Mourning the untimely death of her husband years ago, Rosalyn Acosta agrees to go on a buying trip to Champagne after her boss and friend, Hugh, suggests it might be what she needs to help bring her back to the land of the living.
On the plane she meets Emma, a chatty Australian travelling to France hoping to uncover the truth about letters her great aunt Doris wrote to French soldier Emile during World War I. Emma offers to pay Rosalyn for help translating the letters and although Rosalyn declines the offer, she can't help but become intrigued and begins reading the letters during the flight.
With both Emma and Rosalyn now fully immersed in the letters, and realising they are travelling to the same village in Champagne, they decide to work together, with the help of several locals, to solve the mystery of Doris and Emile, which includes an intricate system of tunnels and caves under the city of Reims used to protect women and children during the war, and which are still accessible today.
Slowly, as their investigation progresses, Rosalyn finds herself becoming less guarded and more open to the people she meets in the region, and the possibilities life still has to offer.
The Vineyards of Champagne is the fourth book from Juliet Blackwell I have read and although each book has been set in France, they have all been vastly different and a true education into the regions and history of the country, which I find completely fascinating. This is another can't-miss read from this author. (LEK)
American Cady Drake travels to Paris to photograph some of the world's most beautiful carousels for a coffee table book she is putting together. While there, she learns of the Clement carousel, once one of the most exquisite carousels of the early twentieth century, and located in the heart of Provence.
Rumours swirl around the antique carousel, the decrepit Chateau Clement where it is housed, and the mysterious family who owns it. Cady's curiosity gets the better of her and she heads to Provence to seek out the truth about the carousel and its suspicious history.
Juliet Blackwell is fast becoming one of my favourite storytellers. As with her previous books, The Paris Key and Letters from Paris, Blackwell sets her novels in France and centres them around an artistic endeavour, its rich history, and the fictional characters affected. Her books are told from various points of view, which can be confusing at times. However, they are about unusual professions full of details and interesting characters that make them a pleasure to get lost in. (LEK)
Just before Claire's beloved grandmother passes away, she urges Claire to take a trip to Paris to gain information on a mask Claire's great-grandfather sent home after World War II. The mask has been in the attic for years and Claire has always been curious about the women who modelled for it. Once in Paris, Claire finds the mask-making atelier, and its current owner, Armand, responsible for creating the mask and its mould.
She tries to get information of who the young woman was by spending time working as a translator in the shop for Armand. While there, she stumbles upon a stack of letters that offer insight into the life of the woman she believes is the model for the mask. As her probe of the woman gets deeper, Claire also uncovers some interesting and potentially life-changing details about her own life.
Letters from Paris is a richly crafted story, going back and forth in time to reveal to the reader what life was like in Paris during the Belle Epoque, the era of the mask. Although the book felt somewhat long, the characters, time period, and the unexpected twist towards the end was worth it. (LEK)
When Genevieve Martin was a girl, she spent a wonderful summer in Paris with her uncle Dave and his family, learning the art of locksmithing. When her beloved uncle dies, Genevieve returns to Paris, thinking she might take over his locksmith business, Under Lock and Key. In the midst of a divorce, Genevieve finds refuge in her uncle's home. As she contemplates what's next, she begins meeting the people of the neighbourhood, most of who adored her uncle and would like nothing more than for Genevieve to move to Paris permanently and take over his business.
However, one thing she didn't count on, as she soon discovers, is the city holding so many keys to her own life and that of her mother, Angela.
This is a really lovely, warm story that pulls you in and keeps you wrapped up until the very end. Told in alternating points of view between Genevieve and Angela, we learn about the time Angela spent in Paris before Genevieve was born and see Genevieve coming into her own in a place that feels more like her home the longer she's there. A little intrigue, adventure, and self-discovery in the City of Light? What could be better? (LEK)