Thursday, December 13, 2018

Book review of The First Noel at the Villa des Violettes by Patricia Sands

French Village Diaries book review of The First Noel at the Villa des Violettes by Patricia Sands
The First Noel at the Villa des Violettes by Patricia Sands

My review today is for The First Noel at the Villa des Violettes, a Christmas novella by Patricia Sands.

This festive novella does so much. It not only takes us back to Kat and Philippe and their villa in Provence, where we left them in book three celebrating their marriage, it also shares many of the delightful Provencal Christmas foods and traditions as well as taking us to the Christmas markets of Alsace.

I was so pleased to get back to the Provence that Patricia describes so well, and to spend time with Kat and Philippe. I thought this book was a wonderful mix of familiar characters, love, family, good friendships and French festive fun. Kat is anxious, both about her first Christmas at their villa and about history repeating itself with trouble from the past rearing its head again, but with Philippe being his usual loving, strong and supportive self, I had no doubt their first Christmas would be just perfect. 

The First Noel at the Villa des Violettes is out now in ebook and paperback format and I know we are all busy in the run up to Christmas, but I encourage you to make time for this quick read. 

Links to Amazon for all the books in the Love in Provence series can be found below.

Here are the links to my reviews of the Love in Provence series: 





Sunday, December 9, 2018

Book review of Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg

French Village Diaries book review Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg
Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg

Deck the Halles
It’s next Christmas at the little French llama farm. 
Last Christmas infamous Australian author Nick bought the farm, that was meant to be furnished and without llamas. The reverse proved to be the case. Noelle had been sent to pet sit the llamas until his arrival. After a decidedly frosty start, Nick and Noelle’s relationship warmed up rapidly and they’re now happily living together, with an ever growing assortment of animals.
They’re looking forward to a quiet, romantic Christmas together but at the last moment Noelle is called on to find a venue for the annual national llama show. The local agricultural hallesare free so she books them, thinking that’s all she’ll have to do to help. She couldn’t be more wrong! On top of that, various relatives start turning up on her doorstep unexpectedly, as the result of assorted crises. The farmhouse is about to burst at the seams. Add in a few other events, such as playing the part of a pixie at a Christmas fête, organising Nick’s book launch and training a non-cooperative llama for the agility class in the show, and Noelle is pushed ever closer to the end of her tether. Can she hold it together and stay as calm as a llama? Or will she be the next member of her family to make a bolt for pastures new?      
This festive, feel-good and fun novel is the sequel to ‘Fa-La-Llama-La: Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm’ but can be read as a standalone.
  
French Village Diaries book review Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg
Deck the Halles blog tour

My Review
Having thoroughly enjoyed Fa-La-Llama-La, you can read my review here, I was delighted to be back with Nick and Noelle and couldn’t wait to see how their relationship was going. Happily for me, (I do love a good romance) they have settled in nicely to rural French living and things between them seem to be going from strength to strength. 
While their first Christmas was chaos, they are looking forward to a quiet one together this year, with just their animals for company. Their plans soon seem to spiral out of control, thanks to a last-minute Llama show to organise and a seemingly never-ending stream of uninvited guests, all of whom come with catastrophes, disasters and excellent appetites. While we are talking of disasters, anything that could go wrong, does so, but at least Noelle has a back-up team she can put to good use and with Nick beside her, anything seems possible, even the impossible.
This book is great fun; full of energy, humour and romance all sprinkled with quirky rural French magic and lots of festive jingle. It's another great read from Stephanie. If you have read any of her previous novels, you will recognise her writing style and enjoy being back within her pages, if you haven’t yet read any of her books – what are you waiting for!
  
Author Bio – 
French Village Diaries book review Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg
Stephanie Dagg
I'm an English expat living in France, having moved here with my family in 2006 after fourteen years as an expat in Ireland. I now consider myself a European rather than 'belonging' to any particular country. The last ten years have been interesting, to put it mildly. Taking on seventy-five acres with three lakes, two hovels and one cathedral-sized barn, not to mention an ever increasing menagerie, makes for exciting times. The current array of animals includes alpacas, llamas, huarizos (alpaca-llama crossbreds, unintended in our case and all of them thanks to one very determined alpaca male), sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys, not forgetting our pets of dogs, cats, zebra finches, budgies , canaries, lovebirds and Chinese quail. Before we came to France all we had was a dog and two chickens, so it's been a steep learning curve. I recount these experiences in my book Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France and the sequel to that, Total Immersion:Ten Years in France. I also blog regularly at www.bloginfrance.com.
I'm married to Chris and we have three bilingual TCKs (third culture kids) who are resilient and resourceful and generally wonderful.     
I'm a traditionally-published author of many children's books, and am now self-publishing too. I have worked part-time as a freelance editor for thirty years after starting out as a desk editor for Hodder & Stoughton. Find me at www.editing.zone. The rest of the time I'm running carp fishing lakes with Chris and inevitably cleaning up some or other animal's poop.   

Social Media Links – Twitter Facebook Blog


French Village Diaries book review Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg
Deck the Halles blog tour


universal purchase link: getbook.at/DTH

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Vin Chaud, advent 2018

French Village Diaries Vin Chaud advent 2018
Vin Chaud
This year I have a few Christmas themed posts to share which I hope will help get me in the festive mood, as once again I find December has crept up on me and taken me by surprise.

Now we have reached advent, as well as having a continually bubbling pot of veggie soup on my hob, I also have my pan of vin chaud, or mulled wine on the go too. Nothing says Christmas is on the way quite like a glass of mulled wine, either wandering around a Christmas market, or cosy and warm indoors and accompanied by a mince pie. It is even my apero of choice at this time of year in the village bar.

It seems spiced red wine has been a thing in Europe for many hundreds of years. The Romans would boil honey and wine and then add spices including pepper, bay leaves and saffron. In the 13thCentury the ports in the south of France, near Montpellier, where the spices from the Orient arrived by boat, had their own spiced wine recipe that included cloves. Traces of its popularity can be found in Germany and it was enjoyed by Swedish kings too, with the preferred spices being cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and clove. By the end of the 19thCentury, the link with Christmas and spiced wine was born and Swedish wine merchants began bottling their own house specialities. A warm, spiced wine is now as common a sight at a Christmas market anywhere in Europe as Père Noel.

Here is my recipe, first posted here in December 2012, if you would like to give it a go.

Put one bottle of red wine in a saucepan and add the zest and juice of a Clementine, a small pinch of cloves (about 7), a teaspoon of cinnamon (or a piece of cinnamon stick) and I also always add a lemon and ginger tea bag. 

Give it a good stir then add a generous tablespoon of brown sugar and a small(ish) glass of Cognac. Heat until the sugar has dissolved, but don’t let it reach boiling point and then try a little. When inhaling over the pan you should get a Christmassy tingle in your sinuses and a small sip should be a balanced taste between spicy and sweet. If it isn’t sweet enough or spicy enough keep adding until it tastes just right for you. 

Once you are happy with your mix it will keep all week, just warm it up, serve it and enjoy.