review of To Provence, With Love by T A Williams

Book review To Provence, With Love by TA Williams review by French Village Diaries
To Provence, With Love by T A Williams
Today as part of a blog tour I’m reviewing To Provence, With Love, the new release by TA Williams.

Escape to the south of France with this perfect feel-good summer romance!

Anything is possible…

Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!

So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…

But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?

My Review:
When the dream job falls unexpectedly into Faye’s hands, at a time when getting away from her current situation is nothing short of perfect, she jumps at it, despite many unanswered questions. As a teacher who has self-published a thriller, it seems a little strange to her that an elderly Hollywood icon, living a private life in Provence, feels she is the ideal candidate to move in for a six-month contract to write her biography.

Faye finds herself in a chateau, surrounded by lavender fields and grape vines and falling in love with Marlon, the Labrador. While the villagers are welcoming, the local farmer seems distant and aloof and she also finds there is a lot more for her to discover than just Anabelle Beech’s fascinating life and career in the movies.

I can’t deny certain parts of the plot were obvious to me from quite early on, but I still enjoyed Faye’s journey of discovery and healing. The sense of place, with fabulous descriptions of the lavender harvest, was very special and made me want to pack a bag and head straight to Provence.

This is a light-hearted read, with some weighty emotional issues, that would accompany a chilled glass of rosé (or Champagne if you prefer) and your summer holiday to perfection.

About T A Williams:
Book review To Provence, With Love by TA Williams review by French Village Diaries
TA Williams
I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, "Dirty Minds" one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn't possibly comment. Ask my wife...

I've written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I'm enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I've been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she's right.

Book review To Provence, With Love by TA Williams review by French Village Diaries

Information about the Book:

Title: To Provence, With Love
Author: T. A. Williams
Release Date: 12th July 2017
Genre: Romance
Publisher: HQ Digital
Format: Ebook

A link to Amazon can be found below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book review of Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard book review by French Village Diaries
Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

My review today is for the third and final book in the La Cour des Roses series by Helen Pollard; Summer at the Little French Guesthouse.

We find ourselves back in the Loire Valley in France with Emmy, where alongside running the guesthouse with Rupert, she is establishing her own business and planning her imminent wedding to Alain.

It was great to be back. I slipped between the pages easily, loving being back with characters that have become familiar and whose company I enjoyed like good friends.

Throughout the series Emmy has established herself as someone dependable, who can be relied on to keep calm in a disaster and organise everyone into a happy ending. However, this time it’s her happy ending that is in jeopardy. She finds herself up against her controlling mother, who has the ability (as some mothers do) to make Emmy feel like a rebellious teen once again over the finite wedding details. Things are also complicated in Alain’s family, meaning lots of drama for our usually cool and collected bride-to-be. There were certainly enough last minute hiccups to raise my heart rate as I was reading it.

I can honestly say there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about this book and although books one and two in the series are very good, Helen has left the best till last. I’m sad to be saying goodbye and can’t help feeling how lovely it would be to book a holiday there. Meet my friends for real, take a stroll around the market, listen to the Jazz band and of course sample one of Rupert’s delicious meals.

I can only hope Helen continues to take us to France in her future books.

Wherever you are going on your holidays this year, take one (or all) of these books with you; I can’t recommend them enough.

All three books in La Cour des Roses series are published by Bookouture and are available in paperback and ebook format from Amazon, links can be found below.

You might also like to read my France et Moi interviewwith Helen here and my reviews of her other books in the series can be found below.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Charroux Literary Festival 2017 Earlybird booking

Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries
Isabel Ashdown at Charroux Lit Fest 2015

Those of you who are regular readers may remember my post in August 2015 when I regaled my two days of literary heaven at the very first Charroux Literary Festival, a local event that created quite an atmosphere in our corner of rural France (read more here).

Exciting news! This August, 24th to 26th, the Charroux Lit Fest is back and if you book your tickets before Friday 21st July you will qualify for an Earlybird discount of 20%. I’ve booked mine and if you are local, or fancy a literary-themed short break in France then click here for more information on who is appearing and how to book.
Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries
Charroux Lit Fest 24-26 August 2017
My three day Earlybird ticket has only cost 28€ and I’ve put my name down for 14 sessions over the three days which works out at a bargain 2€ per session! Yes, just 2€ to meet, listen to and learn from authors whose books I’ve read as well as discovering authors who are new to me. Some of the events are talks by authors about their books, inspirations, genres or journeys to publication, but I’ve also bravely signed up for a few writing workshops too, which makes me equally nervous and excited. Last time I found it was a sensory overload, but I loved every minute of it.

Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries
Diana Morgan-Hill at Charroux Lit Fest 2015

Patron of the Lit Fest is local author Susie Kelly, one of my favourite memoir authors, whose books always make me laugh. Susie has released two memoirs so far this year, Safari Ants and Baggy Pants and La Vie en Rose, and I can't wait to see her again at the festival. This is what she had to say when I asked her about it:

"Charroux is dominated by the remains of the great 8th century tower, a reminder that the medieval town was once one of the most important centres of Christian worship in France, a place of pomp and splendour. Today it is a small, friendly town in the sunny Nouvelle Aquitaine region, with a quaint cobbled market hall, mouthwatering boulangerie and a number of welcoming hostelries. Could there be a prettier and more inviting setting for the second Charroux Literary Festival? 

While I already know many of our local writers who will be attending I’m really looking forward to meeting the other authors and poets, both French and English, who are coming from further afield. There are some very big names on the programme, and the beauty of setting the festival in a small town like Charroux is that it makes it an intimate event where visitors can get really close to meet the stars of the show. 

With all the workshops and signings, panels and book launches, this event is going to be such a treat for readers, and of course there is the incredible Shakespeare Rocks extravaganza on the Friday evening, enjoying the works of the great man as they’ve never been seen before! 

Three days of literature, friendship and fun, in the French sunshine. What more could anybody want?"

Charroux Lit Fest Earlybird booking 2017 French Village Diaries Tree Magic Harriet Springbett
Tree Magic
One of the biggest surprises for me last time was when I was introduced to writer Harriet Springbett. The surprise being she was a reader of my blog and asked to be introduced to me; a surreal moment given the company we were in. A lot has changed for Harriet in the last two years, with the publication of her beautifully written young adult novel Tree Magic and this year she is not just attending but appearing at the Lit Fest on the Friday and Saturday, something she is really looking forward to: 

“I spent a wonderful weekend meeting authors and other readers at the first edition of the Charroux festival, as you can see from my blog post here. There’s something intimate about the atmosphere – perhaps because it’s so easy to sit and chat to authors over a cup of tea. After receiving such great advice and inspiration at the last edition, I’m looking forward to being able to give something back this year.”

Author James Vance, who I had the pleasure of introducing last time, will be back and officially launching his new historical fiction novel The Housekeeper at this years event. I really enjoyed Something Old, Something New, so am looking forward to finding out more about The Housekeeper.

I'm also looking forward to meeting Vanessa Couchman, author of The House at Zaronza, as she makes her debut appearance at the Lit Fest, running a workshop on creating three dimensional characters. I'm also hoping we might hear news of her latest novel.

For more information on the Charroux Literary Festival visit their website here and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter too. If you are coming along, do let me know and we can enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake together. 

This post has been linked to Dreaming of France over at Paulita's An Accidental Blog