Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Countdown, Day 3

Five days to go until Naughty in Nice is born--it's like the end of a pregancy: expectation, can't wait to get it over, just a little worried....

So here is snippet three from my new book. And keep watching for a contest announcement toward the end of the week....

On the Train to the Riviera where Lady Georgie is heading on a dubious errand from Queen Mary:

I looked down the rows of white clothed tables, their silver and china gleaming in the glow of little lamps. From here I couldn’t see a table that wasn’t occupied and wondered what the protocol was about joining someone on a train and whether I could ever pluck up courage to do that.

Of course the first person I noticed was the handsome Frenchman, sitting alone with another bottle of champagne beside him. He looked up from his soup and caught my gaze. He didn’t smile or nod as would have been usual. Instead he frowned at me.

“You are English?” he asked in French.

I replied that I was.

“Curious,” he replied. He was about to say something else when a voice from further down the car called to me, “I say. Aren’t you Georgiana Rannoch?”

It was a smartly dressed English lady, probably in her late forties. She was sitting with an exquisite and obviously French woman. I agreed that I was.

“Would you like to join us?” the first woman said. “It’s rather full at the moment but we have room, don’t we Coco?”

The Frenchwoman nodded and smiled. “Bien sure,” she said, waving a cigarette holder in my direction.

The Englishwoman stuck out a hand. “You look the spitting image of your father. I used to know him well. I’m Vera, by the way. Vera Bate Lombardi, and I believe we’re related, at least through marriage.”

I sat down on the chair she had pulled out for me. She waved imperiously and a waiter appeared. “My lady will be joining us, so set another place and you’d better bring us another bottle of Veuve Cliquot.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to dine with a rather bossy Englishwoman who claimed to be related to me, but it was better than standing like a wallflower.

“I actually stayed at Castle Rannoch when you were little,” she continued, “although I don’t suppose you remember me. We went out riding together once. You were a splendid little horsewoman.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I don’t often get a chance to ride any more and I miss it.”

“So do I,” she said. “I’m in Paris most of the year now, traipsing around behind Coco, and one can hardly get a decent gallop in the Bois de Boulogne..”

“You do not traipse behind me,” Coco said in English. “It makes you sound like a dog on a lead. Since you take bigger strides than I, then I am usually running to keep up with you. But you must introduce us, Vera. This very English young lady will not speak to me unless properly introduced.”

I laughed, but Vera said, “Sorry. Bad of me. Coco, this is Bertie’s daughter, Georgiana Rannoch. And this is my dear friend and business partner, Coco Chanel.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Count Down--Day 2

Only 6 days to go to the release of Naughty in Nice.

Here is snippet number 2--which takes place with the Queen at Buckingham Palace: 

“A valuable snuff box is missing from my collection, Georgiana.”

“Stolen, you mean?”

“I’m rather afraid so.”

“Isn’t that a matter for the police?”

She shook her head firmly. “I can’t mention this to the police. It’s too embarrassing. You see the snuff boxes were on display in one of the niches in the Music room. Two weeks ago we held a large reception there for the New Year honors. Shortly afterward, I noticed one of the boxes was missinGeorgig. So the choice of culprit is either one of the servants, or one of the guests at our reception. I have conducted a secret investigation of the servants, but those who were in attendance that night had all been with us for some time and had impeccable backgrounds. Which leaves only one conclusion—a person who attended that elite gathering made off with one of my snuff boxes

Georgie's task--to retrieve the snuff box from a notorious bounder!
Naughty in Nice in stores Sept 6, or order now from Amazon!

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Week Countdown starts Now!

Starting a one week countdown to the launch of Naughty in Nice on Sept 6th with snippets from the book designed to make you rush out and pre-order it, or at least line up at your local bookstore at midnight on the sixth!

And watch out for contest details at the end of the week. I'll be announcing the winner of my comments contest and telling you about the new publication contest both of which will offer fun and French prizes (no, not naughty ones)

So here's snippet number one:

The Riviera had never looked more inviting. The sun sparkled on a sea of deepest blue. Elegant couples strolled beneath the palm trees on the Boulevard des Anglais. The scent of mimosa blossoms hung in the air while a seagull soared lazily overhead…I gave a contented sigh.

“’ere, watch it, love. You’re slopping soup all over.” The gruff voice that brought me back to the present with a jerk. I wrenched my eyes away from the poster on the wall and down to the scene in front of me. A long, gray line of shabbily dressed men, muffled against the bitter cold, snaked across Victoria Station. They clutched mugs or bowls and stood patiently, eyes down or staring, as I had been, into a world that nobody else could see but them. I was currently helping out at the station soup kitchen. It was a bitter and bleak January day, and I felt as cold and miserable as those poor wretches who shuffled past me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sending Good thoughts!

I'm not posting today and tomorrow because I'm sending good thoughts, positive vibes, prayers to all my friends who live on the East Coast of the US.

Let's hope the news media has exaggerated the possible danger(as they have been known to do), but I'm also worrying about places in New York where I have spoken in the past--South Street Seaport Museum, Police Museum, both on the Eastern shoreline and certain to get water into them.

And Peter Cooper village where I spend many happy visits and still have friends, and Molly's neighborhood in Greenwich Village--I hope that's far enough from the Hudson to be safe. Oh and Ellis Island, for which I will always have a fondness since Murphy's Law.

Stay safe, stay dry everyone.

Friday, August 26, 2011

French Feast Memories

Returning to French food today and to some memorable meals I've had in France. When I was sixteen I went to stay with a French family. Usually the meals were simple in the extreme: a green bean salad with olive oil and bread for lunch. A thin slice of steak cooked in butter.
 However while I was there they had family from Corsica visiting and Maman cooked a special lunch. To describe this as lunch is an understatement, except that it started at one o'clock. The first course was a whole lobster each, accompanied by champagne. Then followe a pate, duck in a very rich sauce, a salad, a gateau sinfully dripping with cream and liqueur and then a cheese board. Every course was accompanied by a different wine. The meal went on until five o'clock. I had grown up on simple school food and maybe a sip of wine at Christmas and this was all way too much for me. That evening I was extremely sick.
But it did show me that when the French go to town on food, they REALLY go to town.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wrapped in a Gallic Shrug

One thing I've always envied about Frenchwomen and that is the way they can manage their scarves. They toss them casually over one sholder, they twist them and tuck them and they look fabulous.
I try the same thing and they slip off as I'm boarding a plane, or look like a hideous knot around my neck.
It has to be in the genes, don't you think? Certain nationalities are born with certain skills, and scarf wearing is definitely a skill of the French--together with that Gallic shrug.
My friend Cara Black--she of the Aimee LeDuc series,with whom I do a lot of events--has learned that shrug so well and even manages a good looking scarf these days.
The problem is that I love scarves. I'd like to toss one over my shoulder and look elegant. But they won't stay put. Perhaps I shoujld go and live in Paris for six months and then I'd learn.
Any tips on scarf wearing for dummies?

Or I could always ask Coco Chanel,with whom I've spent the past year (only in my head, as she is part of the story of Naughty in Nice)
Don't forget to comment for a chance to win a fun and maybe fashionable French prize.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

John's famous crepes recipe

My husband John is a big fan of crepes (yes, real men do eat pancakes).
He worked out a fabulous recipe. Because there is so much butter in it, you just need fruit and/or syrup to go with it. John likes it the old fashioned way with sugar and lemon juice.

4 eggs
2 cups milk
2 cups flour (by weight is 215 grams)
pinch of salt
quarter pound stick of melted butter

blend in blender.
better made the night before.
cook hot pan very thin. Serve with fresh fruit or choice of syrup
Savory fillings like ham and cheese, shrimp with cream sauce etc.

Mmm. Getting hungry.

13 days to go until Naughty in Nice is in stores. Don't forget to leave a comment for a prize at the end of the month.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More French fast food

Day of anticipation. In exactly two weeks, on Sept 6th, I'll be celebrating the launch of my new book, Naughty in Nice

For the past two weeks I've been focusing on all things French--food, fashion, history. After posting on mussels yesterday my thoughts are still in Brittany and on their other famous fast food--the crepe.

If you want a light meal or a snack, you visit a Creperie. Actually the savory ones are called Galettes and are often made with buckwheat flour. They are topped with ham, cheese, fried egg, shrimp, spinach etc. All delicious.
But my favorites are the true crepes--thin crisp pancakes with fruit, chocolate, cream, honey, all of the above...
Sorry, I'm drooling. Have to stop.
My husband makes a terrific crepe recipe which I'll post sometime. It involves a whole stick of butter in the blender mix. No wonder it's so good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Showing some mussel

Only two weeks to go until Naughty in Nice comes to a bookstore near you.

And I'm continuing my month of French fun and facts with some thoughts on French fast food: Brittany is one of my favorite regions of France. My sister in law has a cute little house there and I love the low key life there, and also the food.  The first time we visited her she took us to a worker's cafe and we ordered the favorite fast food lunch--moules et frites (mussels with shoestring fries). The mussels come simmered in wine and herbs, the fries in a paper tube.

We learned immediately that there is a right and a wrong way to eat them. We picked up our forks. Sue leaned across the table and whispered, "Please don't embarrass me. Watch."  And she picked up an empty mussel shell and used it as pinchers to extract the next mussel. Soon we were old pros and the combination of flavors is incredible.  Easy to cook too, if you don't mind scrubbing and preparing mussels.

Mmm. Now I'm hungry.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pardonnez Moi but ou sont les Parisiens?

If you happen to be in Paris this week you'll have made a startling discovery--there are no Parisiens there. The place is empty apart from tourists, of whom there are too many.

Let me reassure you there has not been a great plague or invading army that has wiped out the population. It's just that this week is the feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15th) and Parisians plan their annual escape from the city around this feast--when their city is too hot and full of tourists.

In the days when France was more religious August 15th was a big deal. Processions, and big parties for anyone called Mary (since your name day was more important that your birthday in France). I remember the procession at Le Puy, a small mountain town in the Massif Central--the procession winding up through the streets to the Cathedral, with ordinary people, dressed in their Sunday best, following, singing. It was most moving.
I wonder if it's still there in what has been described by the press as Post Christian Europe.  Today you are lucky to find five people at Mass on a Sunday. Churches are closing. Priests are getting old and dying off.
And the Moslem religion? It is flourishing.

I didn't mean this to be a thought provoking post, but that is how it has turned out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Easy and Delicious

I promised something a little more cheerful today, didn't I?
I've been thinking back to my time in Nice last summer and one of the strongest memories is of the food (isn't that always the way?)

They do great things with tuna and olives in the South of France, so here is something simple and delicious.

Tuna Tapenade
1 clove garlic
one can tuna in olive oil
3 large garlicky green olives sliced and pits removed
2 Ts lemon juice
2 Ts olive oil
1 pinch thyme (or leaves of fresh thyme)
ground black pepper

drop garlic into food processor to mince. Add tuna etc and pulse until its a spread. Great as a heavy dip with strong crackers or with a fresh baguette.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Day France Changed

My post yesterday about Chanel being a spy during WWII made me realize how much everything changed for France in that short time. At the time I write about the English used to winter on the Riviera, living a lavish lifestyle with yachts and hundreds of pounds lost at the casino. It was still the France of lax morals, mistresses, champagne and savoir faire. Then the Germans marched in, people who resisted were shot, most people were starving, Jews were rounded up and sent off to a fate nobody believed at the time.

It's easy to be judgmental about those who chose to collaborate. I could never have betrayed a countryman or woman to the Gestapo. I could never have willingly helped the Germans but might I have entertained German officers in the hope of getting a little more food for my children? I really don't know because I haven't had to make those choices.

It's easy to judge Chanel too. She had lived in the gutter. She knew what it was like to be starving. And she had worked all her life to build the house of Chanel into the fashion icon it was. So if she had a chance to live well, to be able to re-open her fashion house in Paris, she probably jumped at it without too much thought. And after the war she paid for it, tried as a collaborator. She escaped the fate of many French girls who had done nothing more than be friendly to lonely German boys far from home. They had their heads shaved and were cast out from society. She had enough connections to keep going, although there was prejudice against her fashions for a long time to come.

This is day 13 of my month of French fun and facts, to celebrate the release on Sept 6th of Naughty in Nice, which features Chanel and other celebrities of the Riviera (including Mrs. Simpson)
Leave a comment for a chance to win a prize at the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Was Chanel a spy?

This snippet of news that was sent to me yesterday could hardly be more timely for the launch of Naughty in Nice:

A new book suggests that Coco Chanel was used as a German spy during WWII (code name Westminster , after the Duke of Westminster, who was her pre-war lover)
Several friends sent me the link and asked if I knew about this.
Absolutely, and what's more I'm dying to write about it.  It's too bad my series is only up to 1934 and I can't really skip ahead to the war yet.
But what I already knew was that Coco became the mistress of a German officer during the war. He had her write to her old business partner, Vera Bate Lombardi, who was living in Italy, having married Lombardi and wanting to be with him. The letter said that Chanel was reviving her fashion house and wanted Vera to come and help her. In fact the letter was to lure Vera to Paris any way she could. Once there she would be threatened and intimidated by the Gestapo until she agreed to be sent to England to work on Winston Churchill, who was a friend. There was even some hint that they wanted her to assassinate him.

Now you can see why I'm dying to use the story some time.  Chanel was the ultimate survivor. She came from nothing, an orphanage after being abandoned by her parents, and used one rich man after another to achieve what she wanted. The fact that she was prepared to use her dearest friend in this way showed how little regard she had for people.

A more cheerful subject tomorrow, I hope.
It's Dayd 12 of my month of French Fun and Facts, leading up to the release of Naughty in Nice on September 6th.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Julia

It's day 11 of my month of French fun and I'm back to French food today with a celebration:My commenter Liz reminded me that it would have been Julia Child's 99th birthday today. Happy 99th to a character who was larger than life in many ways and proof that eating food that tastes good because of lashings of butter does not lead to an early grave!

I met Julia Child once, when my then publisher had flown in from New York and was taking me out to lunch in San Francisco. We went to a trendy new place that had just opened and there at the next table was Julia Child, with her husband Paul. And what's more, my publisher knew them, so we had a great discussion about what to order. My impressions of her were 1. how much she loved her husband and how solicitous he was of her, and 2. how much she enjoyed her food.  She really was a large lady and completely dwarfed him (he was quite old and frail by that time). And I remember one other thing: all through the meal my publisher and publicist were more interested in what she was eating than in me!

I loved the movie Julie and Julia, by the way. Who couldn't? Meryl Streep has long been one of my favorite actresses and someone I'm dying to meet (so if you know her, introduce us!) And the fact that a five foot six slim woman could convincingly portray a big boned six footer was a real tour de force. Of course the directing and camera angles helped a lot but she ACTED that size.

I have a well used copy of the Art of French Cooking and I think I'll go up to the kitchen and decide what to cook in homage to Julia tonight. Coq au vin? Her boeuf bourgignon is sublime.
Any Julia favorites to share?

This month of French fun is in celebration of the launc of Naughty in Nice, on September 6th. Three weeks to go today!! Yipee.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Scent of Trouble

Today I'm moving away (reluctantly) from food to talk about one of the most fascinating characters I've come across in ages--Coco Chanel. As I said in an earlier post she was way ahead of her time, she was as tough as any man, she used people to get what she wanted and yet she was, in some ways, terribly naive.

When she decided she wanted to create a perfume, Chanel No 5, of course, she joined forces with Pierre and Paul Wertheimer, who were millionaire owners of a perfumerie house. She was in many ways not a good businesswoman and when she needed money she virtually signed away her rights to her perfumes. Their relationship was stormy. They employed a lawyer simply to handle the lawsuits from "that bloody woman" but she ended up having no control over her perfumes.

It's amazing how timeless No 5 is, isn't it? I have a bottle on my vanity now. And now that I know about Chanel and what she went through, I will think of her every time I put a dab on my wrist and remind myself to be wise and prudent in business dealings.

If I'm writing about all the good things that come from France, then perfume has to be near the top of my list. I used to love Madame Rochas, Je Reviens, Anais Anais, and Chanel. Any other French perfumes that are favorites?

This is day 10 of my month of French fun, celebrating the launch of my new Lady Georgie book, Naughty in Nice, on Sept 6th. Do check it out on Amazon--pure French fun!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quiche me, my darling

Today I'm sharing my recipe for a perfect Sunday brunch, using the pate brisee recipe from yesterday. My husband is of the "real men don't eat quiche"  variety but he adores asparagus. In fact he'd eat them every night if I let him. So I serve this asparagus quiche and he doesn't complain!

You'll need one recipe of the pate brisee
1 pound asparagus washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion peeled and diced
3 jumbo eggs
half cup heavy cream
three quarters cup swiss cheese.
salt and pepper to season.

First cook the pie shell blind  (baked with sheet of foil then filled with rice or dried beans)
cook asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes. remove and pat dry.
saute onion in butter. When transparent add asparagus and continue sauteing until asparagus are soft to a prod from a fork.
In mixing bowl whisk eggs, cream and half cup grated cheese. Add asparagus mixture then pour into pie shell. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and puffy (about 40 mins)
You could also substitute a frozen pie crust to speed things up, but it won't be as good!
I also add crumbled bacon to this sometimes. Any other suggestions?

This is Day 9 of my month of French fun... my countdown to Naughty in Nice on Sept 6th.
Add your comments for a chance to win a fun French prize!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pastry to Die For

Day 8 in my month of French Fun, leading up to the grand release of Naughty in Nice on Sept 6,
and I thought it was time for some favorite recipes.

I absolutely love French pastries. Lock me in a boulangerie or patiserie and I would die happy. But I also love French savory pastries--quiches and onion tarts and the like.

What's more, good savory patry (called Pate brisee) is really easy to make.
For one tart shell take
1 and a quarter cups all purpose flour
pinch of salt
7 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons iced water

1.combine flour and salt in food processor. Cut the cold butter into slices, add to flour and process until mixture turns pale yellow, like cornmeal
2. Gradually add water through feed tube while processing with short pulses. Dought should hold together when pressed between fingers.
3. Wrap dough in plastic film and refridgerate at least half an hour.
4. Spread flour on wooden board, rub rolling pin with flour, then roll out from center until you have a thin sheet big enough to fit over pie plate.

The secret is making sure butter is cold, water is iced and YOU DON"T OVERPROCESS.

This can be baked blind, using dried beans as filler for quiches or filled for turnovers.
Tomorrow I'll give you my favorite quiche recipe.

Bon appetit!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Certainly Madame!

One of the comments yesterday triggered a memory of my own. The poster wrote:
A favorite memory, though not about food. I went to the Carnavelet Museum in Paris specifically to see one painting. The room where the painting was hung was under construction. I was disappointed until I asked if there was any way I could get in. Certainly madame! The head curator himself took me to the painting, escorting me through the sawhorses and equipment!

Now the French are known for being remote, bloody minded and difficult. But my experiences are similar to yesterday's poster. In fact last year when I was researching Naughty in Nice I needed to look around the Negresco Hotel. Originally I planned to have a murder take place there. Now the Negresco is still a top hotel, reeeeeely expensive (try $1000 a night). I walked up the front steps and was stopped by a young man dripping with braid. You cannot enter, he said, looking at my non-designer attire. I told him I was a famous writer who wanted to write about his hotel. He took me to his boss and I handed the boss my card.
He opened his arms wide. "Feel free, madame," he said. "Go where you want to."
And so I spent two delicious hours poking into every corner of the Negresco hotel. 
Here are some pictures I took. I could also have helped myself to their priceless artwork collection, had I been criminally minded and carried a bigger purse!

It'sDay 7 of my month of French fun and counting down to Naughty in Nice!

Comment on your French experiences for a chance to win a fun French prize (no, it won't be naughty!)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eating Like the French

Day 6 of my month of French fun, in anticipation of the publication of Naughty in Nice on Sept 6th:

If you want to know why French food tastes so good, there are big differences in their approach to cooking.

1. The word processed is foreign to them. The French like their food nautral and fresh.

2. Fresh food means shopping daily at the market, smelling, touching, examining each item bought. This is still the norm in France in spite of supermarkets.
Bread is bought every morning for breakfast at the local bakery.

3. The French are not afraid to use butter and cream (unsalted butter for most things) and yet their cholesterol count is lower than ours. Why is that? Could it be the red wine? Could it be a less stressful life-style? Or could it be all those chemical compounds we put into our bodies in that processed food?

4. Most of the time they eat very simply, and one flavor at a time--a green bean salad with oil and vinegar dressing, followed by a grilled piece of meat or fish, followed by some cheese and fruit. On big occasions they go wild with banquets that would daunt the stomachs of anybody not used to them.

Do you have a favorite French food or food memory? I'll share mine tomorrow.
And don't forget to comment for a chance to win a prize at the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Divine French Recipe

My month of French treats, day 5, leading up to the publication of Naughty in Nice on Sept 6th.

Havings started to write about French food yesterday, I had a brilliant idea. I'm actually going to cook and eat French food every day until Sept 6th. And I'm starting with something basic to go with crusty baguettes. It's called Aioli and it's a basic garlic mayonnaise and will keep in the refridgerator.
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 egg yoks
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup olive oil
half cap safflower oil
salt and black pepper

Food procesessor with metal blade.
With machine on, drop garlic cloves down the tube until minced. Remove the lid and add egg yolks and lemon juice. Process until smooth.
With machine running pour in the oils in a slow and steady stream. Season to taste. Will keep for about a week. Do not freeze.

Do you have a favorite French recipe you'd like to share? For me they have to be simple. I'm never going to plunge sweetbreads into ice water and then remove the membrane. Ain't gonna happen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Taste of French food

Day 4 of my month of French goodies, leading up to the publication of Naughty in Nice on Sept 6th:

How could I write a blog about France without talking about food? If I wrote what I liked about French food I could probably write a thicker book than Julia Child.
I love its simplicity: when we were in Nice last year I got up early and went to the Boulangerie around the corner every morning to buy a baguette and some croissants for breakfast. After a few days the woman recognized me as a regular customer and would dart into the back of the shop to bring out bread and croissants fresh from the oven.
Then sit on the balcony, warm croissants, apricot jam, unsalted butter...
my idea of heaven.
Tune in tomorrow for a recipe!
And leave a comment about your favorite French food for a chance to win a prize!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I love Coco Chanel

Month of French Fun, Day 3:

When I started writing a book set on the French Riviera in the 1930s I wanted to see what real people might have been there that winter. And I discovered that one of them was Coco Chanel. How exciting was that?
I have always been in awe of her because she really invented fashion as we know it today.

When women were wearing corsets and flowing skirts and bustles and frou frou Chanel wore tailored men's suits. Can you imagine the uproar that caused? She made French women what they are today with her simple designs and clean lines. The closest I've ever come to owning anything by Chanel, apart from a bottle of Number 5 perfume, was a high end knock off coat, that I absolutely loved (picture of me wearing it, back in my youth),

In my story Chanel is putting on a fashion show combining the masculine and the feminine. Haven't we be doing that ever since?
(the picture shows Chanel with friend Vera Bate Lombardi, who was Queen Mary's illigitimate niece)

This Month of French Fun is to celebrate the publication of Naughty in Nice on September 6th. If you want to read a fun and suspenseful story in which Chanel is a key player, order your copy now.

And do leave a comment for a chance to win a fun French prize at the end of the month!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I Like About France

Month of French Fun, Day Two....

I've been thinking back fondly to last summer in Nice and I made a list of all the things that I like about France.
1.The food. This is a no brainer. Even the simplest things like baguettes, pate and cheeses taste fabulous in France.
2. The no-rush mentality. Time for a glass of wine, a coffee at an outdoor cafe.
3. The bistros, outdoor cafes, scent of jasmine, maybe a little music. Perfect.
4. Fashionable women. Only Frenchwomen can throw a scarf over a plain dress and look so elegant.
5. Transportation. Trains are clean and run on time. Local buses along the Mediterranean were fantastic and cheap and frequent.
6. So many stunning landscapes. What other country can offer the windswept coast of Brittany, the magic of Paris, the quaint hillside towns of the Dordogne, the highest mountain in Europe and the majesty of the Alps and Pyrenees and the gem of the spectacular Mediterranean coastline with mountains plunging into sea of incredible shades of turquoise and azure.

7. Paris. Enough said.
8. French films. They don't need car chases and explosions to create incredible drama.
9. So many villages that time has forgotten.
10. Fields of sunflowers. Always so cheery as they seem to turn to look at you.

What a treat it was for me to set a whole book in Nice. If you want a taste of the Mediterranean, look for Naughty in Nice on September 6th at a bookstore near you (or you can order online too)

And don't forget to comment for the chance to win a lovely French gift at the end of the month!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Month of French Fun

This time last year I was in Nice, slaving away at research for my upcoming book. You have no idea how much writers have to suffer for their craft! All those bistros to check out; finding the perfect view of the blue Mediterranean, the perfumes of Grasse, the best local wines.  Joking aside, I did spend a lot of time in local libraries, looking at books of old photographs and maps, making sure I got everything right for the 1930s.  And the famous Negresco Hotel. Research there was a must. It's still a hotel at around $1000 a night so we didn't stay there. I was stopped by an impressive doorman, dripping gold braid, as I went up the front steps. I told him what I wanted and was escorted to the manager (or maybe it was the under, under manager). I handed him my card and told him that his hotel would feature in my new book.

"Madame, feel free,"  he said. So I spend a fabulous morning peeking into all the hidden corners of the Negresco hotel. Once again I discovered that the word "writer" opens so many doors.

Now it's exactly a year later and I am awaiting the publication of the book. It's called NAUGHTY IN NICE and it comes out on September 6th. So I thought I'd spend the next month celebrating everything I like about France--French food recipes, snippets about fashion and Chanel, and scarves,.
So please join me and add your comments about what YOU like about France.

 At the end of the month there will be a fun prize for the best comment.

And look for my new website, coming soon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Rather Different Royal Wedding

Rhys Bowen, your royal correspondent reporting in on the latest royal wedding. Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Phillips married English rugby player Mike Tindall in a church in Edinburgh, Scotland. And it couldn't have been more different. Where Kate and Will's wedding was dignified pageantry, this was definitely one step down--with the guest list including TV celebrities, sportspeople and pop stars. Of course Zara is only thirteenth in line to the throne and she doesn't even have a title. Plain Miss Phillips. And rugby players are not known for their suave elegance on the whole (I speak wherof I know. Our nephew is a professional rugby player who has played for England. I am waiting to hear whether he attended the wedding, actually)
So it was rather low key, apart from the number of royals, who tend to raise the tone of any wedding.

Zara is a low key kind of girl--outdoorsy, top level horsewoman who hopes to make the Olympic team next year. So it was no surprise that they were snapped leaving their hotel the next morning in scruffy old jeans and sweat shirts. But she looked lovely and traditional for the actual ceremony and I'm sure her mum heaved a sigh of relief.

The Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate, made sure she was dressed in a way that did not steal the show. It was actually a recycled dress she had worn several years ago. And her dress for the reception was the one she wore recently in LA. A thrifty girl is our new duchess, setting a standard for the times.
But will someone please tell me why all hats have to perch precariously to one side of the head these days?
At least Princess Beatrix looked reasonably elegant and... well, normal, after the ridiculous attire for Will and Kate's wedding.
One undertstands that Will and Kate had a really good time and that the reception included Will's impersonation of Bon Jovi.