Talking Location With author Leigh Russell – YORK
10 Great Books set along the Côte d’Azur
2nd June 2021
The Côte d’Azur (The French Riviera) is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. 10 Great Books set along the Côte d’Azur. It is the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France and includes famously glamorous beach resorts such as Saint-Tropez and Cannes, and the independent microstate of Monaco. A health retreat in the 18th century, the area later attracted aristocrats, artists and the 1960s “jet set.” Today it’s an established holiday destination, with paths connecting many coastal villages and towns
”The South of France is one of my favorite places in the world.” M Ward
The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther 11) by Philip Kerr
The French Riviera, 1956. A world-weary Bernie Gunther is working under a false name as a hotel concierge. His attempts to keep his nose clean go horribly awry when a wartime acquaintance sucks him into a blackmail plot involving one of the most famous British writers of the 20th century and the notorious Cambridge Spies.
Bernie is missing his old detective life when his past walks through the door in the shape of Harold Hennig, a former captain in the Nazi security service – the man who, in 1945, was responsible for the deaths of thousands, among them a woman Bernie loved. Hennig now enjoys a lucrative career as a blackmailer.
Hennig’s target on the Cote d’Azur is a famous resident with a dark past and plenty to hide – the writer, Somerset Maugham. A shared love of bridge draws Bernie to Maugham’s magnificent villa, where Maugham tells him of the existence of a very compromising photograph. Taken in 1937, it shows Maugham among a group of naked men beside a swimming pool – one of whom is the infamous spy and homosexual, Guy Burgess, who, with Donald Maclean, has recently defected to Moscow. Hennig has the photograph and is demanding $50,000 for its release.
Bernie is reluctant to become Maugham’s agent but his former life has made him as vulnerable to blackmail as Maugham himself. Not only that – he has a massive score to settle with Hennig
Villa America by Liza Klaussmann
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Cole and Linda Porter, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos – all are summer guests of Gerald and Sara Murphy. Visionary, misunderstood, and from vastly different backgrounds, the Murphys met and married young, and set forth to create a beautiful world. They alight on Villa America: their coastal oasis of artistic genius, debauched parties, impeccable style and flamboyant imagination. But before long, a stranger enters into their relationship, and their marriage must accommodate an intensity that neither had forseen. When tragedy strikes, their friends reach out to them, but the golden bowl is shattered, and neither Gerald nor Sara will ever be the same.
Ravishing, heart-breaking, and written with enviable poise, Villa America delivers on all the promise of Liza Klaussmann’s bestselling debut, Tigers in Red Weather. It is an overwhelming, unforgettable novel.
Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate, and second-chances.
Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.
James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.
Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys
1948: an English housewife trapped in a dull marriage escapes to the South of France to claim a mystery inheritance. But rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge, and now they want her out of the way …
She didn’t have an enemy in the world…
until she inherited a fortune
London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey suburb.
Out of the blue, she received a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.
Eve discovers her legacy is an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous.
But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.
Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly…
Promises to Keep by Patricia Sands
Falling in love with the south of France was no surprise to Katherine. Choosing to walk away from her past and start over was completely unexpected. Her future seemed full of promise. A new country, a new lover, and the anticipation of a bright future beginning in mid-life. This was how The Promise of Provence ended (Book 1, Love in Provence series).
Now, in Promises To Keep (Book 2, Love in Provence series), there are exciting dreams of restoring the property on the Cap, of beginning a new career, of experiencing the traditions of Christmas in Provence, of falling even more deeply in love with the man who inspired her hopes.
It was all so perfect, until it wasn’t. The anonymous note left on the windshield was just the beginning.
Katherine had embraced new possibilities in life and given her heart only to discover something was being kept from her. Something terrible from her lover’s past. Something that could destroy everything.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, had become her mantra. Would it be enough?
Engaging new characters enter the story in Book Two and Katherine and Philippe take the reader along as they visit Lyon. The mysterious medieval village of Entrevaux is also introduced.
Christmas in the countryside of Provence with Joy and her delightful family invites the reader to be a guest and enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of traditions passed along for centuries.
Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie
Theresa is desperate for a change. Forced into early retirement, fed up with babysitting her bossy daughter’s obnoxious children, she sells her Highgate house and moves to the picture-perfect town of Bellevue-sur-Mer, just outside Nice. Quite Nice
With its beautiful villas, its bustling cafes and shimmering cerulean sea, the village sparkles like a diamond on the French Mediterranean coast. Once the hideaway of artists and writers, it is now home to the odd rock icon and Hollywood movie star, and, as Theresa soon discovers, a close-knit set of expats. There’s Carol, the infinitely glamorous American and her doting husband David; the erstwhile British TV star Sally; the ferocious Sian and her wayward Australian poet husband; the sharply witty Zoe with her strangely youthful face and penchant for white wine – and the suave Brian who catches Theresa’s eye.
As Theresa settles to the gentle rhythm of seaside life she embraces her new-found friendships and freedom. However, life is never quite as simple as it seems and as skeletons start to fall out of several closets, Theresa begins to wonder if life on the French Riviera is quite as nice as it first appeared.
House of the Hanged by Mark Mills
A riveting and evocative tale of passion and murder, set on the French Riviera in the 1930s, from the No.1 bestselling author of The Savage Garden.
France, 1935: At the poor man’s end of the Riviera sits Le Rayol, a haven for artists, expatriates and refugees. Here, a world away from the rumblings of a continent heading towards war, Tom Nash has rebuilt his life after a turbulent career in the Secret Intelligence Service.
His past, though, is less willing to leave him behind. When a midnight intruder tries to kill him, Tom knows it is just a matter of time before another assassination attempt is made.
Gathered at Le Rayol for the summer months are all those he holds most dear, including his beloved goddaughter Lucy. Reluctantly, Tom comes to believe that one of them must have betrayed him. If he is to live, Tom must draw his enemy out, but at what cost to himself and the people he loves…?
The Winner Stands Alone by Paul Coelho
The Winner Stands Alone is the enthralling new novel by the incomparable Paulo Coelho.
The story is set during the Cannes International Film Festival and the entire action plays out over 24 hours. Igor is a wealthy Russian businessman. His wife Ewa left him two years ago and Igor has never really come to terms with their break up, especially as Ewa is now remarried to a famous fashion designer, Hamid Hussein. Igor is insanely jealous and when Ewa left him he told her that he would destroy ‘whole worlds’ in order to get her back, and he intends to keep his promise…
Igor has followed Ewa and her new husband to Cannes and his plan is to cause as much violence and destruction as possible until Ewa realises how much he loves her and comes back to him. Ewa loved Igor but she was absolutely terrified of him. She knows that Igor has killed people in the past when he was a soldier, but she also knows a dark secret – that he once cold bloodedly murdered a beggar who was bothering them in a restaurant. Igor is clearly unhinged and he will stop at nothing to regain her love and so he goes on a ruthless killing spree until he tracks down Ewa…
The star-studded film festival acts as a backdrop to Igor’s maniacal murdering spree and we are ntroduced to various characters along the way, all of whom are desperately trying to get their big break in the shallow world of show business; Gabriela a young and naive actress who is being exploited by her agent and Jasmine a troubled young Rwandan refugee working as a model.
The Winner Stands Alone is a gripping, fast-paced thriller, and Coelho cleverly weaves in elements of social satire, poking fun at our celebrity and money obsessed culture
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Bonjour Tristesse is Françoise Sagan’s stylish, shimmering and amoral tale of adolescence and betrayal on the French Riviera, published when its author was just eighteen years old.
It tells the story of Cécile, who leads a carefree life with her widowed father and his young mistresses until, one hot summer on the Riviera, he decides to remarry – with devastating consequences. In A Certain Smile, which is also included in this volume, Dominique, a young woman bored with her lover, begins an encounter with an older man that unfolds in unexpected and troubling ways.
Akin by Emma Donoghue
Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France.
This odd couple, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, argue about everything from steak haché to screen time, and the trip is looking like a disaster. But as Michael’s sharp eye and ease with tech help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past, both of them come to grasp the risks that loved ones take for one another, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room a huge bestseller, Akinis a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.
Which is your top title to transport you to the Côte d’Azur? Do tell us in the comments below! And if you fancy more reads set in this beautiful part of the world, then just access the Tripfiction database
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