It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog blitz for Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock: the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series, this one was published on 14th July, and is available both for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my advance reading copy.
I’ve only discovered Julie’s writing relatively recently, having been so impressed when I heard her speak at the Deepings Literary Festival: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge (review here) and returned to read her debut on its fifth birthday, From Here to Nashville (review here). But I unfortunately haven’t managed to get to The Vineyard in Alsace, the first in this series, so I’ve read this latest one as a standalone. Will that have worked out ok, do you think? Let’s find out…
It’s springtime at The Vineyard in Alsace, a new season and a new beginning…
After being abandoned by her partner when she falls pregnant, Lottie Schell goes home to live on The Vineyard in Alsace, where she has started a new relationship with the estate’s winemaker, Thierry. Now about to give birth, Lottie’s determined to raise her child and to provide for them both on her own without having to depend on anyone else.
Thierry Bernard is still dealing with his grief and guilt following the death of his wife two years earlier, for which he blames himself. When he meets Lottie, the instant attraction he feels towards her gives him hope that he can move on from the tragedy of his past, as long as he can tell Lottie the truth of what happened.
When circumstances force Lottie and Thierry closer together, they both find it hard to compromise – she’s proudly independent and he’s fiercely protective – and they’re both wary about trusting someone new with their heart.
Can Lottie and Thierry take a chance on each other, move on from their pasts and start over?
Escape to The Vineyard in Alsace once again with this romantic read set in the heart of Alsace’s wine country.
There was a lot I very much enjoyed about this book – the setting is particularly strongly drawn with the vineyards changing through the season, planning for the visitor centre well advanced, and the chateau in the throes of renovation, and the whole book has an excellent sense of place.
I will admit though that I’m rather sorry I started with the second in a series: although it’s a standalone, I really do think you might enjoy this book more if you first read The Vineyard in Alsace. I did struggle a little at first with the relationships between the characters, until I decided it really didn’t matter – I could just enjoy the story of Lottie and Thierry and let everything else become background.
And I really did enjoy watching that relationship develop. At the start of the book, Lottie is heavily pregnant and concerned about the future: Thierry is more than happy to take her on, although the child isn’t his, but he does have some major issues of his own that might stand in the way of the hoped for happy ending. He is carrying a lot of guilt about the death of his wife two years earlier, and his grief is still very raw.
Meanwhile Lottie appears to be intent in rejecting everything he tries to do to help her – I really felt for Thierry, and I did find Lottie particularly difficult to like. But her worries about impending motherhood are very well done, and I did warm to her rather more when seeing her in the context of her family – and even more when she became a mother herself.
The supporting characters were very well drawn too – I particularly liked Ellie, and I’d like to see her at the heart of a future story so I could get to know her better.
In essence, this was an engaging story about two damaged people needing to overcome their problems and learn to trust each other before they can move forward. There aren’t many laughs, but I didn’t expect them, and the emotional content is very well handled – and the author’s writing, particularly in the way she gets beneath the skin and into the thoughts of her two main characters by exposing both their viewpoints, is as excellent as ever.
About the author
Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace in March 2017. Over You (Sam’s Story) and Finding You (Jenna’s Story), her follow-up novellas to From Here to Nashville were published in 2018, making the From Here to You series complete.
She has also published a boxed set of the From Here to You trilogy of books. The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge was published in August 2019, followed by Bittersweet, a collection of 12 Short Stories for Modern Life in September 2019. Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is her ninth book, and the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard.
Julie is now a full-time author, and loves every minute of her writing life. When not writing, she can be found reading, her favourite past-time, running, a new hobby, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.
If you’d like to sign up to her newsletter list, you can do so here: as a thank you, you’ll be able to download Before You, the prequel story to the From Here to You series, for free.
Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.