September 13, 2011
Book Review: TOUT SWEET: HANGING UP MY HIGH HEELS FOR A NEW LIFE IN FRANCE by Karen Wheeler
In her mid-thirties, fashion editor Karen has it all: a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London, and an array of gorgeus shoes. But when her boyfriend, Eric, leaves she makes an unexpected decision: to hang up her Manolos and wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, central western France.
Tout Sweet is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of chucking away their BlackBerry in favor of real blackberrying and downshifting to a romantic, alluring locale where new friendships–and new loves–are just some of the treasures to be found amongst life's simple pleasures.
I absolutely love books/memoirs of people who leave their high stress life behind for a new life in the country and/or a new country, so Tout Sweet was a perfect literary fit for me.
Francophiles will be in absolute heaven, reading author Karen Wheeler's tale of finding an old and neglected maison and painstakingly restoring it beyond its original glory, while also struggling to find a social life in a rural village and fit in.
I liked Karen and her style of writing immediately. Karen is the British equivalent of the girl next door, a warm and funny lady who has a boyfriend she loves, a job she enjoys and a hectic city lifestyle that coordinates perfectly with her busy life. When life throws her a curveball in the form of her boyfriend leaving, Karen has an awakening that causes her to look at her life differently and question whether or not she has a place in London any longer.
Her story of leaving the familiarity of London behind for a French village where she knows exactly one person is equal parts brave, frightening and inspiring. Reading the passages I could feel her trepidation, her excitement and her second guessing. I was heavily invested in her story - - actually, her life - - from the first pages and was hoping that she would grow to be in love with France, as well as find love, by the conclusion.
Tout Sweet features an amazing cast of supporting characters, wonderfully colorful, vivid and personable. There is Miranda, Karen's colorfully garbed "fairy godmother", neighbor Claudette, oppositional couples Desmond and Elinor and Geoffrey and Darla, booksellers Dylan and Lola Liberty, realtor Victor, a man on the prowl, and the attractive baker Rene. Is it crazy that I wanted to pull up a chair, sip a glass of wine and join this motley group?
Tout Sweet is an incredibly charming read, goes down as smoothly as a fine wine, and can be accomplished in one sitting for the adventurous reader. It leaves you craving a move to France and/or a small village, and for a simpler life. I know it left me aching to move into my own maison and go blackberry picking as the sun sets.
Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My Heels for a New Life in France is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.
For more information on author Karen Wheeler, please visit her blog.
Review copy of this book provided by Meryl L. Moss Media Relations in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.