It’s always such a pleasure to read and review a new book from Jennifer Bohnet: I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for A French Affair, published on 4th August by Boldwood Books. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via NetGalley).
If you fancy escaping from your life for a while – and I’ve particularly needed that over the last few weeks – I’d highly recommend Jennie’s books. You’ll find reviews of some of her earlier books here on Being Anne (A French Pirouette, The Little Kiosk by the Sea – my personal favourite! – and Rosie’s Little Café on the Riviera) and a few other features and guest posts too. I sadly just couldn’t fit in A Year of Taking Chances and Summer at Coastguard Cottages – and then she joined Boldwood Books, and I couldn’t quite manage Villa of Sun and Secrets or A Riviera Retreat either. But I was able to rediscover her lovely writing this April with Rendez-Vous in Cannes – it was an absolute delight, and you’ll find my review here – and it was such a lovely surprise that I didn’t have too long to wait for her next..
What will be will be…
Belinda Marshall’s idyllic teenage life in Brittany, France, fell apart when her parents dramatically separated and her mother took her back to England.
Fast forward thirty-five years when Belinda’s world is once again turned upside down.
It’s the week before Christmas and Belinda’s employer ‘surprises’ her by asking for her help to rejuvenate their latest investment, a run-down campsite in Brittany.
Memories and anxieties that had lain dormant for years suddenly begin to resurface.
As secrets from a lost life threaten to overwhelm her, there is a realisation that maybe she wasn’t told the whole truth by her mother all those years ago.
Can Belinda reconcile her emotions and find happiness once more in the place she so loved and called home?
I can always rely on Jennifer Bohnet’s books to transport me to their location, and I was particularly delighted to find that this one was set in Brittany – I have very fond memories of camping in Finistère in the early 70s, and there was a great deal I recognised about the campsite and its smaller details.
Her characters are always excellent too, although I’ll admit it did take me just a little while to warm to Belinda – a troubleshooter for a small hotel chain, sent in to jointly manage the renovations that are needed to bring the site into the 21st century. Alain – son of the previous owners – really makes her less than welcome, and is initially spiky and difficult. But they do learn to rub along together, and both their characters – and their hard edges – become rather more rounded, and infinitely more likeable as a result. We slowly learn about Belinda’s background, and the reasons for her reluctance to spend time in Brittany – and that builds into a fascinating and complex story of family history that I thoroughly enjoyed, as the relationship between Belinda and Alain warms up rather nicely too.
Friendship features heavily too, when Belinda initially stays at the auberge run by Fern – recently widowed with fears about the future, and plenty of family concerns of her own. I really liked her thread of the story – her relationship with her 90 year old mother-in-law and the solution they find to some of those family issues, but particularly the unexpected and rather lovely developing romance and the possibility of future happiness.
The author really is a wonderful storyteller, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way this one unfolded – perfectly paced, a few surprises along the way, that strong focus on family and friendship, a couple of satisfying romances, and the vividly drawn setting. A perfect light read for an afternoon in the sunny garden, but with plenty of depth and twists and turns to keep me thoroughly engaged – recommended!
About the author
Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and The Little Kiosk By The Sea. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.