Thursday, May 27, 2021

From the Writing Desk of Jennifer Bohnet

French Village Diaries From the Writing Desk interview Jennifer Bohnet
From the Writing Desk of Jennifer Bohnet (with Django)


From the writing desk, of Jennifer Bohnet

 

Welcome to the French Village Diaries interview feature, From the Writing Desk, where to coincide with the release of Summer at the Château I am delighted to be (virtually) joining author Jennifer Bohnet at her writing desk in France. 


A bit about Jennifer



I find it hard to believe but I've lived in France now for twenty-two years. After eleven years down on the Cote d'Azur where Richard was a guardien for a villa, we moved from the Mediterranean coast to a small quirky cottage in the depths of Brittany. A bit of a culture shock to say the least! I've sold hundreds of shorts stories to the women's magazine market in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark - I even had my own newspaper column in a group of local Devon papers at one time. My 16th novel Summer At The Château is published by Boldwood Books and I have another four book contract with them.

 

 

Your writing space

 

Jennifer, how important is your desk space to your writing? Is it tidy and well-organised or creatively cluttered? 

 

Jennifer: Creatively cluttered is a good phrase! It’s a large desk with my iMac computer sitting in the middle and I do try and keep it tidy and organised which is relatively easy when I’m writing a book but come the editing it becomes covered in reference books, scraps of paper and post-notes as I print out the manuscript to go through it. In this photo I’ve just finished a book and about to start the next, so it is reasonably tidy!

 

Does your desk have a view? If so, does this inspire you or distract you?

 

Jennifer: We’ve lived in our small quirky cottage up here in Brittany now for ten years and eighteen months ago we finally had the new roof we’ve needed all that time. New roof meant the bedrooms in the attic now had head room - and the smallest one is my office cum guest room. It’s a lovely light room from the new two dormer windows back and front and my desk is directly in front of the windows overlooking the front gate and garden. The view when I’m sitting is sky and the large oak tree in the garden which is fine by me and when I stand up I can see the lawn and several containers of flowers by the front drive and down towards my favourite willow tree, the pond and the chickens pecking around. 

 

Do you try and write at regular times of the day, every day?

 

Jennifer: I find the best time of day for me to write is for a couple of hours before lunch. I can answer e-mails, do promo and social media any time but I do find it hard to get words on screen in the afternoon. So after breakfast, a half hour walk with the dog followed by coffee I head for my desk with the sole aim of getting at least one thousand words written. Real life does often get in the way though, although rarely housework.

 

Writing during Covid-19

 

As a writer, with a desk and computer at home, life and work would have continued for you throughout lockdown, but did the pandemic affect your writing and motivation to write?

 

Jennifer: Definitely. Our daughter and her four children are in the UK and she has two cafes to run in Devon. Watching the pandemic unfold over there via the TV was as worrying as watching the French news. The first lockdown here was a different experience for us too, because our son and his fiancé (now his wife!) who had both finished a contract on Sea Shepherd in Mexico, returned to Europe just before everything shut down that first time and as they had nowhere to go and no income, they lived in a cabin in our garden that we hastily fitted out for them. Having them around for so many months was a bonus for us. They’ve been back over there between Mexico and Florida since September and that is a worry still.

 

Do you think living through the pandemic will influence your future writing projects?

 

Jennifer: There’s a lot of discussion about this in writing groups! Personally I have made the decision that my future books will either be set pre 2019 or after 2021 because for so many people it has been a traumatic time and if they read for escapism then reminding them of that time would maybe trigger some dark memories.

 

With a release date of 13th May 2021, was Summer at the Château your pandemic project and did having a focus help with life in lockdown? 

 

Jennifer: Summer at the Château was the new book I wrote mainly during 2020 but I also revised, tweaked, added about 20K words to One Summer in Monte Carlo which was a reissue of one of my back list, Follow your Star. They both gave me a much-needed focus during 2020.




French Village Diaries From the Writing Desk interview Jennifer Bohnet
Summer at the Château by Jennifer Bohnet

 

Your latest release

 

I’ve got used to strong independent female characters in your novels, can you introduce us to who we are going to meet in Summer at the Chateau, and tell us a bit about their story. 

 

Jennifer: Pixie Sampson is the heroine of the story - although Gwen her 83-year-old mum has her own storyline too. Almost ten years ago Pixie and her husband Frank bought a château in Brittany under the viager scheme which is popular in France. (You learn about it in the book but basically it’s a scheme that allows older people to stay in their homes without any money worries, as the new ‘owners’  pay them a ‘bouquet’ of money and then monthly payments until they either move out or they die. It’s all done legally through notaires and there is benefits for both parties.) When Frank her husband is killed in a road accident, Pixie learns that they have actually owned the château for over a year, but Frank hasn’t told her because he’s been keeping a secret from her. Pixie and Gwen go for a visit over Easter in order for Pixie to put the château on the market, but things happen, and she decides she will spend one summer there before selling it on. Needless to say, it is an eventful summer. Readers who have read A French Affair will also meet up with a character or two from that book who have cameo roles in this one.

 

How would you normally celebrate the release of a new novel, and will things a bit different for Summer at the Chateau?

 

Jennifer: In the past when I’ve had a book published in the summer, I’ve invited friends for a glass of champagne and nibbles in the garden on release day, a sort of English garden party. In the run up to May 13th when Château was published, I wasn’t sure what the ‘mixing and meeting’ rules would be like at that date, so I didn’t organise anything and Richard and I celebrated with a bottle of champagne on our own. I do plan on having a garden party to celebrate though as soon as the rules are officially relaxed for gatherings.

 

Life outside of writing

 

What do you look forward to, when you’ve saved the document and switched off the computer, as your treat at the end of the writing day?

 

Jennifer: In summer joining Richard downstairs, and sitting out on our sheltered terrace and enjoying a glass of wine. In winter it’s a cosy drink by the log fire.

 

You have set your novels in many beautiful locations in France, from Brittany in the north west to the Côte d’Azur and Monte Carlo in the south east. Where in France will you be taking us to in you next book?

 

Jennifer: At the moment the next new book will be back down somewhere in the south of France. Even in these days of Google see all maps, I need to have at least visited if not lived in the locations I write about. 

 

Thank you for taking the time out of your writing day to let me join you at your writing desk. 

 

Jennifer: Jacqui the pleasure has been mine. Thank you for inviting me.


You can read my reviews of some of Jennifer’s novels here:

Summer at the Chateau

A French Affair

One Summer in Monte Carlo

Rendez-Vous in Cannes

A Year of Taking Chances

Rosie’s Little Café on the Riviera

You Had Me at Bonjour

A French Pirouette


Jennifer Bohnet's Social Media Links

Facebook 

Twitter 

Instagram 

Newsletter Sign Up Link 

Bookbub profile 

  

 

 

  

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Book review of Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire
Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire


Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire 

 

With a broken arm to heal, filmmaker Lily Martin is forced to leave her current project in Columbia and return to her Grandmother’s (Mamie) house in France for the summer. Mamie is a reminder of her happy summers as a child, with best friend Olivier by her side; memories she has worked hard to push to the back of her mind for many years now. With the knowledge that Olivier is also home for the summer, she is determined to keep her focus, get better and get back on the road with her camera. 

 

Lily and Olivier were interesting characters, and right from the beginning of the book there was so much bubbling under the surface, I just knew there would be tension and turbulence as their stories were revealed. Lily is feisty and fiery, Olivier is calm and calculated, and together they bring out the best and the worst in each other, with the friction between them making for a great read.

 

With a bit of help from Mamie, Lily and Olivier are thrown into daily contact once more and they try to re-establish their shared bond of childhood friendship. However, lots has passed in the intervening years, from a disastrous teenage kiss to family traumas that have left both physical and psychological scars, resulting in them wanting very different things from life. Can they reach an understanding of each other’s point of view, or with the heat of a summer in Provence, will things spiral out of control? I can honestly say I had no idea how this book would end.

 

I fell in love with Sophie’s writing when I read her first novel A Forget-me-not Summer and now I’ve finished her fourth book, I’m an even bigger fan. 

 

With Summer at the French Olive Grove, Sophie has done it again; this is a book full of passion that really packs a punch of heart-hammering emotions as you read it.

 

For a hot summer read, that brings alive the villages of Provence, look no further.



French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire
Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire

 

Summer at the French Olive Grove will be released on 27th May by Hodder and Stoughton in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below. You can follow Sophie on Facebook and Twitter and visit her website here


 


I am delighted that Sophie will be joining me back here soon for a From the Writing Desk interview.

 

You can read my reviews of Sophie’s previous books here:

A Forget-me-not Summer

The Christmas Holiday

A Winter’s Dream

 






French Village Diaries book review Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire
Summer at the French Olive Grove by Sophie Claire








French Village Diaries Reviews of books set in France or on a French theme
Reviews of books set in France or on a French theme


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Book review of Body on the Rocks by Rachel Green

French Village Diaries book review Body on the Rocks Rachel Green
Body on the Rocks by Rachel Green


Body on the Rocks by Rachel Green

 

Mourning the death of her police inspector husband, Margot Renard moves to a small seaside town in the south of France. But when the body of a small boy washes up on a beach, Margot is drawn into a dangerous world of drug smugglers and people trafficking, and forced to cross paths with two feuding gangsters.



French Village Diaries book review Body on the Rocks Rachel Green
Body on the Rocks Rachel Green

 

My review

 

Having made the decision to move from Paris and begin her life again on the Mediterranean coast, recently widowed Margot is struggling to find her feet. She has a routine of swimming in the sea every morning, something that gives her purpose and a structured start to her day, but for the rest of the day, she is lost. The morning she witnesses the finding of a child’s body, an unknown migrant boy, something within her fires into life.

 

From the beginning of the book, I found Margot an easy character to engage with. I could sense her pain and grief from the trauma of losing her husband Hugo, but there was a spark of something that gave me hope she would find the strength to push through. With her determination to see justice done and her stubbornness to not let obstacles get in her way, nor take no for an answer, Margot finds herself in some precarious situations, where the risk of danger to herself and others is quite high.

 

In places this is an emotional read with some touching, sad moments, but overall, I felt a sense of optimism where good can triumph over evil. Margot’s need to fight gave her a reason not to focus on her grief and opened up some new possibilities for her future too.

 

This book was quite different from my usual reads, and as I can be a bit of a wimp, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the danger, especially as Margot walks into situations I would do my best to avoid at all costs.

 

If you are looking for something a bit gritty with plenty of action to get stuck into, add this book to your summer reading list.

 

Body on the Rocks is released today in ebook format and is currently only 99p on kindle UK.

 

Purchase Link   


Amazon UK  

Amazon US   

 

Author Bio 

 

Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set.



French Village Diaries book review Body on the Rocks Rachel Green
Body on the Rocks blog tour

 

Social Media Links for Rachel Green

 

Facebook 

Twitter 








Reviews of books set in France or on a French theme

 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Covid-19 vaccinations

French Village Diaries covid-19 vaccinations
At the Civray vaccination centre


Social media can be a funny old thing. Some people rant, some boast, some just seem to be out for a fight, but we all share and, from my experience this week, many people out there also care.

 

I had a bit of a wobble this week, caused by the frustration around booking my covid-19 vaccination. As Adrian is over fifty, I was able to look for a date and time that suited his work schedule and book his appointment a week in advance. As I’ve not yet reached that golden age, I was only allowed to book last minute, for an available slot in the coming twenty-four hours. I naively assumed, with three centres within twenty-five kilometres from home, I would find a slot and pop out, possibly even while Adrian was working, and be home to pour his morning coffee. I was wrong. I soon found myself caught in a negative loop of continually refreshing the online booking platform, so much so that by Wednesday the phrase “Aucun rendez-vous de vaccination n'est disponible dans ce lieu d'ici demain soir” began to play on a loop in my head. (No vaccination appointments are available here between now and tomorrow evening.) Every now and then an appointment or two would appear, but they were in places like Rochefort, Royan, Poitiers or Chauvigny, all over eighty kilometres from home. The only ones more local were at a time that clashed with Adrian’s appointment, and at a centre in the opposite direction.

 

The weather certainly didn’t help as it was either raining, threating to rain, or dry and sunny, but with a fierce wind. Getting out on the bike is a great way to clear my head and put things into perspective, not being able to get out just added to my vaccination frustrations and made me cranky. Having rolled my eyes at a particularly heated post on Facebook, where a fight had broken out over whether our department of the Deux Sèvres was or wasn’t far enough south to be classified as south-west France, I took to Instagram with a vaccination whinge. 

 

I was quite bowled over by how many people commented on my post with advice, ideas and generally trying their best to help and make me feel better. Thank you it really did help. As luck would have it, on Thursday morning I found myself an appointment for Friday afternoon, at the same centre in Civray Adrian was headed to on Thursday afternoon. This did mean two eighty-kilometre round trips in two days, which is not ideal for people who rarely take the car out these days, but it did mean I was able to book our second slots at the end of June for the same place, on the same day, one hour apart. 




French Village Diaries covid-19 vaccinations
Getting my Pfizer shot

 

The centre in Civray, who are vaccinating around one thousand four hundred people with the Pfizer vaccine every week, was superb and worth the drive. The spacious double hall is well laid out, and the Red Cross volunteers who run it are friendly, helpful and efficient. The form you fill in prior to vaccination was available in English and French and everything was calm and organised. It is a real relief that we are both now part of the 22,587,920 people in France who have had their first injection. Reports from the UK today claim that the Pfizer vaccination looks to give 88% protection from the latest Indian variant, once both doses have been administered.

 

As Ed is twenty, I could go back to the continual searching for a last-minute appointment for him, but this week the government announced that from 31st May, anyone over eighteen will be eligible to book a time that suits. He has quite a bit going on at the moment, so I think it will be much less stressful for both of us, to wait a week.



French Village Diaries covid-19 vaccinations morning coffee
Adrian's morning coffee at Les Gours

 

With the excitement of vaccinations, the reopening of bar, café and restaurant terraces on Wednesday, seemed to pass me by. Adrian did stop for a coffee on his Thursday morning bike ride, while I was on my yoga mat, but it’s been five days now and I haven’t yet managed to partake. Every evening, when we’ve witnessed clear skies and no wind, we’ve planned a morning coffee ride for the following day. Every morning, we’ve woken up to rain once again. Let’s hope this week brings a bit more warmth, a lot less wind and rain and the chance to get out on the bikes, stretch our legs, clear our heads and enjoy a coffee with a spot of people-watching. It’s the simple things.

 

Keep safe and sane, it will get better.  

Doctolib.fr the site to use to book your vaccinations here in France.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Lazy Sunday Flapjacks

French Village Diaries flapjack recipe Lazy Sunday in France
Flapjacks for cyclists


Lazy Sunday Flapjacks

When you wake up to yet another rainy day in May, a lazy Sunday seems the only option. My usual distraction for dull, damp days would be to bake a cake, but having already made a carrot cake this week, I decided on a batch of cycle-fuel flapjacks, that I can freeze. The recipe was inspired by the one from the Global Cycling Network, but I’ve tweaked it for our tastes and reduced the sugar a little, as the mashed banana makes it quite sweet. 

 

Ingredients for Flapjacks

150g coconut oil (I sometimes use half butter, half coconut oil)

75g Agave syrup (or golden syrup)

75g brown sugar

170g oats

75g walnuts (or mixed nuts)

75g mixed dried fruits (today I used dates, goji berries and apricots)

1 ripe banana mashed

 

Method

Melt the sugar, oil and syrup in a saucepan over a medium heat.

In a large mixing bowl add all dry ingredients, mix in the mashed banana and then coat everything in the oil/syrup and mix well.

 

Push it into a lined baking tin and cook at 170º for half an hour, or until golden brown on top.

 

Leave to cool, cut into squares and enjoy (ideally) on a bike ride.

 

French Village Diaries  Lazy Sunday in France
Comfort food, meatballs


While the flapjacks were cooking, I focussed my efforts on tonight’s dinner and the sauce to go with my homemade meatballs. Meatballs are our go-to special meal, often served for birthdays and celebrations, but tonight we’ll have them just because they are warm and comforting and cheer us up. My little burst of kitchen activity kept me occupied and filled the house with warm, sugary aromas, but did mean that by early afternoon dinner was done and the weather still hadn’t improved enough to get out on the bikes. We braved the wind to walk the dog, but that just reinforced the belief that despite some sunny spells, today wasn’t a day to take the bikes out, so I might as well curl up with a good book and a flapjack. 


 

French Village Diaries  Lazy Sunday in France
If this was a video it would be wild and windy!


May shouldn’t be a month when we need to resort to comfort food, but then the warm leggings and chunky knit jumper, that I thought had been packed into the drawer to be forgotten about for the coming months, have also been dug out once more. I really can’t wait for shorts and t-shirt weather, when all meals are enjoyed in the garden. The hazelnut tree in the courtyard, bowing and bouncing from side to side in the wild winds, was enough of a sign that eating outside wouldn’t be much fun today. A quick walk around the orchard also showed a disappointing sight; the damage of late frosts, cold winds and not enough sunshine this spring means there are very few cherries on our trees this year. I hope the plums, apples and pears have coped better.


 

French Village Diaries  Lazy Sunday in France Covid-19
https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus


Covid-19 updates

This week will see many changes to life in France as the second of the four-stage plan to get back to normal comes into effect on 19th May. The main points are that café, bar and restaurant terraces, that have been closed for over six months, will be reopening, as will museums, theatres and cinemas, and the overnight curfew will come into effect at 21h, rather than 19h. Let’s hope there is an improvement in the weather so we can at least enjoy a coffee and a spot of people-watching from a café terrace, or an evening bike ride as the sun begins to set.  

France has reached the magic twenty million mark for people who have received at least one vaccine and Adrian will soon be joining them. The opening of a four-day gap between courses for him, enabled me to book an appointment for his first vaccination this week, with the second one in the diary for later in June. As youngsters under fifty, Ed and I are only eligible to book a last-minute slot for the following twenty-four hours, and despite regular searching for the last four days, there has been nothing at all within 100km of us. Refreshing the page has become a bit of an obsession but I’ll keep checking until successful. 

May this week bring sunshine and freedom.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Book review of Summer at the Chateau by Jennifer Bohnet

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the Chateau Jennifer Bohnet
Summer at the Château Jennifer Bohnet


Summer at the Château by Jennifer Bohnet

Every end has a new beginning... All NEW from bestselling author Jennifer Bohnet.


When Pixie Sampson's husband tragically dies, she inherits the beautiful Château Quiltu in Brittany, Northern France.

But unbeknown to her, she also inherits a mysterious lodger, Justine Martin and her 4-year-old son Ferdie. 

Heartbroken and with her adventurous Mum, Gwen in tow, they travel to France to put the Château on the market but are soon drawn into a quest to seek the Château's secrets.

Who is Justine? Why is she living at the Château? How did she know her husband?

Over the Summer months, the Château fills with family and laughter and secrets are discovered and old wounds begin to heal.


 

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the Chateau Jennifer Bohnet
Summer at the Château Jennifer Bohnet


My review

I was rather excited to be back in Brittany with another one of Jennifer Bohnet’s novels. It is obvious from her writing that this north-west corner of France holds a special place in Jennifer’s heart and Summer at the Château more than lived up to my expectations.

 

Pixie was having the worst of times; recently widowed, she then discovers her husband Frank had kept some significant things from her surrounding their plans to retire to France. Without him to answer her many questions, she has to find the strength to discover the truth behind his actions, and deal with the consequences. Her arrival at Château Quiltu in Brittany, with her Mum Gwen, raises more questions and doubts in her mind as another of Frank’s secrets, lodger Justine, is revealed. 

 

I loved the intrigue and mystery around Justine’s presence in the château’s cottage and how her story was slowly drawn out, allowing my mind to keep second guessing what the truth would be. I was heart-broken for Pixie as her world was rocked and her emotions were all over the place, but I felt for Justine too.

 

Too many people have kept too many secrets for too long, but with the backdrop of a château, good family bonds and a bit of healing French magic, this summer will reveal all. 

 

This book certainly had that something different, from the detail behind purchasing in France with the viager scheme, to the thoughtfully created, older, characters who grow as their stories unfurl, and it was also a great reminder that it is never too late to follow your dreams or open your heart to new adventures. The cameo catch-up with Fern, Scot and Anouk, who we met in A French Affair was a really nice touch too.

 

I really do think each one of Jennifer’s books I read becomes my new favourite. Summer at the Château left me with a contented feel-good feeling as wrongs were righted, people forgiven, and new plans for the future put into place.

 

If you are looking for your next read to give you that escape from reality, lockdown and life with Covid, that I think we all need right now, this is one for you. 

 

Summer at the Château was released today by Boldwood Books in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below. 

 

Purchase Link   


Amazon 

 


French Village Diaries book review Summer at the Chateau Jennifer Bohnet
Jennifer Bohnet


Author Bio 

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 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.

 

Social Media Links

Facebook 

Twitter 

Instagram 

Newsletter Sign Up Link 

Bookbub profile 

 



French Village Diaries book review Summer at the Chateau Jennifer Bohnet


I am delighted that Jennifer will be joining me back here soon for a From the Writing Desk interview.

 

You can read my reviews of some of Jennifer’s other novels here:


A French Affair

One Summer in Monte Carlo

Rendez-Vous in Cannes

A Year of Taking Chances

Rosie’s Little Café on the Riviera

You Had Me at Bonjour

A French Pirouette










Reviews of books set in France