REVIEW: The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

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A warm and uplifting story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a landscape, a community and a fragile way of life.

A rural idyll: that’s what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you’re no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbours, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that’s before the arrival of Catherine’s sister, Bryony…

Dear Ms. Thornton, 

I have been rationing my dwindling supply of your books your books that I haven’t read yet. After flipping through the books loaded onto my ereader, I decided now is the time. “The Tapestry of Love” is more – much more – a women’s fiction book with a heaping amount of self discovery and fish out of water than a romance. I found Catherine to be relatable, believable, and in striking out to try something new, very brave. There is a bit of a romantic thread weaving through it – and I have thoughts on it – but the book is much more about Catherine and her efforts to make a new life for herself. 

Forty eight years old, divorced for eight years, and mother of two adult children, Catherine Parkston is stopped on her way to her new home by a flock of sheep during the autumn transhumance – the time when flocks of sheep are brought from their summer grazing in the high mountains down to the winter paddocks. Once she gets past them and through the small village of St. Julien, it’s up a series of switchback, hairpin curves before she finally arrives at her newly purchased house. But a house isn’t necessarily an immediate home and Catherine needs to settle in among her new neighbors, the tough people of the Cévennes. 

Catherine’s plan is to begin a small business focusing on her love of needlework and sewing. First she has to learn the nuances of her house, the electrical grid of the area – which tends to fritz out after storms, get her landline in (mobile access in the mountains is sketchy) and meet the neighbors. She makes a few false steps but with her adequate knowledge of French, she starts to make her way. Then one day she meets Patrick – handsome, a great cook, mannerly, yet not volunteering much about himself. And as the blurbs says, then her sister arrives. 

So yeah, this is Catherine’s book. On the strength of childhood vacations and nebulous dreams, she buys a property in the beautiful but not easy to live in Cévennes mountains. Her neighbors are courteous but it’s up to her to begin to fit in, to learn the place and people, the customs, when the market day is, when the shops close for a half day, and then to implement her plan to start a small business. The descriptions of the locale sound gorgeous but no, it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Her house is made from meter thick blocks of stone which can be interesting depending on whether it traps the coolness in the winter or the heat during the summer nights. Rain is endless during the autumn but the winter frosts outline all the branches with silver. She begins to plant a garden after mulching in the summer goat manure (summer, not winter which is too concentrated and needs to be composted first) and slowly starts to build a client base. 

Then she meets Patrick who tells her about wild boar in the mountains (and cooks her a meal from one), and takes her to discover more about tapestries and medieval silk work to attempt to repair the moth and damp damage done to the banner of the local saint that the curé of the village church asks her to look at – well actually with courtly French he arrives at her house to ” … come to beg [her] good offices.” Is there a spark there between Patrick and Catherine?  

Well that’s the romantic thread I was talking about but it’s a tenuous one and comes into and out of focus among all the other things in Catherine’s life including the daunting paperwork and restrictions on whether or not she will be legally allowed to use her home as her business. She’s in the Parc National and the French government has very strict requirements and limitations on what can be done there. But as her neighbors tell her, the French love their rules and laws but also take great delight in bending and twisting their way through those very rules. 

Oh yes, back to the romance thread. You see, it’s there and then sort of not there for a while. Part of that reason is Catherine’s sister Bryony who arrives and takes an instant interest in Patrick who seems to return her interest to some degree. For a while, I honestly wasn’t sure how all this was going to work out, if there was really a love triangle there, and then after Bryony learns something about Patrick, if there would be any love interest left at all. 

The resolution of all of this – along with the interests of Catherine’s two children and her mother with dementia, takes until the very end of the book. I could understand why Patrick is so close to the vest with details on his life but his explanation to Catherine of his actions … hmmm, they’re older, they’ve all suffered pain in the past, he’s always felt one way and … I’m still not entirely sure I’d be happy in this situation but the book ends with a HFN. The writing and evocation of the Cévennes though, is wonderful and I love the French characters in it and how Catherine begins to fit in and find her place. B    

~Jayne

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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