Fiona Grange feels her life is over.
In a career rut, abandoned by her husband, with a daughter who has left home and a best friend who has recently re-married, life seems to be passing her by.
Fiona Grange’s dreams are about to come true when she receives a letter inviting her to take voluntary redundancy from her college lecturing post. In the same mail delivery is a solicitor’s letter, informing her she could be a beneficiary, with a number to call – in France. Thinking it’s a scam she throws the letter away, only to retrieve it later, just in case. It turns out to be genuine and at the solicitor’s office she’s informed she has inherited a farmhouse in the depths of France from an aunt she didn’t know she had. Her dream of being an artist somewhere in the sun looks like becoming a reality.
After an initially unfavourable impression, Fiona falls in love with the house and, in turn, France itself. As she begins house renovations and clearance, the mystery around her family deepens. To complicate matters further Fiona finds herself attracted to two men, who are both in love with her. Mike, an English widower living nearby and Xavier, a French musician.
I was open minded when I began the book, although straight romance is not usually my genre of choice. The blurb sounded interesting – divorced woman in her 50s starting a new life, in a new country and in a house bequeathed to her by a relative she had no knowledge of, with a family mystery to solve. My problem was the characters, none were really likeable. I couldn’t relate to, or sympathise with, them. Fiona came across as self centred, her best friend, Grace, could only think of herself and how Fiona’s move would affect her.
‘For God’s sake, Fee…what about me? I’ll really, really miss you.’
‘And I’ll miss you to, horribly,’ she said, quietly, ‘but you’ve got Tim now – you’ll be fine.’
‘That’s not the same thing and you know it,’ Grace said, practically spitting the words at Fiona. ‘No guy is ever going to take the place of my best girlfriend.’
The emotional responses, including Fiona’s to the men in her life, especially Xavier, seem too exaggerated, more applicable to teenagers than mature women in their 50s. When one event in particular, doesn’t go according to plan Fiona flips and rushes into another situation without waiting for any form of explanation. She’s torn between the two men in her life, her turmoil compounded by the mystery surrounding her aunt. Even so, it’s difficult to engage with her or the storyline. It seems, rather than developing either to their full potential, Fiona’s volatile emotions drive the plot. And, I’m afraid the ending was just too convenient, shades of the best of both worlds.
The premise is a good one but I feel the characters and dialogue need to be more realistic and developed to compliment the storyline. However, the house, it’s view and the French countryside are described beautifully and with obvious passion.
My review is based on a free ecopy of the book from the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or the review content.