Light Through the Vines – Fiona Valpy

Published By: Lake Union
Pages: 219
Released On: 01/09/2022

Gina’s London life lies in tatters: she has lost her father, her steady job as a wine buyer and her suave but unfaithful boyfriend. When she also suffers the loss of her beloved aunt, a silver lining dawns in the shape of an unexpected legacy: Aunt Liz has left Gina her beautiful, if slightly ramshackle, house in the heart of Bordeaux wine country. With nothing left to lose, Gina takes a chance on a fresh start.

Throwing herself into her new life in the beautiful French countryside, Gina discovers the warmth of a close-knit—sometimes too close-knit—rural community and the exhausting exhilaration of the grape harvest under the late-summer sun. But just as she is beginning to feel like she belongs in her crumbling but charming home, she uncovers a long-hidden secret that makes her question the one person she used to trust the most. While she’s worrying that this is a sign to pack her bags and run, a storm blows a hole in the roof, and Gina finds herself with nowhere else to turn except her neighbour’s capable son for help.

Before long Gina finds herself admiring handsome Cédric for more than just his stonemasonry skills…But everyone she’s ever held dear has left her or betrayed her. And as the grapes ripen on the vine, can Gina find her way to forgiveness, and could it finally be time for her to open her heart to love again?

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

This was my third book in the French series – I didn’t necessarily read them in the correct order but it didn’t present any problems at all, they can all be read interchangeably.

Fiona Valpy has this ability to write characters so well that they become your friends, even part of your family.

I’ve found the three books comely different in tone to the first of hers that I read – The Storyteller of Casablanca – but where she excels across all four books is her character creation, and pure beauty in her prose. The protagonist Gina. Is a delight, her auntie Liz is a beautiful soul, the characters on the periphery complimenting the both of them perfectly. And then you get those characters that, whilst brilliantly written, you don’t like so much – like Ed and Nigel. But the others make you feel like you’re part of this community.

Oh the idea of taking yourself off somewhere in the countryside (French or otherwise) with a glass of wine in hand and a handsome man down the round just sounds like bliss.

There’s no real twists and turns or red herrings which I’m glad of, as they would have felt out of place. Instead you get a warming, cosy book full of love, laughter and friendship.

I felt myself physically smiling whilst reading this, my shoulders relaxed and I just felt very peaceful. I ignored the real world for a little bit; I felt comforted by this book.

I appreciated how simply Fiona writes about Gina’s job as a wine buyer. When the characters understand a job, then it can be hard to explain it to the reader without it feeling jarring to the characters, but she’s provided enough for us to get a taste of the job but without it being overwhelming or confusingly technical. Her job is just part of her as a person.

One thing I did like was the little additions of the odd French word or sentence. Obviously, French people are going to speak French, but with an English protagonist and an English-speaking audience, there has to be a fine balance between the two languages. I admit my French is a little rusty but Fiona has chosen the right places to drop a phrase or a word so you get a firmer feel for it being set in French but you are able to follow the conversation.

I read all three books in as many days. Fiona Valpy is fast becoming a go-to author for me. These are reprint editions of three books previously published, and whilst I know there are only three in the series, I wish so much that she writes at least one more….or two, or maybe three.

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