Bask in some winter sun with this charming holiday romance. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: When Annie Roberts has the chance to escape rainy Accrington for the glamour of sunny Nice, it seems like a dream come true, even if it does involve dog-sitting a pampered pooch for the winter.
But, once in France, despite trying to adopt a classy persona, Annie attracts the attention of all the wrong people: from Jacques, an attractive waiter, to Reen, a perma-tanned expat from the Costa del Sol. And just who is the charming Monsieur Xavier who is so keen to befriend her? Dare she enlist his help to solve the mystery left behind by her France-obsessed mother? Can Annie find her way through all the lies, intrigue and deception or is she just too nice for Nice?
Last year I was delighted to read and review Lynn Forth’s debut, Love in La La Land (click on the title for my review). I’m very pleased to report she’s back with her second novel: a story set slightly closer to home than the bright lights of LA. In Love, Lies and Cafe au Lait we follow the main character, Annie, to Nice as she takes a break from the greyness of her life in Manchester, propelled to the south of France by her more colourful friend, Sophie. If you can only dream of getting away to some winter sun, this novel has it in spades as we join Annie exploring the old town, trying to blend in with the locals at the market and finding a regular cafe where she can simply relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Annie is endearingly down-to-earth. No matter how many fancy scarves sophisticated Sophie folds into a capsule wardrobe for her, Annie never ascends to aloof French levels of effortless chic and thankfully remains relatable and sympathetic.
If you prefer to read about “larger” personalities, don’t worry. The supporting cast contains a few more outlandish characters, particularly Reen, a surprise upstairs neighbour whose love of bling is as subtle as the clip clopping of her towering heels. Her evolving relationship with Annie was my favourite, and begins with Annie getting herself into a funny fix, the resulting awkwardness being instantly recognisable to anyone who has struggled to balance being polite to others with just wanting to spend some time alone!
Of course this is also a romance and although Annie avoids helping her friend Sophie plan her wedding by fleeing to France, it’s not long before she finds a potential romance of her own. As you’d expect, the road to her own happily ever after contains a few bumps, including some linguistic troubles as Annie struggles to deploy her schoolgirl French. I particularly enjoyed some of the Franglais and no, you don’t need advanced French to understand what’s going on!
Finally, I loved how the story was a sort of time capsule of recent history. The events of the narrative are set in 1999, taking in the arrival of the new millennium (yes, I double-checked I spelled that correctly. I had trouble 18 years ago and have never been confident about it!). It was lovely to read a romance set in a time before Google and Facebook, when acquaintances remained a mystery until you’d spoken to them several times and actually asked them personal questions, rather than getting out your smart phone and scanning all their social media profiles to find everything about them bar their inside leg measurement.
Overall: with winter starting to set in, Love, Lies and Café au Lait is a great choice if you want to escape to warmer climes in good company.
You can get your own copy of Love, Lies and Café au Lait at Amazon.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul