I know Thanksgiving is right around the corner here in the US, but would it really be Thanksgiving if Christmas didn’t edge it out and get top billing from time to time? My brain has been buried in holiday-themed romance books since before Halloween, so it shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that I’m ready to “deck them halls and all that good stuff.” All of this Christmas talk made me remember a book I read and loved back in 2014.
The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy mesmerized me. I made everyone around me read it immediately and even arranged a book club to discuss it as quickly as possible! This book gave me feelings, so many feelings I simply couldn’t keep them to myself. I suppose we can lump it in with foodie books because our heroine, Evie, escapes to a quiet countryside hamlet in France after a sadly traumatic event and the resulting demise of her already troublesome marriage. She takes her grandmother’s recipe books to do a little soul searching and comfort food eating while she regroups, oh, and her ex is a celebrity chef. There’s definitely a foodie element in this book, we get grand descriptions of preparations surrounding Le Reveillon de Noel, traditional Christmas Eve dinner. One could classify The French for Christmas as a women’s fiction. Still, if you only think of it that way, you are missing the beautiful romance that takes place between Evie and her temporary neighbor for the holidays, Doctor Didier. He, much like Evie, is going through it. Both characters have suffered and are protecting their hearts for very legitimate reasons. The emotions are so intensely portrayed, the world around you will haze out, and you will feel transported to the snowy village setting. Make no mistake, this book deals with substantial emotional growth, but it never slights the healing properties of a good, old-fashioned romance, complete with the ex showing up unannounced to throw cement into the beginnings of love. A douse of cold water thrown on Evie’s slowly thawing heart, if you will.
Also of note, the cast of secondary characters. The village is practically abandoned, but the older couple across the way is almost too pure for this world. Everything about Evie’s new situation reads like a warm hug – the setting, the neighbor, the grand parently folks across the way that refuse to let her drown in her misery, even the frigid weather, oddly enough, feels like a comforting warm hug. The food Evie prepares is also somewhat of a secondary character. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a scene surrounding the making of a Tarte Tatin that felt like such a character’s building block before. It’s remarkable and delicious and oh so romantic in so many different ways.
Valpy writes with such emotion, you will feel every single experience Evie feels, you will go through it with her, vividly, and you will cry, but you will also feel uplifted. The emotional upheaval both Evie and the good doctor Didier go through is entirely captivating. I have re-read this book at least four times since my first read. It is the perfect book to read by a cozy fire, under a blanket with tissues, tea, and thick, cozy socks. I can not recommend this book enough, take some time and find yourself a copy of this #TBT book, you’ll cry, but you’ll like it! I think it would be the perfect read to get you in the mood for the holidays.