Review: The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

I had a friend recently mention that she was a bit burned out on books with wife/husband/daughter/etc. in the title. Believe me, I understand the overload and fatigue from so much of the same. But trust me, you’ll want to give this one a chance if you’re a fan of WWII era stories.

This one’s a tale of a love triangle. Well actually, a quadrangle. When Inès met and married Michel, she had visions of happily ever after dancing around in her head. But living and working in a winery is not as glamorous as she’d expected. It’s even more difficult when someone else is vying for your husband’s affection.

And then there’s the war. As France is pulled deeper and deeper into German occupation, everyone involved has something to lose. And everyone has secrets. Some are working for the Resistance, and some are aligning themselves with the enemy.

This is one of those stories that alternates between past and present. And really, that’s the best way to tell a tale such as this. An outstanding addition to the genre.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Winemaker’s Wife

Review: The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, especially stories set in the WWII era. I do believe, however, this may be my first WWI era book. And it’s a good one!

Two women, both nurses, both dealing with loss and change. Their stories, although 100 years apart, connect through a series of letters left behind in an old farmhouse.

Beautiful story, well-written, and a unique perspective.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Poppy Field

Review: The Beekeeper’s Promise by Fiona Valpy

Looking for a fun little piece of historical fiction? Look no further!

When Abi finds herself in need of some time to heal, she decides on a yoga retreat in rural France. Soon, however, she ends up taking a summer job at a château with a long history. As she herself recovers, she learns the story of another brave young woman from long ago…

Under the threat of war, young Eliane occupies herself with tending to the gardens and beehives at Château Bellevue. It is here that she finds, and then loses, love. Circumstances lead her to join the Resistance as France finds itself engulfed by the war and under German occupation.

As is the case with many pieces of historical fiction, this story is told from two viewpoints in two different time periods. And as is the case with the best of them, this one does a great job of meshing the two all the way to the very end. A definite must read if you’re a fan of the genre!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Beekeeper’s Promise

Review: A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe 

Lovely story, but not what I expected. I thought, “A wedding! France! Cheese! Pastry!” And I got a wedding… but not until the very very end; France… well a part of France  caught very much in between England and France in language and culture; cheese… yes, but not everyone liked it; and pastry… oh the very best pastries and cakes made by chef Juliette. 

Juliette set aside her personal baggage to be Max’s personal chef. For Juliette, life was even easier that way. When Max invited a bunch of friends to stay at his home for the weekend, Juliette was ready to cook for them like a madwoman. But things went wrong at every turn due to the shadow Max’s mood cast. Whether he meant to or not, Max kind of ruined everything for his friends and his chef. And that kind of ruined the story for me. 
Good writing, good plot, depressing main character. 

-calliope 

Buy A FRENCH WEDDING

Review: The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine

What a lovely story! I keep saying I don’t like flashbacks in a story but I think I do like it if done well. Laura Madeleine does it well! I adored the story of the poor country boy falling in love with pastry and Mme Clermont. Author Madeleine painted 1910 patisserie life with just the right amount of romance and beauty, and juxtaposed it perfectly with the grit of railroads, brothels, and street thugs. 

Flash forward to 1988 where phD student Petra gets sidetracked trying to clear her grandfather’s name and unravel the great Clermont mystery… I just as much enjoyed Petra’s phone calls and literal legwork trying to figure out clues about her grandfather. I was psyched for Petra’s ride on the back of Alex’s motorbike, and glad to see that the romance of 1910 carried over to modern times. 

I think I would have been able to get more lost in the story if Madeleine had stuck with the 1910 matters, but it was gratifying to see how it all played out in the end – a type of closure I wouldn’t have been able to experience unless the 1988 story existed as well. 

Brava! 

-calliope

Buy THE CONFECTIONER’S TALE

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

21853621Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and many of my most memorable reads fall into this category. That being said, it’s a genre that’s been hit or miss for me. A book is either at the top of my charts, such as The Book Thief, or it’s at the bottom. I’ll refrain from naming some of those bottom lurkers. This newest book from Kristin Hannah, however, suffers no such fate.

Vianne is living a happy, simple life with her husband and daughter in a small French village. And then the war becomes all too real as her husband is called to fight and her village is taken over by the Nazis. Vianne’s primary focus now becomes survival and escaping the attention of the occupying enemy. This is made more difficult when Nazi soldiers take over her home. And then there’s her strong-willed sister, Isabelle. Isabelle has always had a strong sense of right and wrong, and even the threat of imprisonment or even death isn’t enough to stop her. While Vianne tries to simply fly under the radar, Isabelle finds herself in the thick of it as a covert French Resistance fighter. Vianne constantly struggles with keeping herself and her daughter safe while at the same time doing what is right.

The story alternates between war-torn France and present-day America as the narrator relives this dark period in her past. Along the way we find out that nobody is who they seem, and you never really know everything about a person, even if they are a family member. An especially appealing part of this story is that the identity of the narrator isn’t revealed until the very end, leaving you guessing as to just whose story you’re hearing.

This book was a drastic departure from other stories I’ve read by this author. While all of her stories have been outstanding, previous ones I’ve read have had more of a romantic, women’s lit type feel to them. The Nightingale encompasses that as well as so much more. It’s a love story, but also a story of survival as well as family dynamics. It’s not just a book for women, but also a book for anybody interested in World War II and especially the role played by females. I look forward to hearing what others think about this outstanding story!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Nightingale

Review – The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

17456328Would you put everything on the line to save innocent people from persecution? Would you hide someone in your apartment, knowing that in doing so, you’ve just signed the death warrant for yourself, your family, and even the rest of the tenants in the apartment building? Well, as tough as these conundrums may be, people in Nazi occupied France made these kinds of decisions every day. One of these people, Lucian Bernard finds himself wrestling with his conscience, sense of practicality, pride, and financial strain, when he accepts a commission to build a concealed hiding place for a friend who makes it his business to hide Jews, and at the same time, accepts a commission from the Germans to build a factory in Paris.
Charles Belfoure’s debut fiction novel, The Paris Architect, has been hailed as being exciting, exhilarating and nerve racking. Belfoure has even been called the next Ken Follet…. Yeah, that kind of put me off as well – I really hate plaudits like that, A) it is lazy writing, B) it is such a big comparison, that it is almost impossible to live up to, and C) every author should be individual…. Anyway, that’s for another musing post later on maybe.
I wanted to read something completely different to what I am currently struggling through (I may either have a really positive review or a really negative review in a few weeks!), and so I thought I’d give this one a go. Let me tell you, I am so glad that I put my initial reluctance aside because it turned out to be one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year!
The writing and pace follows that of a traditional thriller, however, instead of implementing 3 page chapters, Belfoure manages to keep the suspenseful tone and pace throughout decent sized chapters. This is a real telltale sign that an author knows how to write. The characters are very well fleshed out and no one in this novel is “perfect” – each person has their own prejudices and how they decide to prioritize these prejudices is interesting, and sometimes frustrating.
There are some negative points to this novel though: Sometimes the phrases used by certain characters seemed quite contemporary, or Americanized – but then, for all I know, they may have indeed used those phrases in 1941. Another issue with me was the fact that sometimes certain things tied a little too neatly together – however, at the same time, it did show realistic human nature, so I suppose that can’t be too much of a negative. I can’t really explain further as it would give away some major plot points.
Although entirely fictional, the happenings in this novel most likely did occur in Nazi occupied Europe. I love reading about the French Resistance and the dichotomy between the citizens of France that try to survive by joining the Resistance to destroy the German progression, and the other citizens who try to survive by “collaborating” with the Germans in many different aspects. It really does make you think about what it means to survive, what it would take, and how far you can stretch your moral compass. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this brilliant read!

~ Pegasus.
The Paris Architect: A Novel