Summer Reading: Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard
Grab a transat (lounge chair) and settle for a great summer read complete with family dynamics, hot bodies, yachts, and a tour through Provence. Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard is the latest novel by Jane Dunning and here is our review.
Following a diverse career in advertising, banking, hospitality, and education Jane Dunning retired at age 53. She and her husband turned to house sitting as a hobby and a way to travel in France and beyond. A four-month house-sitting stay in a vineyard in the Var inspired Jane to write her first novel, Thirty-five minutes from St Tropez, and its sequel Stolen Summer. Jane’s third novel Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard was published in January 2022.
Since their initial house-sitting experience, Jane and her husband have stayed in numerous towns and villages in Provence. They enjoy exploring the countryside and sampling the local cuisine and wines.
Our Book Review
Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard begins in the heart of the Provencal countryside with the owners discussing a bit of trepidation about a guest booking at their holiday rental – Mas des Olivier. In the next few chapters, Dunning introduces you to the novel’s characters and some family dynamics that exist with multigenerational groups. Through the pages, you encounter the grandparents, parents, grown children and youngsters. Dunning takes you on a literary journey through Provence from the Luberon to the Var to chic Monaco and parts of Italy.
The novel weaves together the extreme bravery of resistance members in WWII with contemporary organised crime issues. While you read the book, there are characters you grow to love and would like to meet one day. But it’s not all sunshine at the vineyard. There are some dark characters and shadowy activities, star-studded weddings and a bit of misbehaving. So, if you are looking for a book for your summer reading list, then Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard is the perfect solution.
Some Questions for the Author
Is Mas des Oliviers in in the Var?
Our first house-sit was at a vineyard where there were three houses. These homes appear in my stories, although I made up their names. The nearest village is La Garde-Freinet, almost immediately north of Saint Tropez. The vineyard is in the Var and is now owned by Maison Mirabeau of Cotignac.
You share a historical WWII story with Dominique’s bravery acting as part of the residence and then tie it to Antibes in chapter 24. Why did you feel it was important to bring the WWII pieces into the novel?
I wanted to move some of the action to the Luberon, which I have got to know through house-sitting. But I also wanted to write about the covert landing in Antibes, so I thought about how I could bring the two together. I also like using real characters and mixing them with fictional ones. Although the covert landing in Antibes fascinated me, I didn’t think there was enough of a story to fill a book. I’ve been interested in the French Resistance for many years, so I felt it was OK to have a roughly 60-year-old character who was interested too. I liked bringing Maurice Cassel into the story out of respect for the elderly. Recently, I was in La Cercle Republican in Gordes and felt very close to my story! We also popped into the church where Dominique’s funeral took place. In addition, I’ve been to the cemetery where she was buried. Walking from the bottom of the village, we passed the house where I imagined she lived.
The book is a journey through the region from Gordes to Vence to the coast and even Italy. Did you visit all these places while writing the novel?
Yes, certainly Gordes and the Luberon. Also, Beaulieu-sur-Mer as we stayed near there in 2019. I have stayed at San Remo, Verona, Gardone Riviera, and Venice within the last 20 – 30 years, so I picked them for Richard and Helen’s trips.
Who is your favourite character in the book?
Good question! I think Danielle, closely followed by Helen and Maryse. I loved writing about the children and Maurice Cassel, who I mentioned before. As this is the third book about them and I’ve been writing about them for over 10 years, I’m quite fond of them all except Kate, who has become very unlikeable.
Do you have a favourite location that you mention in the book?
It must be the vineyard as it holds such special memories for me – our first house-sit, four months, four adorable dogs (who play themselves in the books), three houses, beautiful countryside, close to St Tropez, La Garde-Freinet, Grimaud, and Port Grimaud.
Who are the Readers?
This novel is for anyone who is looking for a summer literary escape. So, whether you are at the beach, lazing in a hammock or lounging in the shade, curl up with Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard and explore Provence as you read along.
Where to Buy the Book
All three novels are available on Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, it is still possible to download the books to your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Sunshine and Shadows at the Vineyard is available online at Amazon in paperback and e-versions by clicking this link.
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