#familydrama #friendship #adult themes
The French Summer Novels are a series of contemporary romances set in the stunning French Basque country, following the lives of two sisters, Caroline and Annabel, and their friends. In this prequel we step back in time to meet Alexandra, their mother, and learn more about her story in the years before her fatal car crash. When Alexandra dies, she takes with her a terrible secret …
Yorkshire, 1991: the summer that everything changed.
Alexandra and her seven-year-old daughter, Caroline, arrive in the village of Haworth to spend a holiday with Alexandra’s best friend from school, Juliet. Though the years have passed, the two friends quickly fall into their old intimacy, sharing reminiscences and comparing the different paths their lives have taken. Juliet seems to have it all – marriage to childhood sweetheart, Alan, two children and an adorable grandchild – while Alexandra is a troubled soul, an only child brought up in a dysfunctional family, prone to bouts of depression since the birth of Caroline, and becoming more and more estranged from husband Robbie.
But life with the boisterous, touchy-feely Pearson family in their rambling disorganised house starts to lift Alexandra’s spirits. Hot sunny days filled with long walks across the purple moors, leisurely picnics, drinks on the terrace in the evening, laughing at the antics of Caroline and the family collie, Bonnie. Oliver, the Pearson son, usually joins in the fun, ready to top up the drinks or join Caroline and Bonnie in their game of catch.
A perfect summer idyll, which is about to be shattered by violence and betrayal.
Underneath the surface, tensions build and emotions come to the boil. Cath, the Pearson’s second child, is a teenage Mum, eking out a precarious existence with a shifty, unreliable partner, a less than ideal father for the couple’s baby son. Their situation is a source of friction and worry for Juliet, who’s also bracing herself for the departure of 19-year-old Oliver, the golden boy, off to Cambridge in September. Young Caroline is missing her Daddy, on a business trip to New York, and burdened by feelings of responsibility to a ‘fragile’ Mummy, who needs looking after.
And meanwhile, through an innocent gesture, an unguarded look, a spark ignites, a flame is lit, a forbidden desire grows. As the characters go about their normal routines, two of them become caught up in an escalating conflict, torn between the demands of loyalty and friendship and the irresistible urges of the human heart. As the holiday draws to an end, events take a sudden, dramatic turn, setting off a chain reaction that will change the lives of everyone forever.
Compelling and Flawlessly written ~5 stars
I have yet to read the series of contemporary romances that comprise the French Summer Novels, but having read the observations of Caroline, my co-blogger, I jumped at the chance to review this prequel. The Passage of Desire is the story of Alexandra, the mother of the sisters, Caroline and Annabel, of the later novels Biarritz Passion and Hot Basque.
In the book Juliet, Alexandra’s childhood friend invites her and her daughter Caroline to stay with her in her family home on the Yorkshire moors. Alexandra, whose husband is away on business, is going through a low point in her life but soon begins to bloom again and under the summer sun, with her friend’s easy going attitude and the healthy country air, she begins to heal herself.
Indeed, there is much to distract her with Juliet’s own offspring: Cath, who has a young child and a volatile partner and Oliver who is about to leave the family home and go away to study. Alexandra’s own daughter is also deeply absorbed by the tangled relationships she witnesses as their visit draws to a close – I loved how the author reflected what is going on through her young eyes.
Throughout the read the author delves deeply into the emotions of two women and their families. It touches on all which makes us human; the different stages of life; family dynamics; intimate relationships and unexpected desire. The book is flawlessly written, with insight and sensitivity as the events, which will have life-changing repercussions for some, unfold.
The setting for the story, the wild and untamed Yorkshire moors, where emotions become freed and passions can often come to a head, is a metaphor for the tale itself. The reference in the book to Alexandra’s recollections of a teenage visit to The Passage of Desire in Paris is also allegorical, and its meaning reveals itself as the plot unravels. The descriptions of the various settings in the book, particularly the countryside, are vivid and beautifully written in a way that powerfully reflects the emotional journey of the characters.
I don’t want to reveal any of the plot as it would spoil the read, but suffice to say that I enjoyed the read immensely and thoroughly recommend it.
Reviewed by Tina Williams
Please note that a copy of this book was given to me by the authorfor the purpose of a fair and honest review.
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