The Olive Farm. {An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France. Very International.}

Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen aged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…..it’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

Food: Caponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Agatha Raisin – The books and the TV series

M.C. Beaton writes two series – 27 books so far in the Agatha Raisin series and 33 books in the Hamish MacBeth series. For years I have been enjoying the Agatha Raisin books but I am no where near caught up to her exploits.

I was delighted to see Acorn TV produced a television series based on the books. There is already a long running series for Hamish MacBeth starring Robert Carlyle, but I haven’t gottern interested in that one as of yet.

agathaRaisin So, how do the Agatha Raisin books compare to the TV show? From the first two episodes they actually follow the plot well.  The physical differences are quite different for me but then, we all get certain ideas as to what a book character looks like as we read.

TV Agatha is much prettier and more physically fit than the book version.  Also, the TV character James Lacey (a romantic interest of Agatha’s) is younger and quite dishy, in my opinion.  Overall the plot does follow the books and I hope they continue with the series.

There was a TV series on back in the 1990’s called Murder, She Wrote.  Jessica Fletcher was the amateur sleuth, using her charm and persistance to solve crimes.  This is rather an English version of that old show but with a Bridget Jones’ twist to our main character.  If you like mysteries and love to see the English countryside, this is a show I think you would enjoy.

There is a YouTube video at the bottom of this post if you’d like to get a preview of the show. I love the scenery!

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

forbiddengarden  What I liked about this book:

  1.   It’s set in England.  The descriptions of the country estate and the London museums were interesting to me.
  2.   There is a mystery about the failing garden, something about a Kirkwood family curse. The idea if a mystery intrigued me.
  3.   The descriptions of gardening and the ability to grow so many herbs, flowers and vegetables – how I wish I had that talent.
  4.   The cover is colorful and invites you pick the book up for a quick look, especially if you are a sucker for a pretty book cover.
  5. There are passages about food throughout the book. Eggs with chives, Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies….. I prepared a Shepherd’s Pie as my representative dish.  It’s the first meal Andrew prepared for Sorrel Sparrow.

What I didn’t care for:

Unbeknownst to me there was a previous book called The Sparrow Sisters.  When I started reading The Forbidden Garden I felt like I was missing something, a backstory that wasn’t explained by the author.  After looking online I saw there was a previous book.  That would have fleshed out the characters more for me if I’d known and read it first.  Mystery solved.

This book was advertised as “Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden.Well……..there is a garden in England and there is a bit of mystery but, not at all like Kate Morton in my opinion.  That may come as a disappointment to some readers if they absolutely love Kate Morton, so I wanted to mention that. The mystery has more to do with enchantment….think about Alice Hoffman books instead.

The allusion to magic had me shrug my shoulders – Meh. Witchcraft wasn’t mentioned but it’s hinted at as an innate magical and mystical ability within each of the Sparrow sisters as they handle the soil in the gardens and make potions.

Predictable ending but that doesn’t always put me off a book.  Sometimes you can figure it out and sometimes it’s obvious who the love interests and culprits will be.

Overall a solid B rating for the writing and descriptive passages.

Here is the vegetarian version of Shepherd’s Pie. Lots of beans and freshly cut vegetables. Now Andrew prepared a version using ground lamb.  We have also done that and it’s quite good.  That recipe may be found HERE.

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About the author

Ellen Herrick lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a small seaside town very much like Granite Point. She spent nearly ten years in the book publishing business as a publicist before moving to to England where she raised three children and traveled like crazy. After sixteen years in London, it was the ocean that called her home.

  • I won an advanced reader’s copy of this book from LibraryThing.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

chilburyLet me start by saying I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down and now I am aching for more from this author.

We start with a notice pinned to Village Hall noticeboard:

As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close following Cmdr. Edmund Winthrop’s funeral next Tuesday.

The Vicar

This is an era where women didn’t usually speak up for themselves but there were a few strong female voices in this village. Why not continue and have a ladies choir? It would be a morale booster in such dismal times. Scandalous!   These  stories focus on the resourcefulness of women during very difficult times. It’s not solely about the choir so if that sounds like a snooze – think again.

There is quite a cast of characters in this book. The stories are told through diary entries from several points of view as well as letters penned to friends and loved ones.  As you read bits and pieces the story lines dovetail into a fairly satisfying conclusion – tales of affairs, deception, blackmail, love, bravery and great sadness. If your reading tastes include stories set in the WW II era in England and you like a journal and letter writing format – you will LOVE this book.

You’ll get to know so many personalities from the village in the early days of WW II.

There are the Winthrops, a high society family with an overbearing father called the Brigadier. He bullies everyone and has secrets which could land him in jail. His daughters, Kitty and Venetia, tell the stories of the village, the war effort, and the forming of the Ladies Choir.

From Kitty Winthrop’s Diary
“ They announced on the wireless that keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for stamina, so I’ve decided to write down all my thoughts and dreams in my old school notebook…..”

Besides Kitty’s diary entries you have the point of view of Mrs. Tilling, a nurse, and 10 year old Czech evacutee Silvie. Between the diary entries and the interspersed letters from Venetia Winthrop to her friend Angela Quail living in London and letters from Miss Paltry to her sister, you will enjoy several interwoven stories and slowly piece it all together.

I became a fan of Mrs. Tilling and loathed Miss Paltry.  Now I am wondering when the author will produce another novel because I am anxious to read more.

As I like maps, a bonus was the legend and map in the beginning so you can follow the characters around.

map

More about the author:   Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, England and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Tales of Yesterday for the British Book Challenge

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Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

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Watching the Dark is the twentieth book in the DCI Banks series.  I only have three books left and I will be bereft, waiting for the latest publication.  Guess I will need a new series to tuck into as I am also awaiting the next Tana French novel with her Dublin Murder Squad series.   {insert pouty face)

This book starts out with a former Detective Inspector Bill Quinn found dead at a convalescence facility.  He was there recuperating from an injury when someone lured him to the lakeside and shot him with a cross bow.  What an unusual murder weapon. DI Quinn had a case involving a missing young woman he obsessed over.  She was a young English girl who went to a “hen party” with friends in Estonia.  Now my thought there was – why go to Estonia?  Evidently it was inexpensive and quite a popular thing to do.  That was 6 years ago but Bill Quinn was obsessed with her disappearance.  Did that have something to do with his murder?

This book introduced a policewoman from  Professional Standards. Joanna Passero is assigned to assist with Banks’ investigation but it’s not a smooth partnership.  Joanna is correctly viewed with suspicion as she is a member of the “Rat Squad”,  a section operating on investigating their own for misconduct. The dialogue is good and I enjoyed this book.  Not as much as other DCI Banks’ books but this kept me turning the pages.

One of my favorite detectives, DI Annie Cabbot is back after her extended stay at the same facility.  In the last book she was shot and I am mighty pleased to see her return.

So, my advice is to not skip around too much on these books as you may miss something regarding professional and personal developments.  Backstory.

Food – there is always food just as there is always a mention of music.

When the landlord came around to take their orders, Merike said she wasn’t hungry. The other three ordered. Banks went for his favorite, smoked haddock with a poached egg, leeks mushrooms and Gruyere cheese.

Well I couldn’t get haddock but I usually improvise with recipes or menus.  It was grilled Grouper (one of my favorites) with potatoes and a vegetable mix of leeks, garlic, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

Tales of Yesterday for the British Book Challenge

Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.


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BBC Radio 3 – Peter Robinson Interview

For anyone who is a regular reader of this blog it’s no secret I am a huge fan of author Peter Robinson.  To my delight I recently read about a radio program where Peter will talk about his love of music, how he is inspired to write the DCI Banks’ novels and much more.

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I have taken the liberty of quoting from this advertisement on BBC Radio:

“There’s a memorable line where Robinson says of his detective – “He did his best thinking when he was listening to music and drinking wine.” This, Robinson reveals, is autobiographical.

In Private Passions, Peter Robinson talks to Michael Berkeley about how music inspires his best thinking and writing, and why he’s on a mission to get all his readers listening to the music he loves. He even creates online playlists of the music his detective listens to – including some of the music he chooses in Private Passions. Choices include Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Wind, Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, Takemitsu, Miles Davis, and one of Schubert’s last piano sonatas. Perhaps it’s no surprise that he’s drawn to last works – as a crime writer, his books begin with murder. Robinson confesses though that he regrets the increasing violence of the genre, and thinks the TV adaptations of his work go too far. And he reveals why Yorkshire is always the best place to hide a body.”

If you want to tune into this program or just check out other BBC programs click HERE

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Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Bad Boy by Peter Robinson

bad-boyThis is book number 19 in the DCI Banks series.  Only 4 more novels to go and I will be drumming my fingers awaiting the newest book.  In spite of Peter Robinson being one of my favorite writers, I haven’t breezed through his books, one after another.

DCI Banks is to be savored, in my opinion, as the character ages and grows in his life and career. When I started this series his children were young and attending school.  Now they are adults and their story lines intersect on occasion. While the majority of the story is focused on police investigation and mystery, a slice of his personal life is interjected here and there.  Obviously I am a fan.

This story opens up with an old friend and neighbor of Banks arriving at Eastvale Police Station to report the discovery of a firearm in her daughter Erin’s bedroom.  Alan Banks is on extended leave, vacationing in the American southwest so DI Annie Cabbot handles the situation.  The woman isn’t thrilled with Banks’ absence but reluctantly gives the details to DI Cabbot.

Owning or possessing a firearm in the UK isn’t a common or simple affair as it is here in the US. It’s illegal to have an unregistered firearm so the consequences are quite strict.   First off I thought, does this woman know she is turning in her daughter and that she will most likely be sent to prison?!  I can’t conceive of doing that to my child.  It’s mentioned that the lady most likely didn’t know the consequences and just wanted the gun out of her home.

Turns out DCI Banks’ daughter Tracy is a friend and roommate of Erin.  They had a bit of a falling out over Erin’s boyfriend and that is why Erin was home with her parents.  Fast forward and Tracy is with the boyfriend, letting him know Erin may be arrested.  This basically sets in motion  a dumpster fire of a situation as the boyfriend is indeed, a bad boy.  A very bad man in fact and Tracy realizes too late she is serious danger.

There is murder, police investigations, a man hunt for a psychopath and danger for my favored vegetarian DI Annie Cabbot. What a story – I couldn’t put this one down.

To reveal more would be adding spoilers so I will stop here.  Looking forward to more…only 4 books left {sob} and then I will be like an addict awaiting Mr. Robinson’s latest!

Adding my review to Goodreads, The British Book Challenge and Joy’s British Isles Friday

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