Off the Wild Coast of Brittany
An unforgettable story of resilience and resistance set during WWII and present-day France on a secluded island off the coast of Brittany
Natalie Morgen made a name for herself with a memoir about overcoming her harsh childhood after finding a new life in Paris. After falling in love with a classically trained chef, they moved together to his ancestral home, a tiny fishing village off the coast of Brittany.
But then Francois-Xavier breaks things off with her without warning, leaving her flat broke and in the middle of renovating the guesthouse they planned to open for business. Natalie's already struggling when her sister, Alex, shows up unannounced. The sisters form an unlikely partnership to save the guesthouse, reluctantly admitting their secrets to each other as they begin to heal the scars of their shared past.
But the property harbors hidden stories of its own. During World War II, every man of fighting age on the island fled to England to join the Free French forces. The women and children were left on their own...until three hundred German troops took up residence, living side-by-side with the French women on the tiny island for the next several years.
When Natalie and Alex unearth an old cookbook in a hidden cupboard, they find handwritten recipes that reveal old secrets. With the help of locals, the Morgen sisters begin to unravel the relationship between Violette, a young islander whose family ran the guesthouse during WWII, and Rainier, a German military customs official with a devastating secret of his own.
Two contemporary American sisters contend with their lives on a tiny, historically rich French island in Blackwell's latest charmer (after The Vineyards of Champagne). Natalie Morgen, the 30-something author of a bestselling memoir about learning to cook and finding love in France, is finding it hard to write a promised sequel and to gratify her many Facebook followers with details of her glamorous life, now that her lover has run off with their money, leaving her in the ancient guesthouse they had planned to renovate together. Natalie is unexpectedly joined by her older sister, Alex, from whom she'd been estranged, and Blackwell unspools their stories alongside that of Violette, the former owner of the guesthouse, who as a young woman coped with the German occupation in WWII. Blackwell moves smoothly between the two time periods, and if Natalie and Alex's problems are less extreme than Violette's dangerous adventures in the Resistance, there's plenty of drama in a leaky roof, a slowly evolving love affair, and the reconciliation between sisters as they learn about Violette through a series of handwritten recipes. While the dialogue is often unrealistically leaden with historical details, Blackwell has a light comic touch, particularly in regard to the perils of creating a social media persona. The author's fans will be pleased.