Sizzling summer reads

Explore different areas of France in fact and fiction as Peter Stewart recommends the best holiday stories

FICTION

CHÂTEAU OF SECRETS

Melanie Dobson

Howard Books, £9.05

During World War II, Gisèle Duchant, a brave young noblewoman, guards a secret that could have fatal repercussions; her brother and his friends – all Resistance fighters – are hiding in the tunnels underneath the family’s château in Normandy. When German soldiers take over the building, Gisèle is forced to act as host and soon finds herself taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, whom she passes off as her own child. Seventy years later, Gisèle’s granddaughter arrives at the now-abandoned château and uncovers shocking secrets. Dobson’s story weaves the past with the present and gives a vivid portrayal of wartime France.

THE HALF-LIFE OF HANNAH

Most Read

Nick Alexander

Black & White Publishing, £7.99

Happily married mother-of-one Hannah has long forgotten about the profound dreams of her youth, focusing instead on the satisfactions of everyday life. After convincing her husband Cliff to rent a villa for a summer holiday in the south of France, Hannah looks forward to a pleasant time in the sun. Then a phone call at the villa heralds the arrival of a new guest and threatens to destroy the tranquil atmosphere, as Hannah finds herself questioning everything she knew. The author, who lives part of the year in Nice, has produced an unpredictable read that keeps you guessing to the end.

A FÊTE TO REMEMBER

Julia Stagg

Hodder, £7.99

Summer has arrived in Fogas, in the Pyrénées, and the village is en fête. However, deputy mayor Christian Dupuy has no time to celebrate because he is trying to work out how to approach the woman who has captured his heart. He is also embroiled in a local political struggle that threatens to wipe his beloved village off the map. In the fourth in the Fogas series, Julia Stagg once again uses her experience of living in the Pyrénées to provide an amusing insight into French country life.

WHEN I WAS YOUNG

Mary Fitzgerald

Arrow, £5.99

The year is 1950 and 16-year-old Eleanor sets off for the Loire Valley on a French exchange. She soon discovers that the beauty of the region is in marked contrast to its inhabitants and that her host family is tormented by memories of the German occupation during World War II. As secrets start to be exposed, Eleanor begins to understand the legacy of war, and when death strikes the vineyard, she learns just how redemptive love can be. This coming-of-age tale, seen through Eleanor’s eyes, is an engrossing read.

CITADEL

Kate Mosse

Orion, £7.99

The final part of Kate Mosse’s multi-million-selling Languedoc trilogy, now out in paperback, is set in Nazi-occupied France in 1942. The heroine, Sandrine, joins a Resistance group in Carcassonne, where she meets Raoul, and together they discover a shared passion for their cause, their native France and each other. Infused with local atmosphere and featuring a wealth of fascinating historical information, the novel combines a thrilling adventure with an epic love story.

THE FRENCH PROMISE

Fiona McIntosh

Allison and Busby, £7.99

Luc and Lisette Ravens – a former French Resistance fighter and a one-time spy for the British – have survived the war in Europe and sailed to Tasmania in search of a new life. However, a startling discovery made by a Swiss law student forces the couple to return to Provence. In this sequel to The Lavender Keeper Australian writer Fiona McIntosh sweeps readers up in a tale of courage, determination and eternal love.

NON-FICTION

THE ROAD TO LE THOLONET: A FRENCH GARDEN JOURNEY

Monty Don

Simon & Schuster, £8.99

Fans of the BBC Two programme Gardeners’ World will delight in presenter Monty Don’s book, which features the gardens that he discovered as a teenager travelling through France. He includes many fascinating stories, including political feuds and marital intrigues, as well as highlighting the often unknown gardeners who tended to the majestic landscapes. Food and wine feature heavily, with visits to vegetable, herb and fruit gardens as well as advice on making an exquisite tarte Tatin and keeping the perfect potager.

PARIS AT THE END OF THE WORLD

John Baxter

Harper Perennial, £10.99

From bestselling author John Baxter comes a remarkable portrait of the City of Light during World War I. He presents a city threatened by invasion and bombardment, only 50 miles from the trenches and within shelling range of Germany’s so-called ‘Paris gun’. Yet many of its residents led an uninhibited lifestyle, with aristocrats throwing decadent parties and avant-garde artists reaching new creative heights. The Paris-based writer shows how this extraordinary period was essential in forging the spirit of the city that is loved by so many today.

DIRTY BERTIE: AN ENGLISH KING MADE IN FRANCE

Stephen Clarke

Century, £20

Paris-based author and FRANCE Magazine columnist Stephen Clarke delves into the future King Edward VII’s secret life in France in the late 19th century, from his affairs with actresses and can-can dancers to his friendships with royalists and revolutionaries. In this witty account, Clarke concludes that Edward’s promiscuous lifestyle made him a successful monarch and that he learnt the most important things of life from the French.

THE SUMMER QUEEN

Elizabeth Chadwick

Sphere, £6.99

One of medieval Europe’s most fascinating female figures, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is brought to life in the first instalment of a trilogy by the popular historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick. As queen consort of both France and England at different times in her life, Eleanor was to wield huge power and influence. The story begins in 1137 when, as the 13-year-old Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor married the future Louis VII and embarked on a life at the sophisticated French court.

KINDLE

HOTEL PARADISE

Carol Drinkwater

Amazon, 99p

The writer and FRANCE Magazine columnist Carol Drinkwater combines intrigue and suspense with the enticing sights and sounds of the Côte d’Azur in this Kindle Single. The story concerns a songwriter called Genevieve Bowles who is invited to the refurbished Hotel Paradise after attending the Cannes Film Festival. It is a hotel that she visited 12 years before – and which has haunted her ever since.

A PARIS APARTMENT

Michelle Gable

Thomas Dunne, £9.49

When American auctioneer April Vogt is asked to catalogue the contents of a Parisian apartment that has been closed to the world for 70 years, she jumps at the chance to visit the City of Light. In the flat she comes across a portrait from the Belle Époque and soon discovers letters from the woman featured in the painting. Intrigued, she decides to find out more about her life. Intertwining romance and mystery, past and present, Gable’s colourful debut makes an engrossing page-turner.

THE FRENCH FOR ALWAYS

Fiona Valpy

Bookouture, £1.59

Leaving behind England’s grey skies to transform a dilapidated château amid the vineyards of Bordeaux into a wedding venue is a mammoth task for Sara, especially when her fiancé Gavin leaves her in the lurch. Faced with the prospect of losing everything, it’s a race against time for Sara to save Château Bellevue as she prepares to organise five weddings during the summer season. Fiona Valpy’s story transports readers to the sunshine of south-west France and might even persuade you to buy a property of your own.