What’s it all about?:
Alice Calwin finds herself without purpose in life after the death of her mother, whom she’d been caring for following a stroke. Theo Edwards, a literary journalist, has a sour outlook on life, bolstered by his ongoing divorce, and is feeling the pressure to revitalise his column in the newspaper. They encounter one another at a writers’ retreat in France, but Alice’s shameful past and Theo’s deceptive reasons for being there end up affecting them both in very different ways. When someone finally acknowledges their mistakes, is it ever too late to make amends?
What did I think?:
First of all, a big thank you to the lovely Faye Rogers for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the author and publishers for providing me with a free copy of this novel in return for an honest review. Contemporary fiction is one of my favourite genres to read and on doing a bit of research on the author, I discovered she likes to write “crime and contemporary fiction with a dark edge,” – well, perfect for me I thought! As I began reading, I did wonder where the dark aspect would reveal itself but soon enough, it certainly appears and I was engrossed from that point onwards.
Our main character is forty-something Alice Calwin who has recently experienced the terrible loss of her beloved mother and confidante. Her death wasn’t exactly a shock, Alice had been her primary carer after a stroke but Alice misses her deeply and, being quite a nervous and shy individual, is not certain how to deal with the new hole in her life. One of her few joys in life is to write (usually in the romance genre) and when she sees an advertisement for a writing retreat in France, she thinks it might be the perfect way to get some writing done, get some advice about her writing and gradually open herself up to the possibility of socialising and meeting new people, perhaps even one day someone special of her own.
There are a whole host of interesting characters that join Alice on the retreat but the stand out person for her that she ends up becoming involved with is a man called Theo Edwards, who unfortunately for Alice, is there for darker reasons than being an author. He is a writer, of sorts, but a literary journalist who normally writes book reviews for a paper but has recently become disillusioned with his job. As he sees the same advertisement for the writing retreat, he hatches a plan with his editor that he will book himself onto the retreat undercover as a potential unpublished author but instead provide insider secrets and juicy gossip about the individuals that would go on this kind of adventure.
Theo finds some brilliant fodder for his columns in the personalities of the characters that go on the retreat – the two old ladies that love their cosy mysteries, Marlon the personal trainer who appears to harbour a guilty secret, Clive, the gay thriller writer who only has eyes for Marlon, Zoe, the young sexy erotica writer who also fancies Marlon (and almost anything else that is male with a pulse) and then Alice, herself who seems to intrigue Theo the most. He is certain that she has had some kind of personal tragedy in her life to make her the woman that she is and he uses all the charm at his disposal to get her to open up to him whilst writing his columns depicting all her flaws and how pathetic he feels she really is. Everything comes to a head one evening at the retreat when something terrible happens that rocks the worlds of all the characters at the house and exposes a few for who they really are. It is only after this incident and after the retreat is over that lies are exposed and some characters lives are changed forever as a result.
I have to admit, when I first began this novel, I thought I would be able to predict what would happen. However, the author completely floored me with certain things that occurred…(no spoilers here!) and I found myself pleasantly surprised and at the same time, quite horrified with the turn of events. The characters are all fascinating although at times I alternated between feeling slightly irritated and desperately sorry for Alice as she fell under the spell of dastardly Theo – by the way, such a brilliant character to hate! Nevertheless, the tables do turn and by the end of the novel, I had quite a different opinion of the villain of the piece, which was quite a feat considering how much I disliked him in the beginning! The ending was particularly bitter sweet and I find myself still thinking about Alice and worrying about her future (as you do with fictional characters who get under your skin?!). This was the first novel I’ve read by Hemmie Martin and after this effort, I would definitely consider reading another.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Mental Health Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France. She now writes full time.
Hemmie created the DI Wednesday series, featuring DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, set in and around Cambridge, with fictional villages. There are four books in the series so far. Hemmie has also written a psychological thriller, Attic of the Mind, and two contemporary women’s fiction, The Divine Pumpkin and Garlic & Gauloises. Mental health often features in her novels due to her background of forensic mental health nursing. Hemmie is a member of The Crime Writer’s Association.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? Garlic And Gauloises was released on 11th December 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing and is available in both paperback and e-book format from all good bookshops now!
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28140205-garlic-gauloises
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/194105837X