Winter Reads: Books You Can Cozy Up To

MEET ME IN MONACO, by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

Beautiful in its simplicity, Meet Me in Monaco, is a light read, full of everything you want in a winter curl-up-on-the-couch read. I was captivated from the first page to the last, loved the main characters, Sophie and James, and even the “baddies” Lucian and Mrs. Duval who played their parts well. 

Due to their respective involvement in the courtship and eventual marriage of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco, Sophie Duval and James Henderson meet by chance and a friendship begins. Sophie is the owner of Duval, a small perfume company based in Grasse, France who also has a shop in Cannes. I loved both of these settings and found the creation of perfumes an interesting background for her side of the story. I was immediately sympathetic to her desire to continue her family’s business in the tried and true methods of old, to see it come back to life and to save it from uncertain times. There were wonderful themes here that the authors explored; memories evoked by scents, creating fragrances as individual as the wearer, and eventually the need to move forward out of the past. Sophie’s relationships with her mother and Lucian also gave me reason to cheer her on. 

As an amateur shutterbug myself, I sympathized with the photographer in James, who would much rather have photographed sunsets and beautiful landscapes than find himself amid the thousands of press chasing Grace Kelly’s every movement. However, in his need to capture just the right shot for his paper, he meets Sophie, and that was something sunsets and landscapes would never have given him.  

Naturally, they fall in love and of course we want them to be together, but there are problems; people and things stand in their way. James has a ten year old daughter, at home in London, England. Sophie has Lucian who intends to marry her, and a meddling mother. And Grace has Prince Rainier of Monaco. Meet Me in Monaco is well written with realistic characters, flowing and beautifully descriptive narrative, creative and genuine dialogue and wonderfully vivid settings. Much like Grace Kelly is portrayed in this novel, Meet Me in Monaco is charming and quite simply, beautiful. 

LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. But as history tells us, it all happened so differently… Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene? Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him… More info from Harper Collins HERE

WINTERING, by Katherine May

An intimate, revelatory book exploring the ways we can care for and repair ourselves when life knocks us down. Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas. Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season. More info from Penguin Random House Canada HERE

THE ARCTIC FURY, by Greer MacAllister

A dozen women join a secret 1850s Arctic expedition–and a sensational murder trial unfolds when some of them don’t come back. Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband’s lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge. A year later, Virginia stands trial for murder. Survivors of the expedition willing to publicly support her sit in the front row. There are only five. What happened out there on the ice? Set against the unforgiving backdrop of one of the world’s most inhospitable locations, USA Today bestselling author Greer Macallister uses the true story of Lady Jane Franklin’s tireless attempts to find her husband’s lost expedition as a jumping-off point to spin a tale of bravery, intrigue, perseverance and hope. More info HERE

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