Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

5 quarters

 Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets memory play strange games. Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Framboise’s nephew – a profiteering Parisian – attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the spilt blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past. Joanne Harris has looked behind the drawn shutters of occupied France to illuminate the pain, delight and loss of a life changed for ever by the uncertainties and betrayals of war.

My Review

I have read several books by Joanne Harris but somehow I missed Five Quarters of the Orange. Set in wartime France and in the 1990s in the small village of Les Laveuses it tells the story of Framboise Dartigen who has returned to her childhood home, unrecognised, as a 65-year-old widow with a new name. In the first person, Framboise describes the farm as it was when she lived there with widowed mother, Mirabelle, and her elder brother and sister, Cassis and Reine-Claude. Young ‘Boise was not a likeable child. There was animosity between her and her mother because they were too alike but Framboise yearned to return and take up the role of excellent cook using her mother’s album of recipes and farm husbandry.

As the book begins to reveal a horrifying wartime event involving the family, we read extracts from the album where among the recipes Mirabelle has written personal journal comments.  This hard woman gave little affectionate to her children but provided them with delicious meals which are described in sumptuous detail. Only the smell of oranges is an anathema to Mirabelle since it is a sign of approaching migraines.

Avoiding their mother, the children live wild in the countryside, striking up a friendship with German soldier, Thomas Leibniz.  Framboise, the youngest, is the most cunning but she is also an innocent.  The children’s amoral actions lead them into a dangerous situation and Mirabelle is too involved in her own misery and bitterness to notice until it is too late.

In the 1990s Framboise seems in control of her life, running a very successful creperie with a regular clientele, but the past threatens her contentment and only old friend Paul can help her.

Joanne Harris writes rich, succulent prose, littered with food similes and names you can taste, which accentuate the contrast between the delights of life and the horrors which wartime brought to the French countryside.

Five Quarters of the Orange on Amazon UK

The Sinclair Betrayal: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery by M J Lee #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Sinclair Betrayal

Jayne Sinclair is back and this time she’s investigating her own family history.
For years, Jayne has avoided researching the past of her own family. There are just too many secrets she would prefer to stay hidden. Then she is forced to face up to the biggest secret of all; her father is still alive. Even worse, he is in prison for the cold-blooded killing of an old civil servant. A killing supposedly motivated by the betrayal and death of his mother decades before.

Was he guilty or innocent? And who betrayed his mother?

Jayne uses all her genealogical and police skills to investigate the world of the Special Operations Executive and of secrets hidden in the dark days of World War 2. A world that leads her into a battle with herself, her conscience and her own family.

This is not the first Jayne Sinclair Genealogical mystery but the first I have read. It appealed to me because the wartime drama dealt with the story of British agents undercover in France while the research made by Jayne in the present day showed that investigation can reveal dark family secrets. The plotting is excellent, and we learn a great deal about the possibilities of following leads, but I found both female characters rather lacking in substance. Monique Massat, Jane’s grandmother represents the heroines of the SOE and her sad story reflects the tragedy of war. This story could make an exciting on-screen drama and I shall be seeking out other volumes in this series.

The Sinclair Betrayal can be found on Amazon UK

M J Lee

M J Lee

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

 

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse (La Cour des Roses Book 3) by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

Summer at

 Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

It was lovely to catch up with Emmy still working hard at Rupert’s idyllic guest house in the Loire valley while developing her own business.  Her marriage to gorgeous accountant Alain is fast approaching, but Emmy’s mother is driving her mad, phoning from England at all hours, to nag her about wedding preparations.

There are amusing escapades amongst the guests and Emmy’s friends, Sophie and Ellie, also appear to have found love, but Alain’s family worries and Emmy’s frustration with her mother cause friction between them.  Then disaster strikes; will Emmy’s happy life in France fall apart?

This third story of the little French guesthouse contains so many fascinating characters, French and English and an unexpected twist in the plot to keep you turning the pages. This is a feel-good novel which restores your faith in humanity and makes you wish you could book a holiday at this wonderful location.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of the first book about La Cour des Roses

Merle: A French Murder Mystery by Angela Wren #BookTour

 

Merle banner

After reading Messandrierre earlier in the year I was looking forward to the next Jacques Forêt mystery set in rural France. Jacques is a considerate likeable detective who has now left the police force and is a private investigator working for Alain Vaux of Vaux Investments. Initially his task was to find the source of industrial espionage which is causing Alain’s company to loss contracts and money, but as we learn at the beginning of the book, there is now a link to murder.

On the personal front, Beth Samuels has returned from England. Will he be able to persuade her to move in with him and stay in France? She is looking into the possibility of setting up a photography business and in the meantime, is helping Jacques to follow leads.

The plot is complex, involving several employees, one of them Jacques’ old flame, Madeleine Cloutier. She seems to be flirting with him but he tries to keep his distance since she is one of the suspects. This reminds Jacques of his reason for leaving the gendarmerie in Paris and adds depth to our understanding of his character.

The investigation of weaknesses in IT security and unprofessional behaviour from some of the employees occurs against the background of a sinister figure who is a threat to Jacques and Beth. I would have liked to have read more about Jacques and Beth’s relationship but the intriguing murder mystery builds up to a thrilling conclusion.

Book Blurb

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened. 

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it. 

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

Angela Wren

Angela Wren

You can read my review of the first Jacques Forêt mystery Messandriere here

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Buy the book on AmazonUK

Messandrierre: Murder in rural France by Angela Wren #TuesdayBookBlog

The First Jacques Forêt Mystery

Messandrierre

Jacques Forêt, an intelligent, considerate policeman, is vegetating in the small French village of Messandrierre, after leaving the challenging environment of Paris, so he is concerned when his unpleasant commander, Fournier, tells him to ignore the unexplained disappearance of three young adults, last seen nearby.  He is determined to continue his investigations, especially when he discovers that there have been more disappearances.

 

Meanwhile, Beth, a young British widow, has returned to the village intending to sell the cottage her husband had bought, but she is unsettled by the discovery that he had been keeping a secret from her for most of their married life.   Jacques tries to persuade her to stay in France but when she appears to be involved in his case, life becomes complicated.

 

Messandrierre is peopled by an assortment of French and British characters, who might all be suspects and there are plenty of red herrings.  The murder mystery is intriguing, as is the on/off romance between Jacques and Beth and the description of this part of rural France is vivid and believable.  I look forward to Jacques next investigation in Merle, published this month.

Angela Wren

From Angela Wren’s Author Page:

I’m an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where I live in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. I did work as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but I managed to escape and now I write books.

I’ve always loved stories and story telling so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing and I started with short stories. My first published story was in an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ and published in 2011.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.

My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year. I’m currently working on the follow-up to Messandrierre and an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.

The Little French Guest House by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

 

little-french

The Little French Guesthouse is recommended as a perfect feel good summer holiday read and I am sure it would be, but it is also a warming ray of sunshine to read on dull winter days. Starting dramatically when the heroine Emmy finds her partner, Nathan, in flagrante with the wife of the guest house owner, we are plunged into her dilemma as she deals with the fall out. As Nathan runs off with Gloria, Emmy decides to stay on at the guest house helping Rupert, the owner, to deal with new guests.

The hard work and beautiful sunshine help Emmy to come to terms with her predicament and she soon makes friends with locals and ex-pats in the area. Surprisingly, her love life also improves as she encounters muscular, handsome Ryan, the gardener and Alain, a slightly annoying but intriguing accountant. She dreads returning to England where she will have to sort out the mess of working and owning a flat with love-rat, Nathan.

In many ways, this is an ideal read in January as we share Emmy’s experience of deciding where her life should go now. She is 31, her relationship has broken down and she has been in a rut. But she can’t stay on holiday for ever. Decisions about her career and future must be made. Inevitably I will soon be dipping into the follow up book Return to the Little French Guesthouse.

The Little French Guest House is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US