Featured bedtime read: The French House
CC is trapped by a job she no longer loves in an unfriendly city.
So when her new boyfriend decides it's time to sell up and move to the South of France, she decides in seconds to change her life. After all, who wouldn't pick an azure sea, aperitifs and sunshine over a dreary commute and a rainy climate?
She hadn't expected a tumbledown farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Or a motley assortment of surly builders, eccentric farmers and and a resentful, terrifying neighbour — who happens to be her boyfriend's aunt.
Suddenly, CC's dream of a place in the sun is looking more like a nightmare. Does she have the courage to stick it out, and make a home of her French house?
THE BIG SKY
When I get to Nice airport, I am expecting my new boyfriend to be ready and waiting, pulling faces at me through the glass as I watch for my suitcase to appear on the carousel.
I'm already in a heightened state of anticipation about this trip because, however it goes, it will influence our future. If I like it here as much as Victor seems to, then we could end up together in France. If I don't… well, that hardly bears thinking about.
When he still hasn't appeared by the time I drag my suitcase out into the arrivals hall, I feel a spike of anxiety.
The French House is good news for those who enjoyed The Case of the Missing Boyfriend because we re-meet CC who has finally fallen in love. But worry not if you didn't read Nick Alexander's prequel because The French House works just fine as a stand alone book — one which opens with startling overtones of Grand Designs meets A Place in the Sun. Only CC, our Irish lass from London, has chosen to make the break to France not in the balmy summer sun, but in the bleak mid-winter. She joins her boyfriend Victor, who is renovating a tumble-down cottage in the Alps.
Well, actually it's more of a ruin really.
In theory, this is a stupendous romantic adventure, and sure enough there are high points: CC tells us that in the evenings they sit on blankets and drink aperitifs, and stare wide-eyed at the day's progress. And then sometimes, on the same blankets, in the same mixture of moonlight and firelight, 'we make love and I have never felt happier'.
But how quickly things can change.
Cue mudslides, dead kittens, tarot cards, a mystery illness, collapsing walls, and of course a collapsing love life. Where is Victor when CC needs him? In the wrong part of France of course! 'Oh là là, Victor'.
This book is rollicking good fun. It's both frank and, on occasion, a little fruity. For CC in bed, sometimes it's slow, gentle, rhythmic heaven. It is a quasi-spiritual experience. At other times, well, you'll just have to read it for yourself. Suffice to say, author Nick Alexander shares more than the French landscape with his readers.
Interestingly, I spent much of the book wondering whether the scribe behind the story was a man or a woman. His emotional grasp of ebbs and flows within relationships showed glimpses of, dare I say it, female intuition, while earthier sex scenes struck me as a little more male in perspective.
I left the gender reveal until after I'd finished the book. Nick lives in France, self-published his first book, a gay novel Fifty Reasons to say Goodbye, and is indeed a man. A man who knows how to hold his reader.
The French House could have been a classic, lifestyle story, with CC simply ditching smelly London for bright, breezy France and overcoming any DIY challenges along the way — Kevin Macloud eat your heart out! This book is so much more than a home improvement monologue. It's about survival, alone on the mountains, CC soon realises that 'I am not welcome here and somebody near by who is superstitious, does not wish me well.' But dodgy neighbours aside, it's also a story about friendship and family… oh yes, and lurve!
Victor Je t'aime, but will CC still love Victor at the end of their grande French experiment?
Listen to Tessa's review
Alexander has written a hugely loveable book, endearingly funny, bang up to date and spot on the truth.- Red
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