Title: What Happens in France
Author Name: Carol Wyer
Previous Books (if applicable): TBC
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: 28th January 2019
She stood and took her place in front of the camera… It was now or never”
Bryony Masters has been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on new urgency. So when primetime game show, What Happens in France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.
With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.
Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish…
This heartwarming romantic comedy of friendship, family and laugh-out-loud adventures is perfect for fans of Kirsty Greenwood, Colleen Coleman and Marian Keyes.
I was introduced by this book’s title so downloaded it straight away. The cover is very eye catching and I was hooked by the synopsis. However, as soon as I started it I realised that the book has very sad undercurrents, with Bryony’s father’s health being far from good because of a stroke. I have my own chronic health issues and live with disabilities so I immediately identified with the family.
I’m a very sensitive person and was very moved by the sadness that Bryony’s father’s stroke caused her and her mum. I just wanted to appear in the book and hug them. On top of that, Bryony’s sister Hannah has not been part of the family since she went missing at age 16, which was 30 years ago. I found Bryony’s attempts to search for her humbling and was touched by the blog entries she wrote. The tone in which they were written was as if she were talking to her sister face to face and were moving and at times frank and very true to life.
Hannah was a real fan of reality TV shows and Bryony sees the game show, What Happens in France, as an opportunity to find Hannah and finally reunite the family.
She and team mates Lewis jet off to rural France to participate. There, Bryony sees she is in for a real adventure. Will she and Lewis hit it off? Is love on the cards and will she find Hannah? Read this if you want to know. Bryony is courageous, strong driven and pours her heart into everything she does. There’s a real sense of the importance of family in this novel which I loved and it really begs the question: What would you do to reunite your family?
The book will make you feel, think, smile and cry. Such an amazing tale. The writing just flows so well too.
What happens in France was suspenseful, sweet and, far from being a slushy romance, I’d say it is “a romance with edge.” The plot has an excellent pace and so many layers. This was the perfect introduction to Carol Wyer’s books for me and I really want to discover more of her books. 5 stars.
Thanks to Carol Wyer and Canelo for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and my blog tour slot for this title.
Links to Book:
Google Books (UK)
Apple Books (UK)
As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.
THURSDAY, 6 JULY – AFTERNOON
Bryony drew up outside Melinda’s house. The gaily coloured yellow front door stood out boldly among the row of identical houses, all of which had brown doors. The door was much like Melinda herself. Melinda was a one-off and she didn’t much care if others thought her odd or different. It was one of the things Bryony loved about her. In Bryony’s opinion, her friend’s front door was far more inviting than the others in the street. Someone – no doubt Sean’s father – had planted clumps of marigolds in the garden. A grinning garden gnome in a ridiculous costume and bright red hat dangled his rod into the flowers. The wooden sign hanging from a nail on the front door read: ‘Forget the Dog. Beware of the Wife,’ adding to the impression that this was a house filled with fun and frivolity.
Bryony rang the doorbell and waited. The door opened wide and there stood Melinda, a huge smile on her round face as always. Her smooth chestnut bob clung to her head like a helmet but her large brown eyes sparkled with youthful enthusiasm.
‘Come in,’ she said, wiping her hands on a faded tea towel. ‘You’ve arrived at just the right time. I’ve finished putting the final touches on the casserole and it’s ready to go in the oven. We’d best go in the kitchen. Freddie’s off school. He had a temperature this morning so I let him stay at home. He’s been playing with his Lego again and there are bricks everywhere in the lounge. I daren’t clean in there. Sean had to fix the vacuum cleaner last time because I hoovered up several yellow bricks and they got stuck in the pipe. Anyway, I’ve finished my housewifely chores and am ready for a glass of wine. Make that a very large glass of wine. Care to join me?’
‘It’s only one o’clock,’ protested Bryony.
‘And? You haven’t got to go back to work, so why not?’
Bryony laughed. ‘Only a small one. I have to drive, remember.’
Melinda led the way into the kitchen, a friendly space that oozed warmth and contentment. The fridge was covered with plastic letters spelling ‘Freddie’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’. Several drawings had been added to the side of it: one of a large sun shining over a house, one of a large dinosaur and another of three stick figures holding hands. Plastic animals adorned the shelf above the sink and a piece of pottery showcasing the small handprint of a child took pride of place; next to it stood a photograph of a grinning boy with dark hair and chocolate-brown eyes who looked exactly like his mother.
Melinda swept away small pots of herbs into a cupboard and extracted two glasses from another, all the while moving plates and pans into the sink so they were out of view. Bryony sniffed the air. It smelt of warm dough and lemon essence. A rack of scones stood cooling next to a sponge cake. Melinda had indeed been busy.
The bright room was dominated by a huge dining table protected by a plastic, floral tablecloth. A chubby face peered out from under the table.
‘Hello, Freddie. What are you doing under the table?’
‘I’m not under the table. I’m in a boat. This is my sky,’ replied the boy, solemn-faced, pointing to the underside of the kitchen table. ‘It’s night-time. I’ve been travelling all day. I’m sailing to Zanzibar.’
Bryony lifted the cloth to get a closer look. Freddie was seated in a large cardboard box, his mother’s egg whisk in one hand and red spatula in the other, ‘paddling’ from one end of the table to the other. He wore a pirate’s hat made of newspaper and somebody had painted a black moustache under his nose.
‘Are you looking for treasure?’ asked Bryony.
The boy shook his head. ‘I’m looking for a new country to live in. Daddy says he’s fed up of this one,’ he said then set about rocking his body to make the box slide along the floor. Melinda shrugged her shoulders in a display of astonishment and passed a glass of wine to Bryony. Melinda took a sip and sighed with pleasure. Freddie crawled out from under the table and handed Bryony his whisk.
‘Mummy, I’m going to get my dinosaurs. They want to go to Zanzibar too,’ he shouted as he scurried off.
‘Zanzibar?’ Bryony said.
‘I’ve no idea where that came from. Maybe it was from one of his bedtime books. I expect it’s sunny there and the roads have no potholes. Sean spent an hour complaining about the state of the roads last night. He hit an extra-large pothole on his way home. I don’t think the van’s too damaged but Sean wasn’t happy. He went on about England being a third-world country and grumbled that we should all move to a better one. He wasn’t serious but obviously our little earwigging child decided he was.’ She slugged back the remainder of her wine. ‘I needed that. It’s been a long day. I envy these younger mums. It’s tough racing after a hyperactive five-year-old when you’re well into your thirties.’
‘You do a fantastic job. Freddie is a credit to you. He’s a well-balanced, healthy boy and that’s all down to your parenting skills. You’re always there for him and you spend loads of time with him. You’re a fantastic mother.’
Melinda blushed. ‘Being a mother wasn’t exactly what I planned but it is the best job ever,’ she admitted.
‘Who’d have thought the career-minded, hard-nosed Melinda Ashbrook would become a full-time mother, eh?’
‘Less of the hard-nosed, thank you. I loved being a crime scene investigator but I’m so lucky to be in a situation where I get to be a stay at home mum.’
Singing from the room next door indicated Freddie had now abandoned his plans to row to Zanzibar and was watching television.
Bryony regarded her friend, whose face had taken on the look of maternal pride that accompanied a child’s achievement. There was no doubt that Sean and Freddie had transformed her. Bryony recalled the first time Melinda had brought Sean back to their flat, eyes glittering with mischief but still nervous in his ill-fitting suit he’d worn to impress them both.
Sean had succeeded in exposing Melinda’s gentler side that hitherto had been well and truly concealed. Being the only daughter in a family of four boys, and the youngest sibling to boot, she had learnt to stand up for herself at an early age and give away nothing in the emotion department. Her brothers had signed up for the Armed Forces but Melinda had followed in their grandfather’s footsteps, studied forensic science, and become a crime scene investigator with the police force.
Bryony had all the time in the world for her friend. Without her, Bryony’s time at school would have been even more horrendous than it already was. Melinda had been her friend and protector on more than one occasion, and in return Bryony had offered her unwavering affection and friendship that would always stand the test of time.
Melinda pointed at the small television screen on the wall above the kitchen table. ‘Ooh! Turn it up, Bry. It’s Professor David Potts, the gorgeous host of Mate or Date? Now, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed. He could charm me with that Irish lilt of his alone. Makes me go weak at the knees thinking about it.’
‘Behave yourself, woman. You’re happily married to Sean. If anyone should be thinking about such nonsense, it’s me.’ She pointed the remote at the set. ‘You’re right though. Professor Potts is absolutely divine. Lovely accent, piercing blue eyes, charisma. I wouldn’t want to be on a dating show but I’d happily spend all night listening to him explain the Theory of Relativity or even the offside rule in football. He is one very sexy man.’
Bryony turned up the volume and both women watched Professor Potts talking about the importance of protecting elephants in the wild. Once it was over, Melinda turned off the set.
‘I’d definitely trade in Sean for that man. He makes my toes tingle.’
Bryony laughed again. ‘That’s never going to happen. You and Sean are soulmates. I can’t imagine you ever trading him in. You and he are great together.’
‘We are, although some days I feel like I need an adventure – a whole new sexual adventure. A girl can dream, can’t she?’
‘Get a grip, woman. You two should spend more time together, without Freddie. Remind yourselves of what it was that attracted you to each other. Freddie arrived so quickly after you got together you didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy life as a couple. Why not have a date night? I’ll babysit Freddie for you.’
‘You and your sensible suggestions. You’re right, of course. We ought to light candles, play soft music and rip each other’s clothes off with unbridled lust but to be honest we’re both a bit tired these days. My mind is willing but my flesh is wobbly and not up for it. Talking of babysitting Freddie – he’ll be staying over at my mum’s at the weekend. He loves Granny Brigitte. She cooks him pancakes and lets him eat jelly beans. So, do you fancy coming around for booze, crisps and a bit of a murder mystery game?’
Bryony shook her head. ‘Shouldn’t you and Sean be enjoying some time together? Alone.’
‘Nah, honestly we’re fine. I’m crazy about Sean. And we see enough of each other. If I needed time away with him, I’d take it. The grandparents are always willing to have Freddie. It’s me. I don’t like parting with Freddie or being away from him.’
Bryony felt a small pang of envy. Although she didn’t begrudge her friend any happiness, she would like to have experienced the same herself.
‘A murder mystery night will do us both good. Sean bought me the game for Christmas. It’ll give us the chance to open it at last. Go on. Remember the fun we had when we did them way back in Birmingham?’
‘Okay. Why not?’
Melinda beamed at her. ‘It’ll be a hoot. Maybe I’ll arrange it so I get to be the elegant lady of the manor who is looking for a bit of rough and passionate sex with the gardener. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Sean is the gardener,’ she added, shutting her eyes and tilting her head back, playing out her fantasy in her mind. ‘He could be one of those beefcake sorts – strong, silent, muscular. I’m liking this idea already.’
‘Is it a murder mystery night or a weird sexual fantasy version of events?’
Melinda ignored the comment and said, ‘We could all do with a fun night. I’ll phone around and arrange it. I’m sure I can rustle up a few guests at short notice. There’s the new chap, Lewis, who moved in a couple of months ago.’
Bryony’s mouth opened in surprise. ‘You’re trying to match me up with someone again, aren’t you?’
Melinda giggled. ‘Might be. And why not? You’re young – thirty-six is still classified as young – free and single. He appears to be on his own too. He’s renting number forty-one, the Shepherds’ place. I’ve waved hello but not spoken to him. Sean met him at the gym a couple of weeks ago. They both like running, so Sean’s enjoyed having someone to talk to while he jogs along on the treadmill. It makes the time go quicker. He says Lewis is a really good guy with a quirky sense of humour.’
‘That’s a good start. I bet he won’t like me though. The last guy I went out with said I surrounded myself with an invisible, impenetrable force and I frightened him.’
‘When you stop trying to do a million things at once, you might actually meet someone. You’re always too occupied to get involved.’
Bryony pursed her lips but gave up the idea of arguing. Her friend was right. She wondered if she didn’t deliberately keep herself occupied to avoid meeting men. She rubbed at her forehead, her fingers lightly grazing the scar there, hidden now by a fringe but still evident when her hair fell away from her face. ‘Okay. Count me in for the party. I could do with a laugh.’
‘Great! I’ll get onto it immediately.’