The French House – Helen Fripp

Hey mama, look at me, I’m on the way to the promise land (AC/DC)

–or at least, I’m on a very lucky streak 😀 last month Edelweiss gave me The Wasteland and now Netgalley is trying to one-up on it with The Champagne Widow by H. Fripp.

First thing first, the cover. Isn’t it a thing of beauty? 

It caught my attention right away : a pretty drawing, colorful without being too in-your-face, it told me all I needed to know about TCW at a glance. Perfect. I really want to stop for a moment here and compliment the artist who drew it: it’s very cool, I love it!

Now, the story itself.

Yay!

  • Third limited pov. A real third limited, without a single switch in sight. Not even a tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it one, cross my heart. I’m putting this as my very first yay, because yes, it makes me so happy. So so happy, you have no idea – thank you, Helen.
  • We’re talking style here, and I have to mention the actual writing. Helen’s prose is delightful – no useless descriptions, every word has a meaning and a place. Given the setting and the concept, it would have been so easy to slip into purple, and that would have ruined it beyond belief.
    Also, the amount of research behind TCW is obvious, but it’s not infodumped on the reader. Every information, every trick of the trade is relevant to the plot. Bliss.
  • Moët. He’s the antagonist, I get it, but I like him anyway, because he’s not a cardboard-cut villain: an asshole? Yeah. Arrogant? Sure. 100% pure, unadulterated evil? No.
  • Nicole. She’s the protagonist, she’s very well portrayed and has a lot of nuances. I often disagree with her choices, from François to Louis to Thérésa, but I can see (and respect) why she goes that way rather than this way. 
  • Nicole and Thérésa. It’s complicated, maybe a bit out of the blue at first; at the same time, it adds layers to the story and the characters.
  • The ending! I’m so glad Alexei does what he, well, does and Nicole accepts it.

Nay!

  • I’m not talking real flaws here, just minor ones. Maybe the only thing that gives me pause is how a couple of Nicole’s problems get deus ex machina-ed outta there. Her persistence in trying to strike a deal with Moët just to go back to it before it’s finalized doesn’t help either.
  • Emile becomes Etienne once.
  • I would have liked to see her relationship with Moët fleshed out a little bit more. They start out as enemies, keep going for a good portion of the book, and then I have him strolling in Nicole’s vineyard without a single pitchfork in sight. I understand truces, but just telling me isn’t enough in this case.

Some vindictive parts of me would have liked to see Mr. Olivier break a couple of important bones, too 😛 Madame Olivier, I’m quoting Stephen King here, “An accident is sometimes an unhappy woman’s best friend.”

…Just saying.

Anyway! 8/10 stars here, 4 on GoodReads. Helen, you wrote an awesome book! I’m looking forward for more 😀

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