Love in Provence #1
Lake Union Publishing, October 2015
466 pages, Kindle, Paperback, MP3 CD, Audiobook
The author provided me with a complimentary copy of each of the three books in this series. I am providing an honest review of this first book. All opinions are completely my own. I am not being compensated in any way. I will review the other two books when I have had a chance to read them.
This is a revealing review, but will not spoil your enjoyment of the book.
I must say that what first drew me to this series is the cover artwork of the three books. The soft, sunny scenes were so appealing, that I was curious to see if the stories inside matched what the covers promise. I am happy to say that the first book, at least, does indeed deliver to the fullest! The author uses words to paint the scenes from a beautiful pink rose bouquet to a homey kitchen and a charming farmhouse in the south of France. It’s not all pretty scenes, though. You also see the mess when the goats invade and leave behind their distinct contributions after grazing through the garden. You picture in your mind the memories that Elizabeth shares from the war.
No, it is by no means all pretty scenes. Ms. Sands has us feeling the happy anticipation of a twenty-second wedding anniversary. But she gives us a hint about what sort of man is behind this as his preparations for the celebration are predictable. Everyone knows where they will be going for this dinner. A man of rigid habits? And we feel the total shock of what the note says as our main character’s mind goes completely blank and she withdraws and shuts down. She cries for two days. She uses a technique her mother taught her with making two lists, pros and cons. But the cons list is longer. She simply can’t get a grasp on what is happening in her life.
But, once she does, she takes some petty revenge and seems to move on to making her life function again and finding purpose. She reaches out to family and friends just as they reach to support her. She obviously is well-thought of in her professional life and well-liked in her social circle.
She doesn’t want to live in the house she and her husband owned. So she moves home with her mother, Elizabeth, 85 years old. She and her mother are very close. You can tell from the way her friends speak of her mother that they are very familiar with her as well. Friends and family are well-integrated. One of her best friends is her cousin, Andrea. Her BFF is Molly. Molly is quite the character. She’s a comfort and a problem at the same time. While she supports Katherine, she’s also got a secret that she’s not sharing and it seems to be a problem that is escalating.
Elizabeth, Katherine’s mother, lived through WWII and will not speak of what happened to her and to the family during that time. But for Christmas, Elizabeth gives Katherine a book sewn into a cover and tells her she must promise not to read it until she, Elizabeth has died. Elizabeth has written her story for Catherine. After Elizabeth dies, Katherine reads her family’s story and is amazed at all it encompasses. All but her mother had been taken away by the Nazis and died at Auschwitz and such places. Her mother had been smuggled out in disguise and was the only one to survive to tell their story. Katherine felt she could understand some things about her mother better now. Particularly her favorite saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.
Katherine’s cousin, Andrea, gets her involved in doing a house exchange. Years ago, Katherine had spent some time in the south of France while taking a course in French. Her memories of the area have her wanting to return. So she does an exchange to a farmhouse in Sainte-Mathilde, where she’s taken under the wing of a wonderful neighbor and an amazing dog. Both will help Katherine heal and see that there is still so much to life.
The pace of this story allows for long bike rides in the countryside and for cafe au chocolate while strolling the marketplace and chatting with the many vendors. That doesn’t mean the story is slow. The leisurely pace is soothing but not soporific. It is healing, but certainly has no trouble speeding up when crises arise and danger is an issue. If time and life had allowed, I would have read this book in one sitting. It certainly had no trouble holding my interest. I am eager to read the other two books in the series, though this could be considered a stand-alone. I want to know what else happens to these characters. I want to read more of this author’s wonderful writing. I highly recommend this book and probably this whole series to you if you enjoy the best of women’s lit. This certainly compares well with authors such as Jill Mansell, Anita Hughes, and Connie Chapell. The other two books in this series are:
Promises to Keep #2 and I Promise You This #3