Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The French for Christmas - Fiona Valpy

About the book...
A year to forget. The perfect escape. And a little Christmas magic.
Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory.
When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan.
Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.
And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste- tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin?

With snow falling, a special Réveillon dinner and a little Christmas magic in the air, could Didier even be the one to thaw Evie’s heart? Or will a visit from the ghost of Christmas past change everything?
About the author...
Fiona Valpy lives in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007. She left behind a career in Marketing and Public Relations to explore new avenues and now teaches yoga and writes.

Having renovated an old rambling farmhouse with her husband, she has developed new-found skills in cement- mixing and interior decorating, although her preferred pastime by far is wine-tasting.

Fiona's books have hit the Amazon top 100 charts in both the UK and the US. 

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the lovely Kim at Bookouture in exchange for an honest review which I am more than happy to give.  I'd previous read The French for Always and was really looking forward to settling down with this book.

The story revolves around Evie, a woman, who when we meet her has the barriers up as her life seems to be disintegrating around her.  The previous christmas she gave birth to a still born baby, her marriage fell apart as a result of the ensuing stress and hurt.  Her husband seems to be flaunting his new relationship under her nose and her sister is expecting a baby of her own.

Not surprisingly Evie jumps at the chance to get away from it all to a friends cottage in France for the christmas period. She used to work alongside her celebrity chef husband and decides to take her grandmothers old recipe book with her to try and recapture some of what she had lost.

With only two neighbouring houses, that of an older couple and that of a doctor it looked like Evie would get the solitude she was desperately seeking especially as there was no phone connected and her mobile signal was none existent.

I thoroughly enjoyed The French for Christmas, Fiona has great talent and her descriptive skills instantly transported me to France.  She gave us a person at rock bottom, the only way really was up!  A handsome neighbour who quite clearly has his own baggage and a delightful, mature, couple for stability.

At times I laughed at loud, particularly the vision of Evie running around the garden in her pi's chasing a pig - the comedy value of this scene was priceless.  The opposite side to the coin is hearing about Evie's losses her baby, husband, career and the fact she'd lost the will to go on brought many a tear to my eye.

The initial slower pace of this book did cause me a little concern - this however, turned out to be a clever ploy of Fiona's.  I found as Evie's character grew in strength and her demeanour lifted so did the pace of the book.  It was a 'kerching' moment when I finished the book and thought back, I realised that the very nature of the first chapters, really only suited the slower pace, they wouldn't have had the same impact if they had been rushed.

As the story progressed a hearty part of this book revolves around food, Evie slowly getting her cooking mojo back after a visit to the local market and a flick through her grandmother's recipes.  Again, the descriptions were such that I could visibly see, taste and smell all of the ingredients and food stuff both at the market and back in the little kitchen at the cottage.

Evie's first encounter with Didier, the neighbouring doctor doesn't go the way she had planned and she finds herself unknowingly relying upon him.  Later, in turn she finds herself paying back his kindness through food.  Evie set out wanting to ignore christmas but finds herself putting the needs and requests of others before her own and ends up inviting them all to dinner on Christmas Day for a non christmas meal, a day she really had mentally cancelled this year.  Cue, some uninvited guests who threaten to undo all of the positives and the strength Evie had gained from her time of almost solitude and new friendships made.

This book demonstrates how time, friendship, love and trust are what is needed to help us through the bad times and that by giving and thinking of others helps to sufficiently distract us from our own problems.  Evie finds herself relying upon her neighbours on more than one occasion.   The flip side being as she gained strength from their support she was able to return the favour.

Several times throughout the book I found myself talking out loud, muttering and cursing.  It was at this point that I really knew Fiona had given me characters that I had connected with, that had strength and depth who I found I really cared about - her work here was done.

This book began with sadness and loss and ended with happiness and hope, an uplifting read that truly does demonstrate time is a great healer and that we should never underestimate the power of friendships both old and new.

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