Villagers in a small French town search for love.
Bachelor barber Guillaume Ladoucette finds himself stagnating in Amour-sur-Belle. Time seems to have forgotten the southwestern village. News still travels via the grapevine, not instant message. Meals are still something to be planned and savored, not nuked in the microwave. And love? Love is an intricate dance, a game of cat and mouse, not an anonymous hookup via MySpace. Amour-sur-Belle is a charming place, to be sure, but Guillaume has a problem: Business is drying up as the population of the hamlet ages. Rather than take early retirement or decamp from his beloved home, he decides to reinvent himself. He packs away his shears and opens Heart’s Desire, a matchmaking service. After a few stalled efforts, it turns out Guillaume has a knack for giving his customers what they need—which doesn’t always jibe with what they want. Soon just about every unmarried townsperson catches the love bug and lands on his doorstep. Devising dating schemes doesn’t eat up much of the retired barber’s day. His new business affords him ample time to tend to his garden and concoct glorious picnics. Indeed, even with his gastronomic pursuits, Guillaume feels a void in his life. Decades ago, his childhood love, Émilie Fraisse, slipped away and married another. Now she’s returned to town, giving the still hopelessly smitten Guillaume a chance to make his most significant pairing. Following these gentle folks on their blind dates and awkward reentries into the field of romance is a sweet and simple pleasure. First-time novelist Stuart would have benefited from more editing, but she does manage to richly evoke the fecund sights and smells of rural France.
A slightly verbose, yet still delightful, excursion to a kinder, gentler place.