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    Family Drama in French Countryside

    I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour for a fair and honest review. Is there anything more beautiful than the French countryside? I certainly don’t think so based on Dominique Marny’s descriptions and cover for In the Shade of the Almond Trees. A book set during the period between the World Wars in Europe, In the Shade of the Almond Trees focuses on one family’s quest to restore their farm and move on after the death of their husband and father in the trenches. Filled with colorful characters, the beauty of the countryside, the changing social structures and a young woman’s discovery of love, this is a book romance lovers will enjoy. Ms. Marny does a good job introducing the reader to the Barthelemy family as they begin moving on after the war. Living at Restanques, a large and once very prosperous estate, the family now consists of Martha, the family matriarch who thinks her life is over because of her husband’s death, Jeanne, the family’s only daughter, who is determined to keep their creditors at bay and make the farm successful again and Laurent, the family’s only son whose dreams of traveling the world are drawing him away. While the story mostly focuses on Jeanne’s efforts to restore the farm and her transition into adulthood, we do get to know both her mother and brother and their strengths and weaknesses. I easily connected with Jeanne but had difficulty liking her mother and brother, who seemed only to think of themselves. Jeanne is hard working, level headed, and really devoted to her family’s heritage through her love of the land. She was willing to do what had to be done in order to keep her family financially afloat. Something her mother and brother either couldn’t or didn’t want to understand or really help with. While it did take a little while to get used to Ms. Marny’s voice as an author, the story is told in omnipresent third person, I did eventually get drawn in and fell in love with both Jeanne and the French countryside. While I would have liked to dip further into Jeanne’s mind, and the thoughts of her mother and brother, this form of storytelling’s appeal is that you don’t wallow in too much emotional angst. I also think it affected the story’s flow and pace, which was occasionally slow and a little difficult to follow – although that could have been a result of the story’s translation from French to English. Will Jeanne and her family manage to keep Restanques and restore it to its pre-war prosperity? Will Jeanne get the chance to discover true love as she works selflessly to restore her family’s financial position? You’ll have to read In the Shade of the Almond Trees to find out. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Marny’s work.
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