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24 April 2014

Review: 'The French for Always' by Fiona Valpy (2014)

Leaving the grey skies of home behind to transform a crumbling French Château into a boutique wedding venue is a huge leap of faith for Sara. She and fiancé Gavin sink their life savings into the beautiful Château Bellevue – set under blue skies and surrounded by vineyards in the heart of Bordeaux.

After months of hard work, the dream starts to become a reality – until Gavin walks out halfway through their first season. Overnight, Sara is left very much alone with the prospect of losing everything.

With her own heart breaking, Sara has five weddings before the end of the season to turn the business around and rescue her dreams. With the help of the locals and a little courage can she save Château Bellevue before the summer is over?

It’s almost the end of April and I think we can safely say that Spring has definitely arrived. This also means the start of a couple of months in which we will be treated to numerous new releases filled with the feeling of summer! Gorgeous holiday locations, steamy summer flings... I’m already looking forward to all the brilliant reads, and my first summer novel of this year arrived in the form of Fiona Valpy’s ‘The French for Always’! I was contacted by the lovely Kim at Bookouture about possibly reviewing Fiona Valpy’s second novel, which will be released on the 25th of April, and I couldn’t possibly say no after seeing the gorgeous cover!

Sara and her fiancé Gavin made the decision to leave their comfortable life in the UK behind and are now making their dreams come true in France. They used their life savings to buy a wonderful chateau in a small French village in order to turn it into a thriving wedding venue. A lot of work needs to be done, but with enough weddings booked for their first season, Sara is excited and ready to turn their new business into a success. However, when Gavin suddenly decides to leave, Sara is left alone with no idea how to do it all on her own. Next to that, without Gavin’s financial help, Sara knows she will have to eventually sell her beloved Chateau Bellevue. The only thing left to do is try and make the absolute best of the five weddings still planned until the end of the season, to show everyone what she is capable of before summer ends.

I fell in love with this novel as soon as I had read the first few pages. I am a sucker for any story that in one way or another has to do with weddings, but I have to admit, I’m not a particular fan of France. Yet, the descriptions of Chateau Bellevue, the surroundings, the small village and its inhabitants... I loved it and the whole atmosphere in the novel immediately made it feel like summer, even though it was raining where I was! The main character, Sara, was easily likeable and I felt myself rooting for her and her wedding business, especially after her fiancé Gavin decides to leave her and she suddenly has to set up the business on her own. Luckily, Sara is surrounded by a great cast of supporting characters, including the trustworthy Karen and handsome and charming Thomas.

The storyline, which revolves around Sara and her attempts to save Chateau Bellevue, was really enjoyable, especially because of the five weddings that are organised at the venue while the story enfolds. Each of the weddings featured a specific couple, all of them different from one another with their own background. Fiona Valpy’s writing is great; well-paced, detailed, and captivating, and I definitely look forward to reading more of her work in the future. ‘The French for Always’ is a wonderfully warm and thoroughly enjoyable read, and definitely the book to pick up if you are looking for your first taste of summer! 

Rating:
    9,5
/10
 
For more information about this book: Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Goodreads 
  
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Weekly Feature - Once Upon a Story...


 'Once Upon a Story' is a weekly feature in which we go back in time and focus on a specific novel that was released in the same month we're in right now (in this case April), but a few years back! It can be a women's fiction classic from the 1990's or perhaps a great chick lit read from 2011. I thought it would be nice to not just focus on recent releases, but also take the chance to jump back in time once a week and look back at wonderful reads that have been released over the years!

This week, we're travelling back to April 2009 to look back at...

The path of true love never runs smooth. But for some, it's one seriously bumpy ride…
 
Josie Gray and her childhood sweetheart Ben Richards always dreamt of living a life of rural bliss. And when Josie inherits her beloved Grandmother's cottage in Neatslake, Lancashire, it seems they might have got just that.
 
Josie throws herself into her wedding cake business, whilst Ben gains increasing acclaim as an artist. The tranquil village turns into a hive of activity when Josie's childhood friend Libby Martin returns to the village, planning a lavish wedding to rival any celeb bash.
 
But amidst all this romance, Josie's fairytale relationship with Ben turns into a nightmare, and she quickly becomes Love's number one cynic – until charming wedding photographer Noah Sephton arrives in Neatslake with a very different outlook on love…

Trisha Ashley is known for her heartwarming romantic comedy novels and on the 16th of April 2009 her novel 'Wedding Tiers' was published by Avon. I read my first Trisha Ashley novel last year ('Wish Upon a Star') and I straight away fell in love with Trisha's writing style! I love the sound of 'Wedding Tiers', mainly because it focuses on a wedding cake business and a story of childhood sweethearts (and includes a charming wedding photographer)! Besides, the beautiful blue cover perfectly fits the sunny Spring weather at the moment... Enough reason to pick up this pretty book!  

Be sure to visit the blog next week for another blast from chick lit past with 'Once Upon a Story...'!

23 April 2014

Review & Interview: 'Rock My World' by Julie Shackman (2014)

Ruby Cameron is an ambitious reporter for a local paper where she is fed scraps of news, and lives with a man whose “idea of living dangerously is to leave the heating on when we pop out to the shops”. But after catching her squeaky clean boyfriend in flagrante delicto she ups sticks and moves into her own small home, only to discover the ghostly presence of a cheeky rock star who becomes her confidant as the dynamics of her small town, and her feelings about her dashing new boss, begin to throw up more questions than she can answer. Will Ruby discover who she really is, and perhaps more importantly, who she wants to be?

Not too long ago I was contacted by author Julie Shackman with the question of whether I wanted to review her novel ‘Rock My World.’ I hadn’t heard of the novel before, but I straight away thought the blurb sounded interesting and quite original. As the by-line on the cover already suggests, the book is a romance with a touch of ghostly/the supernatural, and this was a combination I was curious to check out. The lovely Julie also found the time to do an author interview for this blog, so be sure to scroll down to read more about the novel, her inspiration and her future plans as an author!

Twenty-something Ruby Cameron works as a reporter for a local newspaper and lives together with her boyfriend Luke. However, when she catches Luke with another girl, she immediately decides she’s done with him and moves into her own new place. It doesn’t take long for Ruby to discover that she’s not alone in the house; the ghost of former rock star Stevie wants her to help him discover what exactly caused his death. Next to dealing with a ghost flying around her new home, Ruby is also worrying about her mother’s new boyfriend whom she doesn’t trust completely and trying to get over her break-up with Luke. Things are made even more complicated when handsome Matt Jardine arrives on the scene and gets the job Ruby wanted. Ruby finds herself trying to deal with all these different things, while also trying to figure out who she really is and what she actually wants in life.
 
I really thoroughly enjoyed this novel, what a fun and entertaining read! Ruby is a great main character; she’s determined, ambitious and I think many readers will be able to relate to her one way or another. I felt for her when she caught her boyfriend cheating on her, some handsome guy coming in and taking the job she really wanted... And on top of that, she finds the ghost of a deceased rock star in her house! While I think sometimes supernatural storylines can be a bit over the top, this was definitely not the case here. Stevie’s story really contributed to the plot of the novel and the way the story consisted of both scenes in the present time and flashbacks to the past provides the reader with more information about the characters and their lives.

In my opinion, the novel has everything a great chick lit/romantic comedy novel should have: a great heroine, an enjoyable and fascinating storyline, an attractive male (I definitely developed a bit of a crush on Matt!), and a specific original aspect that makes the book different from others. In this case it’s the supernatural/ghostly element, something which I enjoyed a lot more than I originally thought I would. ‘Rock My World’ is a light-hearted, quirky, fun read that kept me captivated from the first until the very last page, and I’m already excited to see what else Julie Shackman has in store for us!

Rating:
   8,5
/10
 
For more information about this book: Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Goodreads 
 
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
 


Author Interview with Julie Shackman



Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘Rock My World’?
Ruby Cameron is an ambitious reporter for a local paper where she is fed scraps of news, and lives with a man whose “idea of living dangerously is to leave the heating on when we pop out to the shops”. But after catching her squeaky clean boyfriend in flagrante delicto she ups sticks and moves into her own small home, only to discover the ghostly presence of a cheeky rock star who becomes her confidant as the dynamics of her small town, and her feelings about her dashing new boss, begin to throw up more questions than she can answer. Will Ruby discover who she really is, and perhaps more importantly, who she wants to be? 

Where did you find the inspiration for ‘Rock My World’?
I love music, especially rock and the ideas just came from that. I always have to have music playing in the background when I'm writing. Listening to lyrics seems to help alot too.

Why did you decide to add a ‘ghostly’ touch to the novel? Is it something you have always been interested in?
I'm honestly not sure where the ghostly element came from. It just popped into my mind when I was drafting the characters and plot ideas.

What about the protagonist of the novel, Ruby. Can you tell us a bit more about her and how she became your main character?
Ruby is passionate, creative but tends to put her foot in it without meaning to! She has also not had a lot of luck with relationships and is starting to think that love might not be for her. I wanted to create a protagonist who people felt they could relate and warm to.  She's a very caring person, but there's a real element of ambition in her too.

There’s a great mix of support characters in the novel. Which character did you most enjoy writing about and why?
Thank you! Ooh that's a difficult one! I think it would have to be Ruby but I did also enjoy  writing about Peter de Marlow - who is about as opposite from Ruby as you can get! His ruthlessness was good fun to create.

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans as an author? Are you already working on a next novel?
I've actually just finished writing my second novel  (another rom-com) and am polishing that at the moment. I've also started pulling ideas and research together for my third (also a rom-com) which features a well-known character from history.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Don't Give Up! I know it's easy to say but it is true. Read lots of books, write lots and just try and hone your style. If you are determined enough, it will happen.

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
"Gifted &Talented" by one of my favourite authors Wendy Holden. It is beautifully written and has a great cast of varied characters.

Which book could you not live without?
It would have to be my notebook! I carry it everywhere and use it every day, for jotting down all sorts.

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘Rock My World’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
Emotional, funny and sexy!

Thanks so much, Julie! :)