Tag Archives: Provence

Review: “I Promise You This” by Patricia Sands #FranceBT

18 May

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My Review

I have now read all three books in Patricia Sands’ Love in Provence series, so I will comment on the third book, I Promise You This, as the culmination of this series.

The first book, The Promise of Provence, introduces Katherine Price, who is expecting to celebrate her 22nd anniversary, but instead finds that her husband James has left her for another woman he met in their cycling club. This devastating news begins a process of grief and recovery for Katherine who wonders how she missed this crevasse opening up in her life just below the surface of apparent happiness. In this book, and those that follow, Katherine will begin to examine her life and herself and ask what the ingredients of a deeper, more dependable happiness might be.

One of the first things she rediscovers is friendship, reconnecting with her childhood friend Molly who still lives nearby in their city of Toronto, Canada. Another is family; Katherine’s mother is in declining health and needs her daughter’s help, just as Katherine needs her mother’s support as a bulwark against despair and fear. After her mother dies, Katherine must hold on to the lessons of strength her mother communicated.  Molly then encourages her to strike out in a new direction and take a chance on a two-week home exchange in the south of France, in the village of Sainte-Mathilde. Katherine had been to France in her youth, and even fallen in love there, so this opportunity seemed to pick up another piece of her life that she had laid aside during her marriage.

Provence opens up her epicurean side with sightseeing, photography, food and wine; new friendships form, including the unexpected possibility of dating again. After some false starts, Katherine begins to build a new relationship with Philippe, a fromager, whose home base and cheese market is in Antibes on the Côte d’Azur.  As Book 1 closes, Katherine decides to arrange a longer stay in Antibes.

 

640px-antibesbordmer

Antibes sea coast. Photo: Gilbert Bochenek. Wikimedia.

 

Books 2 and 3 build on the foundation laid out skillfully so far. In Book 2, Promises to Keep, Katherine and Philippe’s romance begins to encounter some real-life challenges, as secrets from Philippe’s past begin to intrude on the fantasy of the present moment. I found it interesting that Katherine was surprised by her feelings at many turns. She had reached her late fifties without much self-awareness, perhaps suppressed by her life with her dominant ex-husband.  Although Philippe was very different from James, she had to face her choice of another man who was capable of withholding important truths about himself. The revelation of his secret and how they cope with it together makes Promises to Keep a very meaty installment in this trilogy.

In the final book, I Promise You This, Katherine and Philippe’s relationship is tested by separation. Katherine’s friend Molly has been seriously injured in an auto accident and Katherine is the closest thing she has to family. Katherine flies back to Toronto, taking up a place at Molly’s bedside and taking on the responsibility for her health decisions, since Molly was placed in a medically induced coma.

Back in Toronto, Katherine experiences a more powerful sense of returning home than she had anticipated.  She is surprised by her deep attachment to the city and to her way of life there. As attractive as life in France had become for her, she feels a tug-of-war beginning in her heart. Can she really leave her old life behind so completely, and recreate herself in a new country, with a new career, and committed to a new man?  While she grapples once more with the pieces of her identity, she must help her friend Molly awaken to life again. And what about Philippe?  Will he wait passively for Katherine to make her decision, or will he take action to keep the woman he loves from slipping away?

Although the series is called Love in Provence, I think the recurring word promises in each book’s title offers the key to appreciating this carefully crafted series. At first, a broken promise–James’s infidelity and sudden departure–propels Katherine in a completely new direction, across the ocean in fact! Energized by the beauty and abundance of Provence, she experiences the promise (in the sense of latent possibility) of embracing a new, independent life. In the second book, Katherine pledges to stay with Philippe even when the secrets from his past threaten their peace and even their safety.  Finally, I Promise You This thrives on the themes of friendship, loyalty, and finding one’s true home. Katherine promises Philippe to return to France but will she be able to fulfill this promise?  Will she ever be able to make a vow to someone again?  First, she must honor the promise implicit in her friendship with Molly, coming to her aid in crisis and seeing it through.  And she has one last meeting with her ex-husband; sadly, she was not ready to forgive him, but I can only wonder if that might change in the future (the author intimates that she might continue these characters’ lives in a future series).

Katherine begins to understand another kind of promise she has made, since she was thrust into life on her own: To live fully and be true to herself. She will need to work out the implications of this promise to herself, before she can move forward. This book raises the question, are we ever truly “on our own” in this life? Do we want to be? Or do we want to choose the promises we make to care for others, the promises to keep for a lifetime. I Promise You This takes a look at such questions from several angles.  Its characters are very human in their strengths and weaknesses, in their virtues and temptations, and consequently felt real to me.

Like the other books in this series, readers hungry for glimpses of daily life in Provence will find much to savor in I Promise You This: meals described in loving detail, the produce of farm and field, the natural beauty of the region, and the excitement of towns and cities. This book can be read on its own, as the author unobtrusively weaves the necessary information from the earlier books into her story. But reading the earlier books does repay the effort to follow the whole arc of this involving series.

 

Patricia Sands

on Tour

May 17-26

with

I Promise You This

I Promise You This

(women’s fiction)

Release date: May 17, 2016
at Lake Union Publishing

ISBN: 978-1503935723
365 pages

Author’s page | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price’s midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she’s in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him.

But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she’s helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again?

Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection.

With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Côte d’Azur, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible—if you’re willing to let your heart lead you home.

BOOK TRAILER

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I Promise You This Patricia Sands

A confessed travel-addict, best-selling author
Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. I Promise You This, is Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence series.
Find Patricia on Facebookon Twitteron Instagramat her Amazon Author Pageor at her website.

Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases.

Buy the book : Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Amazon.fr | available at Barnes & Noble on May 17

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You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below
.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open internationally:
10 participants will each win a copy of this book, print or digital

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CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ REVIEWS AND EXCERPTS

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*Note*: I received an advance electronic copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.  I did not receive any other compensation, and the views expressed in my review are my own opinions.

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Review and Giveaway: “In the Shade of the Almond Trees” by Dominique Marny #FranceBT

1 Oct

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MY REVIEW

In the Shade of the Almond Trees by Dominique Marny is historical fiction at the intersection of many of the features I especially appreciate: It is a family saga. Set in the immediate time after the First World War, it shows the effects on family life at the home front. The Barthélemy family has lost their patriarch, who died at Verdun. His widow and children must deal with their grief and the challenge of running their business in the postwar economic climate.  It is set in the French countryside, outside the village of Cotignac, in the center of Provence, where the Barthélemy almond trees and olive groves have provided the family’s livelihood.

Cotignac_centre

Place de la mairie de Cotignac – Var – France. By Technob105 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The pace of Marny’s prose is measured and restful, like the undulating rows of olive trees in their estate of Restanques.

“They went around a pigeon coop, then down the steps that led to the yard’s first terrace. Restanques spread down a hill over several acres planted with almond, olive, and fig trees, all on terraces held together by stone walls.” (p. 11)

This view, which Jeanne Barthélemy shows visiting botanist (and soon-to-be love interest) Jérôme Guillaumin, may be restful but the problems she faces are urgent and unsettling: how to maintain the smooth operation and solvency of the almond nougat and olive oil businesses without the support of her mother or the immediate help of her brother, Laurent who is bitten by wanderlust. As a further complication, an opportunist land speculator called René Verdier has bought the neighboring estate of Bel Horizon, with an eye to romancing the naive Barthélemy widow and gaining control of Restanques too.  Jeanne tackles the demands of running her businesses with determination and creativity, but very humanly, she faces genuine discouragement at times and her own romantic blind alleys.  But, as Jérôme advises her,

“You’re pursuing a dream–yours, which gives your life meaning. … What you’re accomplishing here, right now, will be yours forever.” (p. 174)

What I liked most about this novel was that it presented two strong female characters, who were NOT romantic rivals, but rather childhood friends, whose lives converged again at this critical moment.  Rosalie is the niece of Apolline who had worked for the Barthélemy family for many years. When Rosalie joins her aunt and begins to work for them as a maid, the two young women find themselves side by side, their friendship renewed but complicated by the differences in their situations. Jeanne is now Rosalie’s employer.  Marny does an excellent job of showing us Rosalie’s aspirations and conflicts as often and as deeply as Jeanne’s. In fact, their romantic lives are running in parallel to some degree, both having three significant men in their lives. For Jeanne, they are Régis Cuvelier, a self-centered playboy who nevertheless keeps a strong hold on her; Antoine Laferrière, a businessman who persistently offers her financial help–and his heart; and Jérôme, who is elusive and independent.  Soon after she arrives, beautiful Rosalie gives her heart to Laurent Barthélemy, but his restlessness and immaturity pose significant obstacles. Vulnerable and dissatisfied with her position, she becomes entangled with Verdier, at great cost.  She is nearly oblivious to the loyal attention of François, who works managing the estates and is likewise ambitious to make something better of his life.

At the risk of repeating a stereotype, this novel felt ‘very French’ to me (in the best way!), focusing as it did on the sometimes disastrous love affairs of the principal characters. Perhaps that is just the hallmark of good historical romance, in any language!  As I read, I instantly compared this novel to The Rocheforts, which I also reviewed for France Book Tours (see The Rocheforts tour quotations) this year.  Like it, In the Shade of the Almond Trees gives a glimpse of the workings of the family’s agriculturally based business–information which I found especially helpful in rounding out the picture of French life at the historical time and place.  The Rocheforts perhaps emphasized the business side more, as it presented the intertwined relations of two families over several generations. With the strength of this book’s compassionate portrayals of Jeanne and Rosalie, and Marny’s sure hand in crafting a well-paced story, In the Shade of the Almond Trees captured my interest throughout, and I can highly recommend this slice of Provençal life and love in the aftermath of the First World War.

I also look forward to reading Marny’s previous novel in translation I Looked for the One My Heart Loves.

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In the Shade of the Almond Trees

Dominique Marny

on  Tour

September 29 – October 8

with

In the Shade of the Almond Trees

(historical fiction)

 Release date: September 29, 2015
at Open Road Media

280  pages

ISBN: 978-1480461178

Website | Goodreads

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SYNOPSIS

In the aftermath of World War I, a family estate hangs in the balance.

For generations, the Barthélemy family tended to the olive trees of Restanques, a sprawling property in Cotignac whose olive oil and almonds were as incredible as the countryside that produced them. But all that changed when war came to France. Robert Barthélemy never returned from the trenches, and without him, the farm is beginning to die. His widow has lost the will to live, and only the fierce efforts of their daughter, Jeanne, have kept the creditors at bay.

Jeanne is spending an afternoon at home with the family’s grim financial statements when a handsome stranger appears on the front steps. His name is Jérôme Guillaumin and he is a brilliant botanist about to embark on a journey around the globe. From the moment they meet, Jeanne is struck by feelings she never thought possible: feelings that could save her life or destroy everything she has ever known.

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In the Shade of the Almond Trees - Dominique MarnyABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dominique Marny
was raised in a family
that loved art, literature, adventure, and travel.
In addition to being a novelist,
she is a playwright and screenwriter,
and writes for various magazines.

Visit the author’s website (in French)

Follow her on Facebook

Buy the book

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GIVEAWAY

Global giveaway open internationally:
2 participants will each win a copy of this book.
Print/digital format for US residents
Digital for all other residents

Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
for more chances to win

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

******

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS AND EXCERPTS

In the Shade of the Almond Trees Banner

*Note*: I received an advance copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.  I did not receive any other compensation, and the views expressed in my review are my own opinions.

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