Chocolate locations with Carole Matthews

Chocolate lovers
Why a booktrail?

2000s: How lovely is it to spend Christmas with Carole Matthews. She has chocolate!

Story

The third book in the chocolate lovers series sees a Christmas themed book more Christmassy than Christmas itself. The Chocolate Lovers Club is bigger and better than ever. Lucy has been managing the shop Chocolate Heaven for nine months now and it’s the place to meet for her and friends Nadia, Chantal and Autumn.

There are chocolate recipes to discover, some more traditional than others. And for the friends, a boyfriend, a former fiance and the chance of finding new love all wrapped up with a huge Christmas bow!

Place and Setting

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The three places connected by friendship and chocolate

London

What can we say – this is  a walk underneath a chocolate fountain. Even in the end notes, Carole writes of her ahem ‘ research’ for this novel such as a tour with the Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. She’s even had a chocolate weekend or two at the Three Ways House hotel in Mickleton.  They have chocolate weekends!!! The friends she’s met -rather like those in the book have bonded over a love of chocolate and like love she says, it seems to be a universal language.

In London, the chocolate shop is in the city where the Christmas spirt is alive and well. The crowds are out in Oxford street and Hamleys is buzzing with kids and more kids. However the four friends spend their time, chatting, and just getting through their family and romantic entanglements.

“Chocolate Heaven is still a place of refuge to all of us in times of need, A little corner of this earth that wraps up in in cosiness, comforts us and feeds us chocolate. Hurrah! Long may it thrive.”

Keswick

The outing to Keswick is where both Carole’s and the girls spiritual home is.  Cumbria cottage is in the village, it still has  high street like the villages of old. A traditional time gone by. “It was pretty stone buildings ”Nadia doesn’t think she has seen anywhere quite so lovely. “ The Lakes is  a place to rest and relax when you need to escape the buzz of London if only for a while.

Bruges

And Bruges – the home of chocolate on the continent. There’s a Christmas market and a myriad of chocolate shops like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

“Bruges looks flipping fabulous in its festive garb.”

Review

This is a warm feeling of a novel. A mug of Hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and sugar sprinkles. Never is it sickly sweet however yet it gives you the same feeling – tasty, warm, and very inviting. And afterwards you sit back with a huge smile on your face and this book is so realistic on the chocolate front that I swear I had a chocolate tash as well.

It goes without saying that you have to eat chocolate whilst eating this book or at least have some to hand as you’ll be racing out that door to get some when you start reading. I’d read the other books and had experienced that before so I was prepared. Well it would be rude not to I thought.

Carole’s writing is always warm and friendly and I enjoyed meeting the friends again. This is what true friendship is all about – laughs, support through troubled times and advice aplenty. I loved Lucy who goes all out to get new recipe ideas and her trip to Bruges! Well that had me chuckling.

These friends have been through a lot together and what a wonderful way to wrap up their story with a Christmas bow. The next book is out early next year and there’s a new development! Can’t wait.

Susan booktrailer

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The Dressmaker of Dachau – London, Paris, Belgium, Dachau – Mary Chamberlain

Dachaubook

Why a booktrail?

A young woman’s attempt to survive despite the ultimate betrayal and the onset of war. Her skills as a dressmaker will have unexpected consequences..

Story in a nutshell

London,1939.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Vaughan has just started work for a modiste in Dover Street. She would love a career in couture but first needs to escape the dreariness of family life in Lambeth.

When she meets a man called Stanislaus von Lieben, she is catapulted into a world of glamour and romance. So, when he suggests a trip to Paris, despite the rumblings of war, she overlooks all possible dangers to take a chance.

When war is declared, both she and Stanislaus are trapped in France.

But then she is cruelly betrayed and her world falls apart. These are not easy times for anyone but when Ada is taken prisoner, it will take her ultimate resolve and skills as a dressmaker to try and survive in the best way she can.

Place and setting

London Ada first lives at Theed Street Dover Street  This is where she works as a seamstress of sorts Paris Arrives at Gare due Nord on her arrival and then she moves with Stanislaus to  Boulevard Barbès Belgium They escape to Mons and then Namur  Dachau Where Ada is taken to and she ends up working and becoming the Dressmaker of Dachau
London
Ada first lives at Theed Street
Dover Street
This is where she works as a seamstress and ‘modiste’
Paris
Arrives at Gare due Nord on her arrival and then she moves with Stanislaus to Boulevard Barbès
Belgium
They escape to Mons and then Namur
Dachau
Where Ada is taken to and she ends up working and becoming the Dressmaker of Dachau

Written against a real historical background of the outbreak of war in Europe, this is a tale of one woman’s resilience despite tragedy.

Ada leads a sad and uneventful life in Lambeth, London  and so wants to escape her life. Ada became her designs, a walking advertisement for them. Working for the modiste in Dover street, the craves the life she feels she can’t have. She might feel  out of her depth in the Savoy and the Ritz where the young ladies who buy the clothes she models and then makes, but this is the life she desires.

She conjured Hollywood and the glamourous world of the stars and brought them into the drawing rooms of the everyday.

Stanislaus is a breath of fresh air amongst the  otherwise stiff fabric of her life.They go to Richmond Park and  eat chestnuts on a cold winters day, and drink ginger beer. But then he tells her ‘You belong in Paris, I can see you there, sashaying down the boulevards turning heads’.

Paris

From Charing Cross, she crosses over the continent and arrives at the teaming Gare Du Nord which is full of ‘sweating turmoil’ . Still unsure of Stanislaus and the future, this is still a way out of her life and a way ahead.

However, when Hitler invades Poland, everything changes. They move appartments in Paris and end up on the Rue Barbes. Stockpiles of sand bags line the streets and the ‘stale onion of fear’ permeates the Paris air. They flee to Mons in Belgium and then Namur before tragedy strikes….

Dachau

Alone and afraid, Ada ends up in Dachau and works, quite literarily to save her life. “They call you the Dressmaker of Dachau’ says one German guard. She is used and abused but yet her spirit never dies. It is the next stage of her journey where she will find out her fate and if she will ever hear of Stanislaus again.

Bookish musings 

A book which was both fascinating and allowed the tension and the horror of Dachau to build with the interesting build up and back story of Ada and Stanislaus and their flight across Europe.

Having got to know Ada quite well, (Stanislaus was more of an enigma for reasons which become clear in the story), I felt as if I went with her on her journey despite wanting to whisper in her ear and check if she knew what she was doing!

Dachau is a major setting in the book but it is also the culmination of Ada’s journey across several countries during war time and her journey as  a woman with a skill and desire to sew.

To use a sewing analogy, lots of threads come together and weave a tale of heartache and shocking twists! And I won’t reveal what happens to Stanislaus but…..

An enticing read and a insight into Dachau and how one woman with a skill for sewing could survive there.

The Postcard – Adelaide, Scotland,Cairo,London, Bruges- Leah Fleming

books

Why we love this book

Because the idea of a postcard starting a journey seems like a forgotten and lost art.

Story in a nutshell

2002, Australia

On his death bed, Melissa Boyd’s father confesses a secret and a postcard that takes her on a journey across the world and into the past.

1930s, London

Caroline has led a privileged life brought up by her Aunt Phoebe. Caroline then falls in love and elopes to Cairo but things do not turn out well. Alone with a newborn son, the war breaks out and she is compelled to join up.

When she returns, her son has gone.

Place and setting

The story of the postcard takes us from Adelaide to the wilds of Scotland to the dusty sands of Egypt via Brussels and Bruges plus other places too.
The story of the postcard takes us from Adelaide to the wilds of Scotland to the dusty sands of Egypt via Brussels and Bruges plus other places too.

The story opens in Adelaide where Melissa’s father decides to come clean for the past and opens up about what a postcard means for the family.

Immediately we go back in time to Scotland and the fictional Dalradnor lodge which is somewhere near the Clyde River and the Campsie fells. It is a landscape of rugged hills, sheep, heather and rough winds but to Callie it is home. There’s Dundee jam jars and Fair isle jumpers too which evoke atmosphere. Let’s not forget a trip in to Glasgow and tea at the tea rooms in Sauchiehall street!

Cairo – Callie’s husband works as an advisor of the British government to the king of Egypt and as they live in various hotels and she is taken to the Khan el Khali souk and the Gezira club. Glittering and glamourous yet with a hollow heart in the dusty Egyptian desert.

War time London – A time where dances were held in the club 400 in Leicester square and where the Gaiety Girls were fun and happy. Caroline meets Toby here and they elope to Cairo but whilst in London  the fun of the season is had with dances, music halls and a tea in Patisserie Valerie’s which you should visit for real! – https://www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk/default.aspx

Mentions of Paris, Bruges and Brussels too – Marthe goes back to her homeland so we learn more of where she came from and see the interesting architecture of both places.

postcards

Wow – well what a story this turned out to be!! From the blurb and even the first few chapters I though this was going to be a nice if slightly heartbreaking tale of one woman’s search for the truth over a postcard. But her journey takes the reader over the world to different times and periods in history and right up until the onset of war. Epic would be a good word to use or cinematic and I could certainly imagine this on the big screen.

Melissa starts the story in the present day and then we get swept immediately back in time to meet Callie and Phoebe only returning to Melissa briefly later on. I really wanted to know Melissa better although getting to know the story of the other two women at the same time as she did, I did feel as if I was reading the letters etc as she was.

The most intriguing part of this novel was the way in which one secret can grow and grow to have so many consequences that it doesn’t even bare thinking about. Secrets in the past and in the present day which tie the women of the 1930s and the present day together.

The genius of this novel is the way in which a real story – and if you read the dedication at the front of the novel you will understand – and the tragedy behind it all. When you read this you feel as if The Postcard just hits the tip of the iceberg of what really lies beneath.

The depiction of the Second World War is fascinating and shows the extreme lengths that some women went to in order to help the war effort.

A fascinating and heartbreaking account of family struggles, lies and love.