Member Reviews

Set in beautiful France, this is an uplifting story about moving on and getting out of a rut. Vividly portrayed, senior characters , cook delicious food and learn about second chances.
An emotional and very enjoyable tale.

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Some books shouldn't be read on an empty stomach. Case in point: author Caroline James, in her newest novel The French Cookery School, plops a hodgepodge band of adult students at La Maison du Paradis, the titular school, and then lets the food start flowing. Chicken livers and chanterelles on toast. Steak au poivre with wilted spinach. Baked custard tart with strawberries. Cheese "from the region". Blini with cream cheese, cheese puffs, chocolate macarons, an assortment of other hors d'oeuvres, and buckets of wine, champagne, and even jelly babies. And that's just what's featured during the welcome banquet.

But, while James's rich descriptions throughout the book are mouthwatering, the dishes aren't the real meat here.

Instead, James leaves that up to her ragtag coterie of cooks. There's Caroline, somewhat posh and reserved, who wants a week in the French countryside as a distraction from her falling-apart life. Fran, loud and proud and the life of the party, wants to learn from the best to transform her fish and chip shop to a fine dining experience. Journalist Sally may be on assignment, but that won't stand in the way of some flirting and fun. While James mostly bounces around these viewpoints (along with the school's owner, Waltho), she rounds out the cast with a pair of twins, a retired dentist, a no-nonsense scouting leader, some various locals, and the celebrity chef they all hope to learn from. They're all a bit off-kilter, and James gives each of them a moment to shine—there's certainly drama galore in these pages—yet she also manages to keep things grounded. With alternating perspectives and so many roles, it would be easy to feel dizzy, but instead I found myself nothing short of charmed by this quirky bunch and their individual reasons for attending classes.

That might stem from James's commitment to cooking up such a perfect backdrop. Her lush descriptions aren't limited to the food, and the prologue alone, with its exploration of the house, had me ready to pack my bags for France. By a few chapters in, I could practically feel the warm summer breeze on my face and smell the abundance of lavender plants plotted around the property. Pretty remarkable since I'm writing from rainy Missouri, but James found a way to gently lull me into the story. Now if only I could taste the ravioli.

It's part of why I wasn't quite ready for this one to end. It's not that there's an abrupt ending—or that James left any loose threads. No, this is a technically sound novel. There are a ton of laughs, a hint of romance, and a heaping helping of heartfelt moments. But as each member of the group slowly found their way, with pages running out, I realized I wouldn't mind spending another entire book with them.

But all good books, just like all good meals, must come to an end. The French Cookery School is an utterly charming, completely satisfying read. Just maybe make sure you've had a quick snack before digging in.

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Walto Williams has opened his doors to his cookery school in his idylic French home. As with all of Caroline’s books we get to meet wonderful characters of the older generation.
We get to meet wonderful characters such as larger than life Fran who currently owns a fish and chip shop but wants to help her Husbands dream become a reality, journalist Sally who is there to review the cookery school and Caroline who has just found out her Husband wants a divorce.
During the book we get to understand the backgrounds of the characters and see friendships develop and understanding of how the past has impacted on them.
As with all of Caroline’s books she brings the characters to life so you feel you get to know them well and would love to be part of the group. Full of affection, new friendships, humour and of course lots of food I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend reading this book.
Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK for an advance copy and all opinions are my own.

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The French Cookery School by Caroline James

I received an advance review copy for free thanks to Rachel's Random Resources and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


The recipe for a perfect summer…

Step 1: Mix together a group of mature students

Step 2: Add in a handsome host

Step 3: Season with a celebrity chef

Step 4: And bring to the boil at a luxurious cookery school in France…

Waltho Williams has no idea what he’s letting himself in for when he opens the doors to his beautiful French home, La Maison du Paradis. But with dwindling funds, a cookery school seems like the perfect business plan…

Divorcée caterer Caroline needs to be able stand on her own two feet. While warm-hearted Fran hopes to help her beloved husband fulfil his lifelong dream. And for food journalist Sally it’s a PR opportunity – until a certain celebrity chef gets under her skin…

But will the eclectic group be a recipe for success, or will the mismatched relationships sink like a souffle?

My Opinion

I don't like starting a book review with a complaint, but in this case I have no choice - this book made me want to eat so much food. With some fabulous descriptions, I would recommend not reading this book without snacks on hand.

The title of this book sums it up perfectly, we meet a group of strangers who have all travelled to France to learn about cooking. This was such an easy book to read and it was very easy to just keep reading. I was surprised by how fast I worked my through the pages - I was just so lost in the story.

Caroline James has written some brilliant characters and added in quite a bit of humour to make this a lovely book. This is going to make for a fabulous summer read.

Rating 4/5

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I enjoyed the heartwarming friendships in this uplifting story set in France. The French Cookery School at a renovated house is taking its first students, the promise to learn with a celebrity chef, relax, enjoy the French way of life and make new friends. Waltho hopes he has made the right decision, opening his home to strangers. It was not the dream he and his wife Lauren envisaged, but it's just him now, and he has to live. An eclectic group of older people arrive, and the fun begins. I like the vibrant characters, the humour, the vivid descriptions of the setting, the food, the sightseeing and the immersive storytelling. It's a lovely escapist read full of laughter, poignancy and love.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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I would firstly just like to say a big thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources who very kindly forwarded me an arc copy of this book, for my kindle, in return for my honest review…

The French Cookery School is a wonderful, new rom com and is a very funny, heartwarming , love of food story and i thoroughly enjoyed it…

This was the perfect book for a spot of armchair travel and i loved going along for the ride, it felt like a lovely little Summer holiday!

I found myself reading this book very quickly and each chapter pulled me along to the next one until i had read the whole thing.

The characters were all so lovable and the story was emotional and left me with a very happy heart…….

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I wish I was there too! The French Cookery School is a delightful novel full of food, France, friendship, and second-chance romance. The characters are all vividly drawn and dynamic,. A very enjoyable read! My thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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A good chef will always say that recipes should start with quality ingredients and this book had those aplenty, from a fabulous mix of characters to superb descriptions of a location that came to life. It is always a lovely surprise to find myself in a book that is set in a less well-known area of France, but to find myself close enough to home that I recognised where I was, put a huge grin on my face. Chauvigny with its medieval castles, the famous macarons of Montmorillon and the abbey at St Savin, are just a stone’s throw from Poitiers, and this book made me want to plan return day trips.

Everyone present at La Maison du Paradis cookery retreat is looking for something or escaping their demons, and that included owner Waltho. At the beginning they didn’t seem an obvious friendship group and I wondered how easily they would gel together, but gently simmered in the heat of the French countryside, the chemistry soon began to happen. The author cleverly crafted the plot so that everyone’s strengths and weaknesses had their moment in the spotlight, yet no one personality (flavour) dominated. In fact, I’d say they all complimented each other and were enhanced by a little bit of French magic.

I always looked forward to finishing my day lost in the pages of this book and often fell asleep wondering where tomorrow’s chapter would take me.
There is so much more to this book than the delicious food served between its pages. It’s about emotions and recovery, and left me with a warm, satisfied feeling, much like a fine meal savoured in the company of great friends. If you enjoy books where the characters embark on uplifting personal journeys, and you want a location that sticks with you (hopefully making you open your map of France and plan a visit), then do add this to your summer reading list. I might even see you wandering the steep cobbled streets of Chauvigny or Montmorillon one day and we could chat about books from the terrace of a café.

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I love the cover so much on this one, and we always say don’t judge a book by its cover but let’s face it I am always drawn by a pretty cover. A good book should always have a good cover fitting to the story and I love this one, the colour and the story are wonderful !

I thought this was such an entertaining read, so much fun and lots of humour (but still serious themes covered) One word warning before you go into this book, don’t go in hungry because you’ll be hangry if you do, the recipes and dishes they cooked just made me hungry to try them.

I loved the fact this story emphasises it’s never too late to follow your dreams, as someone in their late forties this definitely resonated with me. Fran was my favourite character but being a northerner I’m biased on that, but they are all lovely characters, each with their own past and individual stories.

The French Cookery School is a light-hearted read that reminds you life is fr living no matter your age and there’s never a better time than the present. It’s full of fun, humour and just the perfect amount of romance, delight your senses and take a bite out of a brilliant book.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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The French Cookery School by Caroline James is my introduction to her work, and I'm certain it won't be the last!

In this book, we meet Waltho, who is launching the first cookery school at his home, La Maison du Paradis. Caroline, a confident woman, seeks solace from her troubles; Fran aspires to fulfill her husband's dreams. Sally, a freelance journalist, secures a spot in exchange for positive reviews. Could this combination lead to chaos?

I adored this story! The enchanting setting and realistic characters make me wish I could attend the cookery school myself!

Don't hesitate, grab your copy now!

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Caroline James has done it again. The French Cookery School is a delightful novel full of food, France, friendship, and second-chance romance. The characters are all vividly drawn and dynamic, from the bad-boy celebrity chef to the middle-aged divorcee who stayed too lng in an unhappy marriage.

As ever, James has balanced romantic comedy with poignance, and made our mouths water while doing so. If you can't afford to actually run off to the French countryside and take cooking classes, this book is the next best thing.

Goes well with: cafe au lait and pain au chocolat.

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This is the second book I’ve read by this author and yet again it was an absolutely wonderful read. Right from the prologue I was engrossed in the story and just wanted to keep on reading. Packed full of humour but there were also some emotional moments as well. Every single character took a piece of my heart with one in particular being a stand out for me, I loved her character and her sense of humour. Caroline James has a brilliant talent of making her characters feel true to life and I most certainly felt that way as I made my way through this book. This book will make you laugh out loud at times but it may also bring a tear to your eye in places. The descriptions of the food being cooked and eaten was making my mouth water at times. All in all a wonderful read by this author and a perfect holiday read.

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When Waltho Williams finishes renovating his chateau it is a bitter sweet moment. He bought the property, knowing that it needed a lot of work, with his partner, but he has had to finish the project himself. He decides to use his newly renovated spaces to run a cooking school. He recruits a semi-famous chef, Daniel, who needs the money spending a week teaching will give him, and a sous chef, not really knowing how the week will go.

Luckily the week becomes fully booked, and so the participants arrive. They come from all walks of life. There is uptight Caroline, larger than life Fran and unlucky in love journalist Sally, amongst other characters who come together to learn more about France and it's food.

When I was trying to think of a word to describe Caroline, at first I was thinking stand-offish, but I don't think that is a strong enough word. Just before her trip she has found out that not only has her husband been unfaithful and leaving her, but he has pretty much cleaned her out financially as well. She is therefore on the brink of losing everything - both professionally and personally. She is one of those people who always look perfectly put together, elegant. She is, however, distant, and she is constantly aware that she needs to watch every morsel that passes her lips so that she doesn't put on an ounce of weight.

Fran is at the cooking school to see if she has what it takes to help make her husband's dream of a fine dining restaurant come true. It will be a long way from their current business which is a successful fish and chip shop. She is exuberant, dresses in loud clothes - the very antithesis of Caroline. It's no wonder they clash.

And then there is journalist Sally. She has recently broken up with someone, and so she is focussing solely on work. She is spending the week getting material to write a series of stories about attending a cooking school. The last thing that she needs is to get distracted by a handsome chef.

There was so much to love about this book. I loved reading all about the lessons, where the chef put the class through their paces, each of them making something to contribute to the next meal. Some of the dishes sounded a-maz-ing. I also loved reading about the adventures the group went on in the nearby area, seeing the sites. I wasn't super keen on Caroline, but I guess you weren't meant to be.

I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that spending a week learning to cook at a beautiful French chateau sounds like the epitome of luxury. I am not sure it would ever happen as it is an expensive exercise, but a girl can dream right?

When we visited France early last year we stayed in what the owner called a chateau in a tiny town outside of Bloise. I couldn't help but think about that experience as I read this book, particularly the section which talked about the breakfasts! They were amazing.

This is my first Caroline James book, and I will definitely read more.

I am sharing this review with the New Release Challenge hosted at The Chocolate Lady's Book Reviews and with Foodies Read hosted at Based on a True Story

Be sure to check out other stops on the blog tour and see what they have to say about this book.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and Rachel's Random Resources for the review copy.

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This was a nice story revolving around a group of people who spend a week together learning fine cooking. I liked all the characters and there’s just the right amount of romance. It’s a quick easy book certain to keep you turning the page.

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The prologue to this lovely book is just so perfect. It’s one of those wonderful descriptive scenes, introducing the beautiful setting of La Maison du Paradis, as Waltho and Lauren plant the lavender that will grow along the pathways of the home of their dreams – and you can really feel the love between them. But three years later, things have changed and there’s a lingering sadness – Waltho is now alone, and his home is to become the French Cookery School. There are challenges, but it might just be the fresh start he needs. The team is in place – right hand woman Angelique, the suitably arrogant celebrity chef (he’s good – but doesn’t he just know it?), the experienced staff who’ll support him – so bring on the guests. Perhaps some of them might be in need of a fresh start too…

There’s Caroline – self-contained, a bit cold, perfectly turned out and most definitely posh, dealing with so many problems while her life is falling apart, but also extremely difficult to like. And in the opposite corner – and that’s how it often feels – is Fran, salt-of-the-earth fish and chip shop owner from Blackpool, hoping to learn enough to open a fine dining restaurant but also wanting to squeeze every moment of fun from her stay. Caroline was never really likely to warm to her – my goodness, she’s loud, and it doesn’t help that she’s also kept awake by her snoring through the bedroom wall – but Fran does find a much needed friend in food journalist Sally, most definitely up for some fun of her own, especially if she responds the amorous advances of the celebrity chef. Add identical twins Jeanette and Pearl, the lovely Ahmed, bossy Brigitte (and we’ve met her before – far more fun than you might expect!), and a clutch of locals – and the fun can now begin!

The characters are simply wonderful, perfectly drawn, all with their own stories, all a little older, very real but all a little quirky in their different ways – and it’s an absolute joy sharing their lives and every moment of their culinary experience. There’s plenty of laughter along the way as the friendships develop and they spend time together in the kitchen, alongside the pool, and on various excursions around the area – sometimes with a bit of drama attached – but there are a number of emotional journeys too, beautifully handled, as each of the main characters experience a range of trials and tribulations while moving closer to finding their own individual happy endings.

There’s a real sense of place to the whole book – the loveliest descriptions to transport you to the chateau itself and the surrounding area, all bathed in the most glorious sunshine, infused with the perfume of lavender as the sunflowers sway in the breeze. And I really loved the cooking, and the eating – the food descriptions were mouth-watering, and I learned a fair bit myself about its preparation – but this certainly isn’t a book you’d want to read when hungry. I really felt for Fran every time she found herself frustrated while struggling to impress – but I entirely loved the ways she chose to take revenge.

Having shared their time together, every single character (yes, most definitely including Caroline…) found their place in my heart, and I really didn’t want the experience to end – there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud humour, but (as well as being a fantastic storyteller) the author does have a particularly special emotional touch so there are also a few tears along the way. There’s an unexpected romance too, and it was one that really touched my heart – beautifully tied up with an epilogue that couldn’t have been any more perfect. This was a book I totally adored, read in a single thoroughly enjoyable sitting, and one I’d heartily recommend to all.

(Review also copied to Amazon UK, but link not yet available)

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Yet another great book by Caroline. Beautifully written book with lovely, friendly characters and setting. This one ticks all the boxes for me and didn't disappoint.

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A great relaxing read but it might make you hungry!

This is the first book I have read by this author, I have already downloaded two others by her, as I enjoyed this one so much.

Everyone has different reasons for attending the inaugural cooking school at La Maison du Paradis. Some are running away, others are there to hone a new skill and some are there to work. It seems someone is determined not to make friends, but is envious when she sees some of the others enjoying each others company, and having a great time. A quick witted tongue makes her a little less welcoming to more or less everyone, and leaves her at the fringe of the group. Just one of the characters that's maybe misunderstood in the beginning. You'll get to know them all and why they are there.

I couldn't wait to get back to this book and read about what would unfold next. It's got a little bit of everything really and that makes for a great read.

A tried and tested plot line - a group of people from different backgrounds descend on a venue to learn a skill. I do think that the author brought something new though, if only that she had more mature characters and it was interesting to read about their attitude to life.

I liked the ending which in a way was in two parts. Not neatly tied up, but a somewhat realistic outcome.

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another fantastic book by Caroline James. I love her style of writing and her amazing female characters who just stand out. You know you are in for a fab read when she is the author.

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Good summer read with a great cast of characters and a lovely setting. Very enjoyable and I would recommend.

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The only preconceived ideas I had for this book were that it would be funny and poignant. This opinion was based on reviews I’ve seen for her recent books. I can certainly confirm that my expectations didn’t fall short, as I laughed throughout and experienced a few damp eyelashes. La Maison du Paradis may have been billed as a cookery school, but it was so much more, as its magic affected so many.
For me, the main characters were Caroline and Fran. Caroline was difficult to warm to, but being a Blackpool girl myself, I adored everything about Fran. Their sparring was a great source of comedic content, but I kept hoping they would find a common ground. A special mention to journalist, Sally, who was able to see Fran as the wonderful soul that she was. Empowered by their friendship, they were always destined to find their own happy endings.
Everything about this book was special, from the sticky jelly babies to the midnight skinny dipping. There is a depth to the story that eventually reveals how men can also be vulnerable. The handling was skilful and refreshing. The setting was beautifully described, and I could almost feel the sunshine on my skin. It’s been decades since I visited France, and this book is another that has whetted my appetite for a trip.
With a perfect epilogue that beautifully closes the story, I was left with a wonderful, warm sense of contentment. It is definitely recommended.

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