I feel as though I've spent the last few days on holiday in France, so vividly does Rosy Thornton describe the landscape of the Cévennes and the mountain hamlet of La Grelaudière in her new novel The Tapestry of Love. Set in the Parc National with its gorges, rock walls and chestnut forests, an area where transhumance is still practised and life is for the most part seasonal and slow, it shows a great sense of place and a feel for the area and its people. Into that 'old' world comes Catherine Parkstone, a divorcée with grown-up children who wants to start afresh and establish a soft-furnishings business in the part of the world she remembers from childhood holidays, a place in which she can enjoy her self-imposed and self-contained solitude.
Catherine gradually becomes acquainted with the small group of villagers. She is obliging, and respectful of the formality of their ways, so she does not presume any intimacy. But with the enigmatic Patrick Castagnol things are different - he intrigues her, yet despite his obvious interest in his new English neighbour, he's holding something back, and when Catherine's sister Bryony arrives on the scene, their friendship becomes even more complicated.
Aside from relationships, this is a sensuous book with - as you might expect from a novel set in France - food a significant ingredient, and that's something I love to read about in fiction. Catherine's needlework is an important aspect as well, and as she stitches tapestries with silks, so she represents in textiles the wilderness around her. And then there's that land itself and its wildlife, a rich and real backdrop to the events of the book.
But Rosy's such an easy writer to read - relaxed, fluent, intelligent, she tells her stories with natural grace and in doing so she 'simply' entertains you. Her characters are human, their predicaments believable, and although the protagonists have downs as well as ups, the reader knows they are in safe hands. Put all that together and this warm, romantic novel is a treat.