3 November 2014

Book Review: The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy

"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?"


Festive Feeling Rating:

You can buy The French for Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now.

Fiona Valpy's latest eBook with Bookouture was one of the first festive reads I was sent to review this year. I have heard nothing but good things about it through the blogging community, so I was really excited to start reading it and find out if it would live up to my expectations. As I mentioned, this isn't Fiona's first book, but I haven't come across this author before so I didn't know what to expect. This is a beautiful festive story, set in rural France over the festive period and follows the character of Evie. Evie has had a tough time, with the loss of her baby and the end of her marriage, and wants to escape Christmas this year because it will be too painful. She flees to her friends holiday home in France, determined to live in solitude and peace for the season. But it seems like France has other plans for her...

I have to say that this book was a true delight from start to finish, and is most certainly going to be recommended by me if you want a heart-warming, cosy and beautifully festive story. Yes, there is sadness in there, but this is contrasted so well with everything else in the story, and you end up totally consumed by Evie and her story. Evie's story begins by telling us that she's getting over her miscarriage which occured last Christmas, hence the reason she wants to take off from the festive season. The emotion in this book is so well written, you feel Evie's pain as you are reading and feel so incredibly sympathetic to her, she's such a likeable character. Valpy tackles a very delicate subject with grace and sympathy, not softening Evie's pain at all, instead making it very much part of this character. As the book progressed and she comes out of herself a little more, I loved seeing a new side to her, she was just the perfect leading character for this book.

The other thing I loved about this was the setting of the book. It's set in a tiny little village in rural France, basically in the middle of nowhere. Evie loves its solitude, and you can see why. She's surrounded by just a few other houses, containing a rather dashing French Doctor Didier, and their neighbour Eliane and her husband. Didier is getting over his own heartache, and the way he and Evie help each other through their tough times is touching, and lovely to read. The fact it's a small cast of characters makes the book feel more intimate, you truly get to know these characters and be absorbed into their wonderful French world. The way Valpy describes the beautiful houses, the surroundings, even the little Robin who flutters around is so picturesque, you can't help but bring it to life in your mind. It sounds so perfect, you can understand why Evie chose to flee there in her time of need.

This was an utterly charming read, and certainly one of my favourites stories I have read this year. The fact it is set at Christmas and has the magic of Christmas sprinkled throughout it makes it all the more special and magical to read. I especially loved the descriptions of the food dotted throughout the book - you can really feel Evie's passion for cooking in these scenes, and the dishes are truly mouth-watering! I also loved the links to her French grandmother through her cooking, you can sense how close Evie was to her and how cooking helps her get through her grief. This is a heart-warming festive novel that delivers so much more than Christmas trees and presents. Wonderful characters, an emotive story and beautifully descriptive writing - you can't ask for me. A truly superb novel, I can't wait to read more from Fiona Valpy.

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