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REVIEW:  Frenched by Melanie Harlow

REVIEW: Frenched by Melanie Harlow

Frenched Melanie Harlow

Dear Ms. Harlow:

I saw some talk on a Twitter about this book and the blurb seemed cute. It’s written in the first person past tense and is narrated by Mia Devine, an event planner, who is informed by her fiancé one week before her wedding that he can’t go through with it. She’s left alone in their shared townhome with expensive sheets, towels, and even luggage with their shared monogram while Tucker, her ex, is in Vegas tweeting stuff like “barely escaping a burning building by ditching the ball and chain.”

Mia’s friends convince her to use the already paid honeymoon to Paris to escape the hometown humiliation and do all the things she wanted to do while in Paris. She relents because Paris has been a dream of hers for many years. Unfortunately, the first day all she sees is a bunch of stupid lovers topped off by a couple actually getting engaged. Disgruntled, she stops in a pub and meets Lucas Fournier, a professor moonlighting as a bartender at his brother’s bar.

He challenges her concept that Paris is only for lovers by asking her to allow him to be her tour guide for one day. One day leads to another and soon Lucas and Mia are going all over the romantic city while Mia forgets the pain of her engagement and falls head over heels for Lucas.

Now Lucas is charming. He’s well read and mannerly. He listens to Mia and takes her to places that she has already wanted to see while providing unique local color. Not to mention he’s got a buff body, sweet smile, and a mop full of hair that tended to curl.  (I kept picturing Harry Styles for some reason.) And he’s spectacular in bed, something that the ex was not. But Mia just got jilted and even though serious attempts are made to show how ill-suited her former fiancé was her quick tumble into love with Lucas lacked believability. But I did think that the way that the physical relationship developed was pitched just right with Mia being the instigator.

This is a light hearted read as Frenched doesn’t dwell overlong on the downsides of Mia’s life. She spends most of the book contemplating the fun she’s having and very little wallowing in justified self pity.  There’s a great sense of place too. A clear love of Paris and French related things from the wine to the bread to reading the love letters of Abelard and Heloise together is well conveyed.

The real stumbling block for me was how the conflict played out. Lucas has an impediment to a long term relationship but that is overcome literally over night and the ending of the story didn’t bring enough closure. Lucas is a professor in New York and Mia is an event planner in Detroit Michigan. The story came off as a sweet holiday fling but there wasn’t any stickiness to the relationship that I could believe in at the end.

Both characters are very likeable and the story is readable. The sex scenes are plentiful and steamy. There is little to no character development. In other words, Mia was a planner devoted to her lists at the start of the book and she was the same person at the end. Same with Lucas other than the internal conflict issue. I’d definitely read another Harlow book but I can’t say that I was particularly fulfilled when I ended the story. C+

Best regards,

Jane

 

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REVIEW:  The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

REVIEW: The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

splendour-falls

Emily Braden couldn’t resist the invitation to join her charming but unreliable cousin, Harry, on a visit to the town of Chinon—where, according to legend, Queen Isabelle hid her treasured jewels during a
siege in the 13th century. But when Harry vanishes and Emily begins to search for him, she uncovers the mystery of a different Isabelle. A mystery that dates back to the German occupation during the Second
World War. As Emily explores the city, with its labyrinthine tunnels and ancient history, she’s drawn ever closer to the mysterious Isabelles and their long-kept secrets…

Dear Ms. Kearsley,

I know I’ve mentioned before how much your novels remind me – in a good way – of Mary Stewart’s mysteries of the 50s and 60s but they do and this one in particular did. English heroine goes on supposed care-free holiday in a foreign country only to find herself in the midst of something wrong that she can’t quite put her finger on. There might be a romance, or there might not depending on how the men of the novel are presented on any given page. Then Events Escalate and she finds herself battling for justice and perhaps even her life. Yep, it reminded me of those Stewart books.

I love how everything is there. The clues and hints needed to solve what is going on are provided as the story proceeds. As one character says, you only need to look at them from the right angle and – voice – everything slots into place and makes perfect sense. Of course one must arrange them correctly, and view them properly and understand them …. But at the end of the book all the pieces to the puzzle are there for which I thank you.

The details of Chinon are a delight to read. I can see myself wandering down the streets to the river, looking over the steep drop of the chateau wall, watching the sun rise and make the golden, white walls glow over the blue roofed town. I would especially enjoy a trip to the Chapelle of St Radegonde. How does one get permission to have the keys? And I would never make the mistake of complaining about the fact that people speak so much French there! Heaven help you but I hope you didn’t actually run into any Garland Whitakers during your time there. But a nice, leisurely 3 hour lunch in a quiet restaurant with a charming Frenchman? That I could do.

Since this is primarily a romance book site, I know readers will want to know, “But does Emily find romance?” Well, there were times I wondered that as I was reading the book. There are several potential men scattered along the way and I wavered back and forth about which one could or would be romantic interest and who was actually trying to kill her. Congratulations for keeping me guessing until almost the end of the novel. I would love to have got a bit more payoff at the end but the way Emily’s Special Someone charges to her rescue does say a lot for him.

This is a delightful, modern gothic mystery with a romance. It’s evocative of the time and place and people and filled with fascinating characters who come to life off the page. And a great cat. B

~Jayne

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