Featured bedtime read: A French Affair

By Katie Fforde, 2013

3 out of 5

Gina and Sally Makepiece have inherited a stall in the French House - an antiques centre nestled in the heart of the English countryside.

Gina is determined to drag the French House and its grumpy owner into the twenty-first century. Bearing all the attributes of a modern-day Mr. Rochester, Matthew Ballinger is less than happy with the whirlwind that has arrived on his doorstep.

The last thing either of them want is to fall in love.

But will a trip to France change their minds?

Chapter One

'I'm saying this more in horror than in anger, sweets, but are you really going like that?'

Gina shot her sister a look that combined irritation, amusement and a touch of exasperation. They were in the car on the main road to Cranmore-on-the-Green and turning back to revamp her outfit was not an option. Sally's little girls were asleep in the back and Gina found it easier to drive if they were not singing and squabbling and spilling cartons of juice in her car. she wanted to get as far into the journey as possible before they woke up.

Katie Fforde does chick lit, that's her schtick and she does it very well — A Recipe for Love, Summer of Love, The Rose Revived. And A French Affair is more evidence that Fforde knows her game. The tone's easy and the plot engaging, if a tad predictable — but then we are talking light-hearted lurve.

Cue sisters Gina and Sally Makepeace, who discover themselves in an unexpected predicament, courtesy of a letter from a dead aunt: "You're probably wondering what this is all about. Let's just say, I'm a meddling old woman, but indulge me. I want my lovely nieces to discover the joy of the antique business."

So far, so simple, but PR girl Gina is not someone to tackle a challenge half-heartedly. Lucky then that she's promised herself men are currently off the menu; it wouldn't do to have her getting sidetracked by old-fashioned brooding Matthew Ballenger, owner of the French House, an antiques store in the Cotswolds, and owner of one over-sized Irish wolf hound, Oscar.

Needless to say, despite Matthew's gruff exterior, even Gina has to admit he's got a charming smile. And, it doesn't take long before Gina is wondering — just wondering mind — what it would be like to have Matthew as a boyfriend. Needless to say, she banished the thought quickly. Apparently Gina needed a man like a hole in the head! But then as we know, what us girls need and what we want are two very different things. No worries, there's always the antiques business to get stuck in to.

As a reader, you learn along with Gina:
"This is a nice little chest of drawers."
"No Gina, it's actually a commode… Nineteenth century, with some later paint and fittings."

Thanks Matthew. Men who know their stuff are always attractive…

Shame that Matthew also insists on doing a perfect impression of Mr. Grumpy for no good reason. But then we discover that he has issues of his own — emotional and financial baggage. Don't we all Matthew?

Still, Gina would be a fool to get involved, wouldn't she? And what about her sister Sally, whose ability with tea lights, home décor, and syrupy domestic scenes prove just a little too much for me. At least tickety-boo Gina isn't a smug married. That said, I felt a smidgen short-changed on the romantic front. I don't need heaving bodices and protracted sex scenes. But Fforde leaves a little too much to the vivid print of imagination — 'deep kissing' is about as hot as she gets. Which I guess makes this book good, clean fun.

It's a simple escape route from the humdrum of daily life, which we need as — let's face it — the official beach reading season is a whole two months away.

Listen to Tessa's review

More reviews

  • Top drawer romantic escapism.- Daily Mail
  • Katie Fforde is on sparkling form.- Independent
  • Gorgeous humour and the lightest of touches.- Sunday Times
  • Read user reviews on Amazon

More about the author

Katie Fforde

Katie Fforde lives in Gloucestershire with her family. Recently her old hobbies of ironing and housework have given way to singing, Flamenco dancing and husky racing!

Find out more