Review: The Silk Romance, by Helena Fairfax

Leave a comment on the post to be entered into a draw for a free ebook of The Silk Romance! Do you like romances set in France? Draw will take place at the end of the tour.

Let me say straight off that this book was deliciously different, and yet, comfortably similar, to many other romances. And it was the differences that made this story fresh, and kept me reading past my bedtime…until I finished the book! Usually I don’t do that, but I was enjoying it so much that I absolutely had to.

What did I love? I loved that it was set in Lyon. I loved the silk factory, and that Jean-Luc was a racing driver turned businessman. And I loved that he and Sophie had a history. Stories where the couple have already parted once always seem a bit more intense to me. There’s always a harder uphill climb to the finale, old skeletons to put to rest on top of whatever the current tribulations happen to be. And Sophie and Jean-Luc have more than a few of both.

This is a great read. A good story, a believable and charming romance, and utterly delightful. Check out the blurb and the excerpt below!

The Silk Romance Blurb!

The Silk RomanceJean-Luc Olivier is a courageous racing driver, a hero to millions, with the world before him.  Sophie Challoner is a penniless student, whose face is unknown beyond her own rundown estate in London.  The night they spend together in Paris seems to Sophie like a fairytale—a Cinderella story without the happy ending. She knows she has no part in Jean-Luc’s future.  She made her dying mother a promise to take care of her father and brother in London.   One night of happiness is all Sophie allows herself. She runs away from Jean-Luc and returns to England to keep her promise.

Safely back home with her father and brother, and immersed in her college work, Sophie tries her best to forget their encounter, but she reckons without Jean-Luc.  He is determined to find out why she left him, and intrigued to discover the real Sophie.  He engineers a student placement Sophie can’t refuse, and so, unwillingly, she finds herself back in France, working for Jean-Luc in the silk mill he now owns.

Thrown together for a few short weeks in Lyon, the romantic city of silk, their mutual love begins to grow.  But it seems the fates are conspiring against Sophie’s happiness.  Jean-Luc has secrets of his own.  Then, when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep the sacred promise she made her mother.

The Excerpt!

Jean-Luc smiled.  “I tell you what,” he said, his head tilted to one side as he eyed her pleasantly.  “You answer one more question of mine, and then I’ll answer any questions of yours you want.  No holds barred.”

Maybe if Sophie hadn’t drunk the wine, she wouldn’t have been so relaxed.  Maybe her wits would have been sharper.  As it was, her answer came totally unguarded.

“Okay, I agree.” She sank back into her chair, brows lifted.  “What’s your question?”

Jean-Luc leaned forward slowly, the smile gone from his face.  With a shock, Sophie saw all trace of amiability leave him.  His eyes were hard as sapphires.

“I’ve asked you this question once,” he said, the words travelling low and swift over the table between them.  “And you didn’t answer.  Four years ago you left me alone in a hotel room.  Why?”

Sophie gasped.  “That’s not a fair question.”

The vehemence in her voice caused the waiter to jump and the coffee cups to rattle in his hands.  He cast a quick, startled glance in Sophie’s direction before pushing the coffee hurriedly into place.  Sophie sat up straight in her chair.

“And, actually, I prefer not to talk about the past,” she said.  The tone of her voice held a glacial iciness.  Her brother Jack would have known straight away it was pointless continuing the conversation.  Jean-Luc, as she was fast coming to realise, was not so easy to manipulate.

“I think my question is perfectly fair.”  He spoke mildly, but there was no escaping the steel in his voice.   “And more than that, I think you owe me an explanation.”

“I don’t owe you anything.”  Sophie picked up her cognac and took a gulp that left her spluttering.  Her undignified choking failed to move him.  He waited until she had finished and then continued implacably, his eyes never wavering from hers.

“I don’t agree.  That night you seduced me.  You pretended to be experienced, a groupie even, and all the time you were a virgin.”

“Keep your voice down,” Sophie hissed, looking round anxiously at the nearby diners.  Her face flamed scarlet, the bright blush a dead giveaway.  “And anyway, I did not seduce you.”

“I’m right, aren’t I?  You were a virgin.”  His eyes narrowed to dazzling slits.  “Do you think it’s a nice feeling, to be made use of?”

“I wasn’t making use of you,” Sophie protested.

And then it finally hit her.  With a shock of belated realisation, she finally understood how Jean-Luc must have construed the events of that night.  She stared horror-struck into his piercing gaze.  Then her cheeks began a slow burn of mortification.  He must have thought she’d had a one night stand to lose her virginity with a celebrity.  When she remembered that she’d told him afterwards she was engaged, too, she hung her head.  What must he have thought of her?

“That’s not how it was,” she whispered.  She twisted her napkin in her lap.  She hadn’t thought he would find their night together important.  His previous girlfriends were so glamorous, she thought she’d be one on the list, soon to be forgotten.

She lifted her eyes to his.   “It wasn’t how it seemed.  I didn’t think…”

The coldness in his expression brought her to a halt.

“You didn’t think,” he echoed, with an icy quiet.  “You didn’t think that I might actually have a heart.  That I might care.”

Sophie looked down at the creased napkin, a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.  There was nothing she could say.  It was true. She hadn’t thought he’d care.  In fact, she’d assumed him incapable of feeling.  She’d thought he was as heartless as the hangers-on who surrounded him.  When she dared to raise her eyes again, she found Jean-Luc hadn’t moved an inch.  His eyes had never left her, their hardness unyielding.

She pushed her untouched coffee away.

“I’d like to go home now,” she said quietly.  Her request sounded childish, even to her own ears, but she could no longer endure his justified anger. He continued to look at her for several long seconds.  Then he shrugged.

“Very well.  I will call for my car.  But understand this: I’m not asking you for an apology. I’m asking you for an explanation. And you still haven’t answered my question—so we will continue this discussion on the way home.”

“Oh no, I…” Sophie half rose out of her seat, but her protest came too late.  Jean-Luc had pushed back his chair and was already striding to the lobby, mobile phone in hand, to make his call.  The waiters hurried to the table and began silently clearing away.  Sophie looked so miserable that, for once, they forgot all attempts at discretion and were staring at her with open sympathy.  Her bent head was still fixed on the napkin in her lap.  How to tell Jean-Luc that she had run away because otherwise she would have felt bound to him, caught up in his iron will with no chance of escape?  She had made a sacred promise to her mother to look after her father and brother.  She had to leave him; there was no other choice.  There was no way she could ever combine her world with his.  The looks the waiters threw her were full of compassion, but it was no use.  Sophie had guessed how it would be if she came to Lyon to work for him.  For the first couple of weeks he had left her alone, lulled her into a false sense of security with his distance.  But now he had removed the mask of indifferent charm to reveal the iron purpose she should have known all along lay underneath.  This time there would be no getting away.  Sophie put her head in her hands and wished the ground would open wide.

Author Bio:

Helena FarfaxHelena Fairfax was born in Uganda and came to England as a child.  She’s grown used to the cold now and that’s just as well, because nowadays she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, right next door to windswept Brontë country.  She has an affectionate, if half-crazed, rescue dog and together they tramp the moors every day—one of them wishing she were Emily Brontë, the other vainly chasing pheasants.   When she’s not out on the moors you’ll find Helena either creating romantic heroes and heroines of her own or else with her nose firmly buried in a book, enjoying someone else’s stories.  Her patient husband and her brilliant children support her in her daydreams and are the loves of her life.

You can find Helena here on her blog:, on her Helena Fairfax Facebook page, or on Twitter @helenafairfax.

Buy the book!

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Review: After Fall, Winter

afterfallwinterAs I began watching this film, After Fall, Winter, I had little to no sympathy for the main character, Michael. He’s practically bankrupt, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he’s depressed, his latest book isn’t selling, and he even seems to consider suicide, holding a handful of Ambien. Fortunately, his Parisian friend calls him and suggests he come to Paris, get away from it all.

If he’d stayed in New York, I wouldn’t have even bothered to watch the film. That’s how much I disliked his character. And it didn’t get any better.

Once in Paris (also, I have no idea how he managed to pay for an airline ticket given that he’s so in debt, but I’ll suspend disbelief), he runs into a young woman, Sophie, at a petit magasin. She is buying oranges, and he comes into the shop, and without even saying bonsoir, he tries to hit on her. She ridicules him to the shopkeeper, and he is clueless. But he keeps running into her, at a rack of vélos, at yoga class, and she keeps turning him down when he tries to ask her out. Finally, she allows him to walk with her, (‘just a walk. We don’t call it a date, in France.’) and they begin a relationship.

They have discussions about many things, but eventually it turns to sex, and BDSM. She asks him about his fantasies, and Michael is dismissive of many of them, and unwilling to be truthful about his desires (even though he’d told her several times before that he never lied.) And a good part of the film is the two of them discussing various subjects, either in bed or walking around Paris, and in that way it reminds me of films like ‘Before Sunset’. Unfortunately, I think that Michael is very self-absorbed for too much of the film. Sophie is self-absorbed as well (most everyone is to some extent, after all), but she at least manages to live a life where she interacts with others and tries to do good. Michael interacts very little with anyone beyond more than a casual degree, (and he even does not seem to see his Parisian friend very often, though his friend invited him to stay.)

Regrettably, this film is disappointing. I will not spoil the ending for those wanting to watch, but for me it merely solidified my opinion of Michael, and his selfishness led to the ruin of the lives of others. I don’t need a happy ending (I watch too much film noir to ever expect it), but at the very least I would hope that the characters actually grow as people. Perhaps past the ending, Michael does regret what has happened and learns from it, but given his previous record, I am rather cynical. Still, the writer (and director, and star) did manage to get me to watch the film in its entirety, so that’s something. 😉

Article: France learns to speak ‘touriste’ (AP)

From an Associated Press article:

France has long had a reputation — particularly in the English-speaking world — for being a bit difficult to visit. We love to hate it, with its surly waiters and superior shopkeepers. But we also love to love it: More people visit France than any other country in the world.

IMG_3270The rest of the article is fairly interesting, focusing on how France can attract visitors for longer periods of time, i.e. more than a day or two for European visitors, and making itself more of an attraction for those overseas visitors who might just visit Paris for a day as a part of a larger tour, but there is still this persistent idea that France is full of surly waiters and generally unpleasant people.

Are there surly waiters? Sure. But I could say the same of every country I’ve visited, and a number of restaurants in my hometown, too. The only occurrence of surliness I witnessed during my ten days in Paris was an occasion where I think the waiter was entirely justified in his behaviour (however much one wants to argue that a waiter should always be the perfect model of manners, they are human too). In his case, a tourist had come into a café (I was there eating lunch), and once he was seated, proceeded to order his food and drink in a very pushy manner, with no courtesies, in English. Then, he demanded low-fat butter,  and loudly complained about how slow the service was. Well, the service he received was absolutely glacial in speed due to his manner. Sitting nearby, I cringed in embarrassment, wishing that he could at least use ‘s’il vous plait’, or ‘merci’, or, in fact, any French at all. In the end, the tourist left disappointed, and the waiter was put out, though he still received a tip.

IMG_3269The France I experienced was full of friendly people: the shopkeeper in the (somewhat touristy) shop attached to the Cafe de Flore, who chatted to me about jazz; the charming waitress in the restaurant in Chartres who was run off her feet serving the entire place, but still had a smile and a kind word; the staff of a lingerie shop who, when realizing my vocabulary didn’t extend to lacy dainties, communicated as best they could in English; the man on the metro who gave up his seat for my mother and gave us a friendly ‘Bonsoir’; and the post office employee who helped me figure out how much it would cost to send postcards to the UK and overseas.

Actually, there were a lot more lovely people, and I’d say that even the fellows hawking souvenirs at the Eiffel Tower (and the courtyard in Versailles, and pretty much every ‘big’ tourist attraction we went by in Paris), were pretty nice.

I only have two small pieces of advice on how to make the most of a trip to France: 1) learn a bit of very basic French, including courtesies (s’il vous plait, merci, bonjour, bonsoir, etc.), and 2) visit knowing that France is not like your hometown. Make the most of your new experiences, and enjoy the differences in culture. A bit of adventurousness can go a long way.

Sunday is Bastille Day!

And publisher Le French Book (who translated and published the excellent ‘The 7th Woman’, and ‘The Bleiberg Project’) has a special sweepstakes to celebrate the French national holiday.

french flag

July 14 is Bastille Day in France, and Le French Book is celebrating. This ebook-first publisher focuses on fiction in translation from France, with a special emphasis on the country’s top-selling mysteries and thrillers. To mark the date, it is running Bastille Day Sweepstakes for an ereader and a number of summer ebook reads with a French flair. “With our focus on entertaining reads from France, we couldn’t miss out on this Bastille Day opportunity to share what we are doing with new readers,” says Anne Trager, the company’s founder. She started Le French Book with the goal of sharing what she loves about the Gallic nation and its fiction. The sweepstakes run from July 11 through July 14.

Read more about what to do on Bastille Day and the sweepstakes:

Get your chance to win via Facebook here:

Or enter the sweepstakes directly here:

Click here for a free Bastille Day short story by seven of France’s top writers.


Bastille Day (or  La Fête Nationale) commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789. Read more about the holiday on Wikipedia.

Enter the Goodreads giveaway for THE PARIS GAME!

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The Paris Game by Alyssa Linn Palmer

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by Alyssa Linn Palmer

Giveaway ends August 03, 2013.

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