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Off the Wild Coast of Brittany

by Juliet Blackwell

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244848,057 (4.21)1
An unforgettable story of resilience and resistance set during WWII and present-day France on a secluded island off the coast of Brittany Natalie Morgen made a name for herself with a memoir about overcoming her harsh childhood after finding a new life in Paris. After falling in love with a classically trained chef, they moved together to his ancestral home, a tiny fishing village off the coast of Brittany. But then Francois-Xavier breaks things off with her without warning, leaving her flat broke and in the middle of renovating the guesthouse they planned to open for business. Natalie's already struggling when her sister, Alex, shows up unannounced. The sisters form an unlikely partnership to save the guesthouse, reluctantly admitting their secrets to each other as they begin to heal the scars of their shared past. But the property harbors hidden stories of its own. During World War II, every man of fighting age on the island fled to England to join the Free French forces. The women and children were left on their own...until three hundred German troops took up residence, living side-by-side with the French women on the tiny island for the next several years. When Natalie and Alex unearth an old cookbook in a hidden cupboard, they find handwritten recipes that reveal old secrets. With the help of locals, the Morgen sisters begin to unravel the relationship between Violette, a young islander whose family ran the guesthouse during WWII, and Rainier, a German military customs official with a devastating secret of his own.… (more)
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Natalie Morgen made a name for herself with a memoir about overcoming her harsh childhood after finding a new life in Paris. After falling in love with a classically trained chef, they moved together to his ancestral home, a tiny fishing village off the coast of Brittany. Then he breaks things off, leaving her flat broke and in the middle of renovating the guesthouse they planned to open for business. Later, her sister, Alex, shows up unannounced. The sisters form an unlikely partnership to save the guesthouse, reluctantly admitting their secrets to each other as they begin to heal the scars of their shared past.

This was a gentle story about sisters getting to know each other as adults. There was an interesting contrast between their memories of growing up with survivalist parents and their current life. As they discover some of the history of the guesthouse, the story switches to a 2nd storyline about the former owner, Violette, who lived there during German occupation of the island in WWII. This was an enjoyable story, particularly with the genuine relationship between the sisters. ( )
  gaylebutz | Oct 13, 2022 |
Juliet Blackwell always has books that draw you in from the beginning and keeps you interested to the end. This definitely one that does that.
This is a story of 3 women whose lives connect them to the past and present. The story takes place a tiny fishing village off the coast of Brittany. which is as much a character in the book as are the 3 women.
Natalie Morgan is struggling with trying to put her life back together after falling in love with a classically trained chef that leaves, breaking her heart and leaving her without the funds to finish renovating the guesthouse they planned to open together. To further complicate her life, her estranged sister shows up unannounced.
Natalie has no idea that her life is going to be even more complicated when she and her sister unearth old cookbook hidden away, that will take them back to WWII and the secrets of the German occupation of their tiny island.
Fans of historical fiction will find this one they want to read. ( )
  SharleneMartinMoore | Apr 24, 2021 |
Sisters meeting on an isolated island off the coast of Brittany after not seeing each other for ten years is where we meet Alex and Natalie.

Alex arrived unannounced and didn't tell her sister why.

Natalie was restoring a beautiful home but had to stop because her boyfriend returned to France and wasn’t planning to come back. Natalie is also an author of a popular book about this island and her love life which is now non-existent. She has to worry about the next book which was to be focused on the romance between her and Francois-Xavier.

Both sisters had secrets which they finally shared with each other.

While exploring the house, they found a hidden space in the attic that held an old cookbook, costumes, and beautifully embroidered linens. Why were these things hidden?

We then travel back to the island during WWII and meet the women left to fend for themselves after all the men had gone off to war.

The women weren't alone for long, though, because the Germans invaded the island, lived in their homes, took their food, and gave orders.

The characters will steal your heart and make you want to immediately book a plane to this island to soak up its quaintness.

As you begin to love the characters and the island, the two stories blend together through the cookbook that holds the secrets to the island's past..

A hundred-year-old resident also helped to reveal secrets.

Ms. Blackwell’s writing pulls you in and puts you right into the story line to enjoy what the characters are enjoying and what they are suffering through.

You may even learn some French and learn about French cooking and cooking terms.

If you are a fan of WWII, authors, lovely, isolated islands, hidden spaces, long-kept secrets, and Ms. Blackwell’s books, do not miss OFF THE WILD COAST OF BRITTANY. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  SilversReviews | Mar 10, 2021 |
Brittany revelations!

Natalie Morgen and Alex are sisters who share a weird childhood. Their parents were survivalists and bought their children up to be able to carry on after Armageddon. The two are very different, as seen by the differing nature and abilities during their extreme childhood days.
Natalie becomes a successful blogger and writer of a runaway bestseller, “Pourquoi Pas? A Memoir of Life, Love, and Food.”
She and her love François-Xavier, pronounced Fran-swah Ex-ah-vee-ay (I loved that touch), a gorgeous looking French chef, move to Île de Feme off Brittany’s Côte Sauvage. They plan to renovate his family’s historic guest house and run a gourmet restaurant
When François-Xavier leaves to attend to business in Paris it’s supposed to be only for a short visit— it seems the swine has other ideas!
Nat’s reluctant to let his family know about François-Xavier’s desertion in case they renege on the guesthouse usage deal, especially as all her money has been sunk into getting the business started. Now Nat is facing writer’s block and she needs more funds. She’s panicking. And then the sister she’s had little contact with over the years turns up on her doorstep.
As Nat’s story continues it crosses back to that of a previous daughter of the house Violette Fouquet / Guilcher during World War II. We start to see the history of the island during the occupation. The men leave for England to join the war effort just before the Nazis arrive. The island women are left to handle the invaders. The island fronts a sea lane and is an important link for the German occupation of France.
I found myself completely captivated by the story of both ages as told from the perspective of the three women Nat, Alex and Violette.
The three face very different challenges, yet all are looking to find themselves. Over the years the island is held together by strong females, of Celtic heritage, where wise women and different gods hold sway. These three are sisters under the skin, bound together by their tenacity.
Once again family cookbooks, ignored by the enemy, give the women a way to move invisibly throughout the island during the occupation. And it’s those same recipes and cookbook that will fill the future.
An unusual story that speaks!

A Berkley Group ARC via NetGalley ( )
  eyes.2c | Mar 7, 2021 |
Showing 4 of 4
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An unforgettable story of resilience and resistance set during WWII and present-day France on a secluded island off the coast of Brittany Natalie Morgen made a name for herself with a memoir about overcoming her harsh childhood after finding a new life in Paris. After falling in love with a classically trained chef, they moved together to his ancestral home, a tiny fishing village off the coast of Brittany. But then Francois-Xavier breaks things off with her without warning, leaving her flat broke and in the middle of renovating the guesthouse they planned to open for business. Natalie's already struggling when her sister, Alex, shows up unannounced. The sisters form an unlikely partnership to save the guesthouse, reluctantly admitting their secrets to each other as they begin to heal the scars of their shared past. But the property harbors hidden stories of its own. During World War II, every man of fighting age on the island fled to England to join the Free French forces. The women and children were left on their own...until three hundred German troops took up residence, living side-by-side with the French women on the tiny island for the next several years. When Natalie and Alex unearth an old cookbook in a hidden cupboard, they find handwritten recipes that reveal old secrets. With the help of locals, the Morgen sisters begin to unravel the relationship between Violette, a young islander whose family ran the guesthouse during WWII, and Rainier, a German military customs official with a devastating secret of his own.

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