Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…
As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home. Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.
But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.
Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
In the Alsace region of France, summer is not without its emotional complications for Kat, the manager of a bustling book café. Looking forward to a lovely summer in a job she loves, her relationship implodes with subsequent difficulties at work that threaten her career. Having her brother Solly and meeting the enigmatic Noah are the positive influences in her life, but they are not without problems, and Kat is reluctant to risk taking a chance on love again.
Romance is a theme of this story, but it’s conflicted with Kat and Noah’s emotional past and his current family drama. Blended families are another predominant theme explored through Kat and Noah’s experiences. Lies and secrets complicate their lives, and they have to work hard to be together.
Despite the angst and the drama, there are many lighthearted moments in this realistically plotted story, and I particularly enjoyed those with Kat’s cute dog Angelique. I also enjoyed the believably flawed characters, the storytelling, and the vibrant setting.
Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK and Top 100 on Kindle US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Her novels, short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction in return for an honest review.
The first book in this historical fiction trilogy set in WW2 is an emotional and sensory delight. Cleverly created characters draw the reader into their tumultuous lives in occupied France. The story focuses on three sisters living in an idyllic setting in Dordogne, France, which is blighted by enemy occupation and the ravages of war. Hélène, the eldest, a nurse and surrogate mother to the younger women. Elise, the rebel whose courage leads to impulsive acts that may have far-reaching repercussions and Florence, the youngest, a dichotomy of practicality and dreamer.
The beautifully described setting is evocative of the place and time. Intricate world-building and historical details bring the characters and setting to authentic and vibrant life. The plot reflects the dangers and deprivations of war in an immersive way. Empathy is the reader’s paramount emotion, as the sisters and the community try to maintain hope and humanity in dire circumstances. Emotive and thought-provoking, it resonates.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in a glamorous region of France renowned for its Chateaux, this is a twisty and menacing fusion of murder mystery and psychological suspense. Aura and Nick are living the French dream but can their relationship survive their past? The ex-pat community are welcoming, but not everyone wishes them well. The book begins with a party that ends tragically. The reader is taken back to the time preceding the party and Aura and Nick’s first few weeks. The main protagonists’ Aura and Nick, both give their viewpoints at different times. Neither are easy to like, and both are unreliable.
The chateau is a work in progress with a menacing ethos that the children pick up on. Pertinent additional points of view are injected into the story to add intrigue. Well-plotted twists and timely reveals are balanced with misdirections, multiple suspects and unreliable narrators, making the ending climactic.
Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier.
When young widow, Marie-Ange Norton is invited to Beauregard in France by the mysterious Monsieur Malleval to collect an inheritance, she has no choice but to accept.
But when she embarks on the voyage with her fiery-tempered travelling companion Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, little does she know what waits for her across the sea in turbulent nineteenth-century France on the eve of Napoleon’s return from exile. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Malleval’s fascination with her family – seemingly inspired by his belief they are connected to a sacred relic he’s read about in coded manuscripts by the Knights Templar.
As it becomes clear that Malleval’s obsession has driven him to madness, Marie-Ange is horrified to realise she is more the man’s prisoner than his guest. Not only that, but Hugo is the only person who might be able to help her, and he could represent a different kind of danger.
An evocative historical romance with mystical and sometimes malevolent twists, set in Napoleonic France at a time of political intrigue and social unrest.
The characters are complex and vibrant. Courageous Marie-Ange is independently minded despite her naivety. Hugh is honourable and brave, with a kind heart hidden behind his arrogant facade. Malleval is an arch-villain clever and dangerous with a team of evil followers.
The story is full of secrets and surprises with connections to the Knight’s Templar and the mystic that surrounds them. It explores good and evil in an adventurous and romantic style with pertinent historical detail and a wonderful sense of time and place.
The romance sizzles from the couple’s first encounter. Despite the undercurrents of passion, the romance is courtly and gentle and full of conflict. The mystery and mysticism are what makes this story resonate. It’s the perfect way to escape to a time of adventure, deceit and romance.
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels LITTLE PINK TAXI and ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU, which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Awards, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, was released in February 2021. Her latest novel, HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE was released in June 2021. Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine’s Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Authors on the Edge.
I received a copy of this book from the author and Farrago Books in return for an honest review.
This is an originally styled cosy mystery set in rural France with an unexciting Englishman and a mysterious French woman as the amateur sleuths. The writing is full of sensory imagery, which makes the reading experience enjoyable. It’s easy to imagine the characters and settings. It would translate well to television.
Richard is eccentric and innately humorous. Valerie is glamorous and secretive, and they form an unlikely but mutually beneficial crime-fighting alliance. Whilst the plot is simple, the characters’ dialogue and the vividly described action make this enjoyable.
Ian Moore is a leading stand-up comedian, known for his sharp, entertaining punditry. A TV/radio regular, he stars in Dave’s satirical TV show Unspun and Channel 5’s topical comedy Big Mouths. He is also the author of two memoirs on life in France. À la Mod and C’est Modnifique.Ian lives in the Loire and commutes back to the UK every week. In his spare time, he makes mean chutneys and jams.
She’s determined to save a stolen son. But will that mean justice?
As a high-ranking woman in the Royal Military Police, Major Helen Scott gets the job done – no matter the task. So when she is pulled in to lead a NATO summit security team in Paris, it barely causes a ripple. Yet within hours she’s dispatched to Lyon on a new mission. One with a complex problem at its heart.
Kahlil Dalmani and Fawaz bin Nabil were close in childhood, growing up in the hubbub of Algiers. As men, they are both wildly successful. Yet their paths to fortune have caused a rift. Fawaz’s empire is built on illegal trade, and when his estranged friend refuses to grant a favour he seeks to change Kahlil’s mind the best way he knows how: kidnapping his son, Hakim.
Working out of the Interpol headquarters, Helen must unpick a web of deceit that spreads across borders and dates back years. Only by trusting those from her own painful past can she hope to return Hakim to his family. But with her focus on saving one life, she risks overlooking a plan that puts many others in grave danger.
An explosive and gripping crime thriller from one of the most brilliant British crime fiction authors of recent years.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo Crime via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a suspenseful international thriller from the author of the DI Kelly Porter series.
Set in France and North Africa, it features Major Helen Scott, a Royal Military Police officer. Helen, on first acquaintance, appears to be a career officer but this more by design than intention after a personal tragedy. The story is multi-viewpoint, and several sub-plots successfully dovetail into a climactic conclusion.
The contemporary plot is authentic and multilayered with a good balance of action and introspection. The detailed and vivid writing style makes the action and settings easy to visualise.
The reader gets to know the main characters and what motivates them well.Helen Scott has emotional strength and human flaws making her believable. The cast of characters are diverse and add to the story’s authenticity and depth of interest.
In conclusion, this is an exciting international political crime thriller.
After her beloved grandmother Rozenn’s death, Morane is heartbroken to learn that her sister is the sole inheritor of the family home in Cornwall—while she herself has been written out of the will. With both her business and her relationship with her sister on the rocks, Morane becomes consumed by one question: what made Rozenn turn her back on her?
When she finds an old letter linking her grandmother to Brittany under German occupation, Morane escapes on the trail of her family’s past. In the coastal village where Rozenn lived in 1941, she uncovers a web of shameful secrets that haunted Rozenn to the end of her days. Was it to protect those she loved that a desperate Rozenn made a heartbreaking decision and changed the course of all their lives forever?
Morane goes in search of the truth but the truth can be painful. Can she make her peace with the past and repair her relationship with her sister?
I received a copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a poignant dual timeline story, a family saga from occupied France in the 1940s to the present day. The prologue gives clues about the story’s secrets and the heartbreaking discoveries to follow.
Two sisters Morane and Gwen, find their relationship strained when their beloved grandmother Rozenn bequeaths her house to Gwen. Morane has already suffered, and now she feels rejected by her grandmother. A chance discovery leads Morane on a quest to find out about Rozenn’s life in occupied France, which has surprising consequences.
The dual storylines are well written, both full of vivid characters and emotion. The historical timeline is particularly engaging, as it conveys the horrors and stark choices of life in occupied France. The familial relationships are relatable, and the plot twists keep the reader engaged.
This is a family saga of betrayal, forgiveness, love and sacrifice with a satisfying conclusion.
Eliza Graham’s novels have been long-listed for the UK’s Richard & Judy Summer Book Club in the UK, and short-listed for World Book Day’s ‘Hidden Gem’ competition. She has also been nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
Her books have been bestsellers both in Europe and the US.
She is fascinated by the world of the 1930s and 1940s: the Second World War and its immediate aftermath and the trickle-down effect on future generations. Consequently she’s made trips to visit bunkers in Brittany, decoy harbours in Cornwall, wartime radio studios in Bedfordshire and cemeteries in Szczecin, Poland. And those are the less obscure research trips.
It was probably inevitable that Eliza would pursue a life of writing. She spent biology lessons reading Jean Plaidy novels behind the textbooks, sitting at the back of the classroom. In English and history lessons she sat right at the front, hanging on to every word. At home she read books while getting dressed and cleaning her teeth. During school holidays she visited the public library multiple times a day.
Eliza lives in an ancient village in the Oxfordshire countryside with her family. Not far from her house there is a large perforated sarsen stone that can apparently summon King Alfred if you blow into it correctly. Eliza has never managed to summon him. Her interests still mainly revolve around reading, but she also enjoys walking in the downland country around her home and travelling around the world to research her novels.
A lady’s need for protection A knight’s chance for redemption
Exiled Knight William Geraint answers only to himself. Yet, a mission to find and reunite lost heiress Lady Isabel de Clancey with her family is Will’s chance to finally atone for the torment of his past. With every rushed mile, their intense attraction becomes dangerously thrilling. He swore to protect Isabel not seduce her, but their desire for each other could threaten the redemption he’s worked so hard to achieve…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is a historical tale of betrayal, chivalry, mystery and romance set in the 13th century. A daring rescue of a young girl by a young squire forms a bond between Isabel and William. Meeting again twelve years later, they undertake a dangerous journey to solve a mystery and find love.
With its adventure atmospheric historical setting and chivalrous romance, this is an exciting tale. This is a complete story but is the second book in the Notorious Knights series.
Melissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical. Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight – Book 1 Notorious Knights.
Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.
20 years later…
Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.
Someone knows what really happened that day.And somebody will pay
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in La Madiere France, this story evokes the ski resort ethos to create a believable setting with the author using sensory imagery well to create a claustrophobic atmosphere with a hint of menace. Multi-points of view highlight significant events and character motivations in this dual timeline story.
Set in 1998 and 2020 the story focuses on two groups of skiers’ stay in La Madiere. They have little in common in terms of age and financial status, but something sinister connects them. In 1998, a skiing trip ended tragedically for four young people. In 2020, The Chalet’s occupants lives unravel with the discovery of a body.
As dangerous secrets emerge, someone is seeking revenge creating a menacing ethos amongst the group of self-serving individuals in the Chalet. This an atmospheric story which makes a simple plot effective. The characters are hard to empathise, and whilst the outcome is guessable, it is relatable and resonates.
Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet is her debut novel. www.catherinecooperauthor.com
I received a copy of this book from the author via Helen Richardson PR in return for an honest review.
This story highlights the role of female spies in WW2. Their commitment and courage is something often overlooked, but many died in service of their country. This story parodies a well-known male fictitious spy as he finds himself in an uncomfortable alliance with a female spy who is everything he isn’t, but would like to be.
Lemming’s major contribution to the war effort appears to be working his way through the females who work alongside him until he meets his match in Margaux. She flatters his ego but makes him uneasy. When they meet again, he realises why.
Thrown in an uneasy alliance the unlikely couple travel to occupied France where Margaux shows Lemming what really happens behind enemy lines. Comically, and once you get to know him predictably, Lemming retreats into his vast imagination and rewrites the story covering himself in glory.
The immersive writing style and relatable characters draw the reader into the fictitious world from the start. Good use of sensory imagery brings the history and location vividly to life, so the reader feels they are on the mission too.
Humour and satire underpin this story making it an enjoyable read with characters, events and places that resonate.
Guest author Post – Stephen Clarke – The Spy Who Inspired Me
My new novel The Spy Who Inspired Me is a reaction against the old-fashioned Bond girl. The most Bond-girlish of them all, for me, is the dubiously named Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. In the original novel, she’s the feisty leader of a lesbian criminal gang, one of the key players in a plan to rob West Point. Then she meets 007, decides he’s cute, and suddenly she’s betraying her criminal chums and turning straight. It’s the same with the clairvoyant Solitaire in Live and Let Die – she sleeps with Bond (her first lover), loses her powers and becomes more or less enslaved to him.
The suggestion is that a woman will abandon all her ill-advised feminine foibles as soon as she meets a “real” man. It’s old-school gender nonsense.
This is why for The Spy Who Inspired Me, I decided to reverse the roles. The spy on the cover, Margaux Lynd, is a tough, highly-trained agent with plenty of mission experience. But when she lands in Occupied France in April 1944, she gets saddled with a scared, inexperienced, older male sidekick who just wants to go home to his clean shirts and his limitless supply of handmade cigarettes. The man is modelled on, but – for legal reasons mainly – not named after Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. My character’s name is Ian Lemming. (You see, nothing at all like “Fleming”.)
The real Fleming was a suave playboy who spent most of the war in a comfortable Admiralty Office, a world away from the harsh everyday realities of spying. Meanwhile, dozens of women were being sent undercover into Occupied Europe. And they were the inspiration for Margaux Lynd. These real-life heroines joined up with the Resistance and acted as radio operators, go-betweens, recruiters and spies. Many were caught by the Gestapo, and then there was no Bond-like banter with their interrogator before a miraculous dash for freedom and a finale in a luxury bed. It was usually a short trip from the torture chamber to the firing squad.
Women agents were valued by the Allies because they exploited Nazi sexism – most Gestapo officers thought that German Frauen existed to breed Aryan babies, and found it hard to believe that a woman would do perilous “male” work like spying. In many ways, that is what Ian Lemming in The Spy Who Inspired Me believes, too. Only gradually does he come to respect, and then fear, the ruthless female secret agent he is forced to work with.
And as the two of them sneak across Occupied France and into Paris, Lemming begins to fantasize about a world in which a suave male spy would lord it over the ladies, while enjoying all the comforts he’s missing from back home – champagne, hot water, a change of underwear. As a reaction to the humiliations and deprivations he’s suffering, we sense that a macho superhero is being created in his head. And while Lemming fantasizes, his female mentor Margaux Lynd has to concentrate on completing her mission – and begging him never to attempt real undercover work ever again.
The Spy Who Inspired Me published on November 12 by pAf Books.
Stephen Clarke is the bestselling author of the Merde series of comedy novels (A Year in the Merde, Merde Actually, Dial M for Merde et al) which have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than a million copies worldwide.
Stephen Clarke has also written several serious-yet-humorous books on Anglo-French history, such as 1000 Years of Annoying the French (a UK number-one bestseller in both hardback and paperback), How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did), and The French Revolution & What Went Wrong. He lives in Paris.