Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and
Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the Duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.
The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further
escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for
In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The rich historical detail of France, at the beginning of the eighteenth-century, is brought to life, with the intrigues, passions and sacrifices of the five court mistresses, in the house of the Duc Hugo d’Amboise. All the women of varying ages and backgrounds have been drawn into the Duc’s household, his Duchess tolerates their presence until she realises, her husband is falling in love with the youngest, Letitia. Threatened and heartbroken she uses the rivalry and secrets, of her uneasy housemates to remain the household’s dominant female.
I was enthralled from the first pages, this story is a compelling read. The female characters are flawed and beautifully written, all victims of circumstances, they fall into an uneasy alliance, to survive, and make their lives, and that of their children bearable. The society they create is akin to the animal kingdom, one dominant male, a hierarchy of females, that is constantly under pressure. The reality this story portrays is shocking and hard to countenance in the 21st century. In eighteenth-century France, they were considered lucky by most, but the reality is less palatable.
The abuse of status and power is also explored, with the vulnerable at the mercy of the people who should be protecting not abusing them. Status is the lynchpin of eighteenth-century French society, and to maintain it, many were prepared to sacrifice, their beliefs, morality and family.
The plot is constantly twisting as more secrets are revealed and used by the desperate Duchess to maintain her status. Underneath, the courtly manner is something wild and dangerous. Innocents have to become streetwise to survive. All the characters are believable and fascinating, some are easy to empathise and like. The ending is shocking, but it is inevitable the story will not end well for all.
A dramatic and often poignant story, that shows the depths humanity will sink to survive. The ultimate bloody end of this society is not surprising.
Kate Murdoch is the
author of Stone Circle. She exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and
internationally before turning her hand to writing.
fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US
Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press, December 1st 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.
Kate was awarded a
KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel, The Glasshouse.
Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.
As the wind whipped around her, dragging strands of hair from beneath her bonnet and tugging at her skirt, Nettie left behind the only home she’d ever known…
London, 1875. Taking one last look around her little room in Covent Garden, Nettie Carroll couldn’t believe she wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye to her friends. Her father had trusted the wrong man, and now they would have to go on the run. Once again.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is the first Dilly Court romantic saga I’ve read, and I enjoyed it.
Set in Victorian England and Europe, it follows the adventures of Nettie and her father, as they flee from the law, in the wake of an art forgery scandal. The plot is gently paced with hardships, romance and mystery, all intertwined to create, an easy to read historical adventure. The historical setting is well- researched and enriches the plot with different lifestyles and cultures and iconic cities and countryside.
The characters are authentically written. Netties’ father is a particularly irritating man. Netties is courageous, intuitive and loyal. You want her to find a happy life, after the constant stress of looking after her father.
This is quite a lengthy read, but it is easy to pick up the story again if life interferes with your reading time.
She stood and took her place in front of the camera… It was now or never”
Bryony Masters has been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on new urgency. So when primetime game show, What Happens in France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.
With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye. Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Bryony decides entering a game show is the best way to publicise her search for her sister. Hannah left home when she was sixteen, and although Bryony has always sought to reconnect with her, through her blog, when her father becomes ill, the need to reach Hannah is vital.
A chance for romance presents in the form of Lewis, not only cute but a lovely person, who is prepared to help Bryony in her quest to find Hannah. Winning the game show is not the main reason for entering, but it becomes important, leading to many humorous moments, as they battle against the other competitors.
Bryony and Lewis head a great character list, whose true personality traits soon become evident as the competition progresses. Not everyone is likeable, but that adds to the authenticity.
The trip through France and the food make this a sensual delight and the challenges the teams face in the game show, absorbing and realistic.
A character-driven, romantic-comedy full of vivid imagery. The perfect book to escape with for a little while.
Guest Post – Carol Wyer – GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
of this post was actually the working title of my latest book until I had an
epiphany before I submitted it to Canelo and changed it to What Happens in France.
always found coming up with book titles one of the most difficult parts of
writing a book. I remember my debut novel (Mini
Skirts and Laughter Lines) was called A
Twinkle in My Wrinkle until an hour before it was published! Titles are
hugely important and even though I spend hours awake going through what I think
might work, I don’t always get it right and my publisher invariably changes
them to something more appropriate.
Titles aren’t always the only part of the book that causes me mental anguish. In the case of this book, it wasn’t the plot or the characters, it was coming up with ideas for crazy games for a reality television show that would be highly entertaining.
took some doing but I was really pleased with the results. One of easiest to
conjure up was a race up a steep hill in beautiful rural France. This wasn’t
taxing at all because not only have I raced on the circuit at Castle Donnington
but for many years I lived in the Tarn and Garonne region, near a town called
St Antonin Noble Val that hosts such a hill climb every August 15th. It’s an
incredibly popular event, attracting racing drivers and amateurs alike and
about half the population of the region who line the twisted route from the
bottom of the hill in the picturesque medieval bastide town to the summit some
250 metres high.
The course de circuit is 1.5 kilometres long and that may not sound very special or spectacular but believe me, it is. The route runs along the jaw-dropping Aveyron Gorges with phenomenal views to the river where canoeists anchor their kayaks to observe the race, while others jostle for space behind massive hay bales that line the road.
noise is phenomenal – a growling that fills the valleys like a hundred angry
dragons battling for supremacy. Each car ascends, engine at full throttle and
navigates the sharp bends and turns, hurtling towards the finish line, egged on
by eager cries and cheers.
Bryony and Lewis take on a similar challenge in their furry 2CV, I thought back
to the eager faces, the supportive crowd and buzz of excitement that
accompanied the event at St Antonin. No matter if you aren’t a car enthusiast,
you can’t help but be captivated by the setting and the atmosphere, and in no
time at all, you find yourself cheering along with the others.
hope you’ll root for Bryony and Lewis in What
Happens in France, although they’re up against fierce competition and
you’ll find your loyalties tested. Besides, the host of the show isn’t keen for
them to win… why not? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
FROM WHAT HAPPENS IN FRANCE:
‘Come on, Furby!’ Lewis pumped the accelerator pedal. The sunshine streaming in through the windscreen was causing him to squint. At last, the car sputtered into life and they made it onto the starting line.
La Pommeraye was a 2.5-kilometre hill climb and the trio of bizarre cars and film crew had attracted a large crowd of supporters who lined the closed circuit, cheering for each of the contestants as the cars raced by. Lewis and Bryony were the last to attempt the climb.
They waited by the lights, currently on red. It seemed to take an age for them to change.
‘Go… go… go!’ Bryony yelled as they tore up the hill past the spectators who waved at them. ‘Right bend!’ The car bore to the right, past a house outside which stood three children holding a sheet marked Allez Furby.
‘We have fans,’ said Bryony, clinging to the grab handle as they rejoined the main road and hastened past more fields. The circuit was an ordinary D road with some sharp bends and twists, railings to one side and all exits blocked off. It made for an exciting circuit although the furry Citroën was nowhere near as fast as the cars that usually competed in the annual hill climb.
Bryony adjusted her racing helmet. The strap was tight under her chin and she had to shout so Lewis could hear her commands. He could see the bends but it helped if she warned him of them too, given he had enough to manage with handling the vehicle.
There was no time to take in the fields of meadow flowers or the cows lazily grazing or the high banks of grass filled with people. Lewis was committed to finishing the race in the fastest time possible without crashing, and Bryony to holding on for dear life.
A bend to the left, another sharp one to the right and an inflatable bridge across the road bearing the name of the show. Cameras to the left and the right and cheering French people. They crossed the line.
Bryony high-fived Lewis. ‘Great driving.’
‘Bit different to that track day I did but not bad at all,’ he replied.
They climbed out of the car hoping they’d done enough to win the challenge.
As a child, Carol Wyer was always moving and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.
French cheese, fine wine and… a mystifying murder?
A delightful afternoon stroll turns to disaster when the guests of an artists’ retreat in the French mountains spot the body of a man at the bottom of a cliff.
Amongst them is Melissa Craig who, binoculars at the ready, suddenly finds herself at the centre of a very puzzling mystery. Was it an accident, or was he pushed?
Her suspicions are confirmed when another body is found days later in almost exactly the same spot. It can’t be a coincidence; someone in this idyllic French village is up to no good, and it’s up to her to find out who.
Between the eccentric locals and mischievous guests, Melissa finds herself with no shortage of potential suspects: was it the surly handyman with a dark past, or perhaps the short-sighted widow with an excellent golf swing? But the real question is: how close to the edge will Melissa have to tread to find the culprit…?
The third book in the ‘Melissa Craig Mystery’ series, sees crime writer Melissa and her neighbour and friend Iris, artist and textile designer, leaving their Cotswold cottages for southern France. Iris is lending her services to her Philippe, her French entrepreneurial friend and Melissa who knows the region decides to do some research for her next novel.
Melissa and Iris’ relationship is tested as they live and work in close proximity, especially when Melissa questions Philippe’s motives. There are an interesting set of players; artists and those interested in the French way of life and particularly its language.
A tragic but seemingly accidental death causes disruption in the students’ ranks. When someone else dies, Melissa begins to suspect foul play. A keen but bumbling French Gendarme, makes Melissa think beyond the obvious explanations, and she finds herself in danger whilst searching for the truth.
This story reads well as a standalone, especially with the change of location but the threat to Melissa and Iris’previously harmonious relationship adds additional conflict to the plot and Melissa finds she misses having someone to bounce ideas off, and you really need to have read the previous novels to appreciate its effect on both women.
There are lots of suspects, an interesting backstory, that illuminates current events and a charismatic crime writer turned sleuth. Don’t expect twenty-first-century political correctness and attitudes, these mysteries take place in the late twentieth century and the storylines and characters’ reflect this.
The murders are gruesome, but the story’s ethos is gentle, as is expected in a cosy mystery. Definitely, something that will interest ‘Midsomer Murder’ fans and those who enjoy ‘Miss Marple’ and ‘Poirot’.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Sometimes you need to lose yourself to find your way home…
With only her trusty dogs Peanut, Treacle and Pickwick by her side, Poppy Kirkbride could be forgiven for having doubts about her move to a quiet village in rural France. But as the sun shines down on her ramshackle new home, Poppy knows she’s made the right decision. A lick of paint, and some TLC and her rustic farmhouse will be the perfect holiday retreat – Poppy’s dream come true.
Poppy is welcomed by her fellow villagers, except for brooding local vet Leo Dubois, who makes it clear Poppy isn’t welcome in his village – or his life! Leo might be gorgeous, but Poppy won’t be told what to do by an arrogant Frenchman – no matter how kind and gentle he is to her dogs!
Determined to stay, Poppy tries to understand the enigmatic Frenchman better. But as the two get closer, Poppy sees another side to Leo – a man with heartbreak of his own. Falling in love with Leo is easy, but can he ever return Poppy’s love? And what would this mean for her dream life and place in the sun?
Poppy is a likeable, independent character who makes her dreams reality when she moves to France. Things don’t go to plan, and she finds herself alone in a French village she knows little about, in a property that requires renovation and with a neighbour who makes no secret of the fact he wants her gone. Not the most auspicious of starts but Poppy is determined to succeed and sharing her journey with its ups and downs is a pleasurable read.
Well researched and with a precise local knowledge you learn about village life in France and its history in entertaining conversational bites, the detail is there but cleverly interwoven into the story without inhibiting the pace or the character development.
The book’s stars are the animals, the loveable dogs and quirky donkeys, they have individual personalities which bring them to life, and they provide many of the story’s comic and tender moments.
Another favourite character is Joanna who Poppy helps even though she is running from something. We learn Joanna’s secrets, but she is worthy of her own story and happy ever after too.
Romance is a major theme, and Leo and Poppy have a tempestuous relationship, which is often passionate with realistic, sensual love scenes that underpin the couples emotional development. The ending is believable and happy and makes a satisfying conclusion.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
When best friends, Tina and Jodie, make a drunken New Year’s Eve vow to change their lives before they hit the big 3 – 0, neither expected to end the year with much more than another hangover…
Twelve months later, Jodie is married and living in Provence – and Tina is exactly where she was a year ago (although now her rent is double). Tina can’t help but feel a little bit left behind, but as Jodie reminds her, she’s not thirty yet, there’s still time to quit her job, start her own literary agency and sign the man of her dreams!
Closer to thirty than twenty, two friends make New Years Eve resolutions that they will change their lives for the better by the time they are thirty. For Jodie, the chances come sooner than she imagines and she spends the next New Year on honeymoon. When Jodie moves to the South of France Tina is left behind in London. She wonders if life will change too.
A Year of Taking Chances follows both women’s lives which diverge and connect as they take the opportunities offered them. Jodie has to adjust to life in a different country with a man she doesn’t know well. Still hurting from tragic loss, she makes new relationships and discovers hurtful secrets as she forges a new life in France. Tina takes a courageous step to change her life, which reconnects her with Jodie and opens up the possibility of the life she wants and maybe someone to share it with but it’s complicated.
The plot is fast-paced and absorbing; there are lighthearted and touching moments as the women follow their dreams.Sharing the women’s hopes and dreams is a rollercoaster ride but they are both likeable characters, and you want them to succeed. A story of family and friendship and being brave enough to take a chance even when you don’t know the outcome. An easy read, perfect when you want to escape for an hour or two.
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a Dublin care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet.
And so, one morning, while the rest of Sheldon Lodge is asleep, Evelyn walks out the front door and never looks back. So begins a road trip that will take Evie first to Liverpool, then on to Brittany, where she buys a camper van and heads south on a Great Adventure.
But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who set off in pursuit, following a trail of puzzling text messages.
But when Brendan and Maura finally catch up with Evie, there are shocks in store for all of them … because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie Gallagher certainly has not.
It’s always good to find a story with an original premise. Starting a whole new life at 75 definitely qualifies.
Evie thinks moving to a care home is the right thing to do when her husband dies; she realises as the youngest there both in years and outlook it’s not for her. She needs to escape before it steals away her remaining years. Evie is feisty, good-hearted and independent and likeable. Evie’s adventure depends on a lucky break, but that’s the beauty of escapist fiction. Her experiences span three countries, countless unlikely friends and an iconic campervan.
Brendan, Evie’s only son, is her antithesis, he is dour, dependant and downtrodden. His life doesn’t live up to his expectations, but he seems helpless to change it. His relationship with Maura, his wife, is in a rut and he jumps at the chance to leave his life behind when his mother goes missing, and he is duty bound to find her.
This story has many comic moments mostly related to Evie, but there are there are also some slow passages, which make the story drag a little. A charming autumn romance, an excellent assortment of characters, vivid and easy to visualise and beautifully described settings make this a worthwhile read. This hopeful, humorous and poignant story explores life, love and relationships.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.