Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France by Karen Wheeler is a memoir of a woman who gives up a pretty cushy life in London as a fashion editor to move to rural France on her own and renovate a house. Doesn’t everyone dream of doing this? I know I do and every time I read a memoir like this where a single woman moves to France or Italy and renovates a house, it just brings that dream alive again.
Thirty-something Karen is single after a bad breakup with her boyfriend. The breakup really took it’s toll on her as she had been pretty much planning on marrying this guy and having babies. As a fashion editor she has everything most of us only dream about – great clothes, shoes, and lots of parties but after her breakup she feels more and more like she’s had enough. So what does she do, well she leaves it all behind of course, and buys a run down house in Poitou-Charentes, France. She names it Maison Coquelicot – or ‘house of the wild poppy’.
The house is a mess when she arrives but she has a vision and she sets about seeing it come alive. I enjoyed reading about her renovating adventures especially in the beginning when she couldn’t stay at the house yet and ended up in a tent instead. It was great hearing about it all come together though, like the first night she got to spend in her own bed in her house or getting the garden fixed up and being able to sit out there and see all the beauty before her.
She met a lot of people too and made some good friends although some of these friendships didn’t come without a few surprises too. The one thing Karen struggled with was letting go of her ex-boyfriend in order to be able to move on herself. It doesn’t help of course that she seemed to have the worst of luck in the area of being able to even find herself a man. First she moved to an area that seems to be inhabited with mostly people over sixty and that certainly doesn’t help when you may be in the market for a man. That aside though she does meet a few eligible (or so she thought) men in France but each time these tentative relationships fell apart. I admired the way she picked up and moved on though and hopefully at some point love manages to find her again.
I really enjoyed Karen’s story and truthfully I found this book read more like fiction than a memoir which made it even more enjoyable for me. I found myself completely drawn into the little world Karen has carved out for herself in France. She writes in an easy, flowing way that I found pleasant to read and once I got started reading I found I really didn’t want to put the book down until I finished it. Getting to the end was kind of sad because I still want to know if she finds love or gets a dog. To that end I was happy to see that there is a sequel to Tout Sweet and I plan on reading it next.
What I liked most about Karen’s writing was she made me feel as though I was right there with her in France. I could see the scenery as she described it and taste the yummy delicacies she got from the bakery or the wine she shared with friends. Mostly I like how she had the nerve to just give up her life in London and move to France and renovate a house. Even more important as she renovates this house and meets all these new friends who become important to her, she manages to find herself as well. She learns that life isn’t all about the newest fashions or going on your next shopping spree – it’s actually about the small things like getting something accomplished in the house or enjoying a walk in the countryside. A simple life can hold many pleasures.
I really enjoyed Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler. I think it stems from me wishing I could do this very same thing some day. I always enjoy reading about someone moving to some far away place but France and Italy really intrigue me. I can’t wait for more adventures from Karen! You can visit Karen’s blog and follow her on Twitter as well. You can pick up your own copy of Tout Sweet here in the US and here in Canada.
I have one copy of Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler up for grabs. To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with your email address to contact you (no email, no entry).
- For 2 entries, follow my blog. If you already do, thank you, and please let me know in your comment so I can pass the extra entry on to you as well.
- For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway and spread the word!
This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, September 10/11. Good luck everyone!
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My copy of Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler was received for review from Sourcebooks.