The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley
Lucinda Riley uses a dual narrative in The Lavender Garden to relate the story of Emilie de la Martinières, a young heiress who now finds herself in possession of an aging Chateau on the Côte d’Azur in 1998 and that of Constance Carruthers, a British newlywed suddenly swept up in the covert activities of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive, supporting the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
Both are reluctant in their new roles, and also share a family connection which unfolds as the drama of their new circumstances plays out, and involves the characters who enter their lives. Riley does a nice job of representing both the magic of the French countryside and the tension of the difficult circumstances in which the people of Occupied France find themselves. Her characters range from bohemian artists to sneering Nazi elite, charming intellectuals and wine growers to gruff French Resistance fighters. They are fairly well drawn, if not always very likeable. Some twists and turns and family secrets also serve to make the story line moderately interesting, and the resolution is satisfying.
The Lavender Garden is a pleasant read if you like historical fiction, travel fiction, stories about the changing roles of women in society and a bit of mystery thrown in for good measure.