Monday, 1 July 2013

Guest Book Review: Fiona Valpy - The French for Love

Reviewed by Lisa Bentley

Gina has lost her perfect job, her boyfriend and her favourite aunt all within the space of a few months.  

So when she inherits her aunt’s ramshackle French house, Gina decides to pack her bags for the Bordeaux countryside – swapping the miserable English weather for blue skies, sunshine, great wine and a fresh start.

What she hasn’t factored in is a hole in the roof, the most embarrassing language faux pas, and discovering family secrets that she was never supposed to know.

Suddenly feeling a long way from home, Gina will have to rely on new found friends, her own hard work – and Cédric – her charming, mysterious and très handsome new stonemason.

But whilst desire needs no translation, love is a different matter.  Can Gina overcome the language barrier to make her French dream come true?

Life hasn’t been so good for Gina of late. First her father died, she found out that her boyfriend had been cheating on her, her favourite aunt died and less than a week after burying her she lost her job in the wine industry.

With so much loss in a short space of time Gina is so confused that she doesn’t know which way is up at the moment. However, after a kick up the backside from her mother Gina decides to take on life head on. She moves to France to live in the house her aunt left her as an inheritance and takes on a new challenge of becoming a Master of Wine.

What Gina quickly discovers is that the French way of life is very different to that of her life in Sussex. As she becomes immersed in village life Gina comes face to face with the murky family secrets that have been lurking in the past.

The French for Love is a good comfortable novel; most of my enjoyment coming from the formulaic structure of the romance genre. Gina is a likeable protagonist; feisty but soft, broken yet hopeful and you can’t help but root for her. She clearly stands apart from the rest of the characters as complex but not to an exhaustive degree.

The French setting was perfect for the story without being cliché. The romance and courtship between Gina and Cedric is slow fermenting (much like a delicious bottle of wine from the local vineyard) and comes with some not so obvious obstacles along the way. And the ending leaves you warm and fuzzy inside. The French for Love is enjoyable for all the right reasons and Valpy should be proud of her second novel.

On a personal note, the one downside of the novel was the use of flashback early on. The ellipsis indication did become somewhat tiresome as did the first person narrative, almost like having to listen to lists of things that have happened i.e. ‘I went to the shop and then I did this and then I did that and then this happened.’ It might have been less so if it was written in the third person and with flashbacks signified with a new chapter.

Overall The French for Love is a charming story which reminds us that when we think all is lost that there is always something exciting around the corner.

I'd like to thank Oliver at Bookouture for sending us an ecopy of this book to review.

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