There are countless ways to learn French. One way is to read an easy novel (novelette) about a bilingual girl who moves from London to France for a job; for a free French lesson, you can parrot the French phrases she inserts into her conversation, order the foods she eats at the cafes she frequents and imitate her thoughts about her new friends and her new surroundings. Cocktails at Le Carmen succeeds brilliantly as a cheap alternative to the Rosetta Stone. But as a novel, this book is sadly lacking.
The plot setup is a bit cliche and the characters and their situations are too convenient. How likely is it that on a train ride between two countries the one person you have a conversation with will be the person whose spouse you’ll meet a shot while later in another situation, in another country? And that the exact thing that person says they need will be the thing you are able to provide them? How likely is that the friend you think is behaving sinister has an identical twin who she never mentioned and who provides the perfect explanation for her behavior? Those incredible run-ins are too unbelievable for a story of this nature. The characters are not described in a way to make them sufficiently likeable and the attempt to make them all complex is not particularly successful.
Also, there were several places where the writing was trite, with the focus on mentioning famous brand names and recognizable places instead of giving information that would add to the story.
One of the best features of the book is the beautiful cover but it sets up an unrealistic expectation for great writing whereas the book feels like an early draft that isn’t quite ready for publication.
I don’t feel this book represents adequately what readers are really looking for, even in the lighter Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction genre.
Overall, I give this book 2.5 stars, which is higher than my initial rating, mainly because while the writing was lacking, the cover was beautiful and I was able to finish it in an afternoon.
Full Disclosure: I received an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. I’ll be happy to revisit this book and amend my review if it’s re-edited before publication.