The Villa of Second Chances -Jennifer Bohnet

I have read several of Jennifer Bohnet’s books in the past and I have found myself enthralled by them – the amazing locations and beautiful stories – and so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review this latest offering.

This is the story of Rebecca and Delphine, two Sisters, based in their beautiful Mediterranean ‘Villa Sésame’ on the Côte d’Azure, and the narrative of an event held at their Villa, with its splendid array of eclectic characters, each one thoroughly beguiling in their complexity both of character and the situation they found themself in. The book was written intelligently and I thought that the way that the story was split into sections relating to the wedding upon which the book was based, was very clever and gave an effective result.

I. The Last Week May
II. The Week of the Wedding
III. After the Wedding

The Sisters were both infinitely likeable characters, with an impressive resume between them, to account for how they had become joint owners of the villa, which had over time become a high end wedding and event venue. It seemed that the death of Delphine’s Husband had led her to revaluate her life to an extent, resulting in her announcing to Rebecca that she wanted to retire from the active running of the Villa and become a silent partner. This is of course a shock to the younger Sister, but full marks to her for reacting so well to the news.

Freya is getting married at the Villa – to her ex Husband, Marcus; this is a situation that I find both bewildering and intriguing in equal measures, with a sprinkling of romance. Freya will be staying at the Villa for 8 days with her closest friends and family, to celebrate. There are however elements of mystery within the party though – some kind of issue between Freya’s best friend Clemmie and Freya’s cousin, Verity. I found myself intrigued by what the problem might be between the two women, but regardless felt sure that this potential fracas would add a bit of spice to the wedding break. There’s nothing like a bit of scandal, disharmony or lain old sordid history, to add a bit of interest to a story! I must however confess to agreeing with Freya’s Mother to a certain extent, on the question of marriage i.e ’why bother’ – many would presume the couple married anyway!

I initially found Verity to be a convincingly disagreeable character – the kind of person always looking back over their shoulder in order to see what mayhem has ensued in their wake. Please however do not think that this detracts from the entertainment that this book gave me – in the real world, not everyone you come across is ’nice’ and in this book, Verity’s initial unpleasant streak just added to my enjoyment.

It transpires that Freya, Clemmie and their friend Angela have been close friends for years, but they haven’t seen each other since Angela’s Husband Paul’s funeral , 8 months ago. But Angela seems to be holding back about something.

I do like a bit of intrigue and the first few chapters of this book planted several seeds of thought in my mind?

  • What is the issue between Clemmie and Verity?
  • Who was Bart’s Father and why is Rebecca a single parent to Bart?
  • Does Verity really want to make amends or is she intent on stirring up trouble?
  • Is Verity as unpleasant and deliberately destructive as she initially seems, or is she merely misunderstood?
  • Can these two adult women (Clemmie and Verity) ever make amends?
  • What is Angela’s big secret regarding Paul’s death?
  • Why is Angela so upset at seeing the man who was at Paul’s crash scene?
  • Why is Clemmie so resolutely single? Is there a future for her and Jonty?
  • Can Rebecca keep the Villa going, without Delphine at her side?
  • What is the story behind the history between Rebecca and Best Man Rufus!

I always find that there is something special about people I have known for years; the way that things can be left unsaid and despite such omissions, all involved get the general gist of what is intended – despite the parties involved not being particularly close, for example with Angela and Verity.

I adored the scenery and the descriptions in the book. As for the villa’s kitchen garden, I could virtually smell and taste the produce. The smell of citrus blossom in particular is all-pervading. I liked the myriad of different characters in the book and looked forward to seeing how they would develop and interact with each other. I liked the characters so much that I found myself genuinely caring about their outcome, from wanting the wedding to go well, to willing Angela to bury her unknown (to us) demons, to Clemmie and Verity burying the hatchet.

There was an added bonus to this book. It felt to me as though the story ended when people started going home after the wedding. So, to get some extra chapters was an added bonus. It was as though the ’second chances’ aspect of the title was being reflected doubly in real life, firstly with the fact that there were more chapters telling Rebecca and Rufus’ story, and secondly that this ill-fated pair were being given a second chance in life and love.

I initially felt disappointed in Bart – after all, he had always known that he had a Father somewhere. I was fairly sure that he would come around to the facts of the situation, though. Angela and Rebecca both have secrets they are keeping from their respective Sons, but will both Sons react positively when their secret is revealed?

Everybody deserves a second chance and it was wonderful at the end of the book to have an epilogue, detailing what everyone was now up to. What an impeccable finish to what has been the most perfect, delectable book. I found myself inexorably hooked from the first word, right through to the very last. I didn’t want the book to end, but as I gave in to the inevitable finale I felt both happy and replete and I hoped that enough seeds had been planted for some future book ideas, following up on the future of Villa Sésame or of some of the couples in this book.

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