About Helena

Helena Frith PowellHelena Frith Powell’s writing career began with the French Mistress column in The Sunday Times about living in France which she wrote for several years. She is also a regular contributor to the The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar among other publications.

Helena is the author of eleven books. The first, More France Please, we’re British, was published in November 2004 by Gibson Square Books and is about her experiences in France. Her second is a book about French women called Two Lipsticks and a Lover published in October 2005 by Gibson Square Books. The paperback was published by Penguin in the US in December 2006 under the title All You Need to be Impossibly French. The paperback in the UK was published by Arrow in February 2007. It was also published in Russia, Thailand, Poland and China during 2007. It was published in France in March 2008 under the title So Chic!

Helena is also the author of a memoir called Ciao Bella, published by Gibson Square in October 2006 and re-released in 2012. Her book about ageing called To Hell in High Heels was published by Arrow in April 2008, and has been translated into several languages.

Her diet book, The Viva Mayr Diet, was published by Harper Collins in May 2009. Her first novel is set in France about the French art of having affairs called Love in a Warm Climate, which was published in March 2011 by Gibson Square. Her second novel, The Ex-Factor, was published by Gibson Square in 2013. Her second anti-ageing book, Smart Women don’t get Wrinkles, was published in May 2016. Her third novel, a love story intertwined with an enigmatic van Eyck portrait, is called The Arnolfini Marriage came out in December 2016.
Helena was educated at Durham University. She has had a home in the Languedoc region of France for 16 years. She divides her time between France and Oxford with her husband Rupert and their three children Olivia, Bea and Leonardo.  She is working on her fourth novel. She also runs a beauty website called beautyorbeast.uk where she reviews products and treatments.

64 thoughts on “About Helena

  1. Your books have been referred to often, and yes even purchased, by members of Yahoo group for francophiles called French Chic. Just thought you might like to drop in and say a few words – I bet your amazon rating pops up.


    I haven’t read Ciao Bella yet – but I have read 2 Lipsticks and also More French Please… I just saw on your web site More More French… must look into that one as well.


    Michèle Olender

  2. Hello, found you through your comment on Poshmum’site! I quite like what you write, and I’ve also heard of your books. I would be a francophile, but my french is SHAMEFUL. I haven’t practice since my last family reunion…so about two years!

  3. Hello Amber
    No need to speak French to be a Francophile, they seem to put up with me!
    All best
    PS Am pleased my comment worked, it just seemed to bounce back at the time

  4. Oh Helena,
    How I enjoy your work!
    You are just absolutely and impossibly adorable!!
    Wrote a justifiably glowing review about your French expose (BlogCritics) and will of course follow this up with something bellissima about your Italian adventure.

    Just wanted to pop in and say
    Ciao Bella
    The Domestic Minx

  5. Hello,

    Just wanted to thank you for the best ‘francophilic frolic’ I have read in quite some time! I absolutley loved your book, devoured it in only a few hours. Your expose is candid and honest, and in all, the book has made me feel a whole lot better about aging, posture, and inspired me to adopt many French ways (and some to avoid!)

    I have told many of my friends to read your book, so all the best, and thank you thank you thank you! (Merci?)

    Kind regards
    from Australia
    (where we b/feed for up to 12 months.. tee hee! So true!)

  6. I sped my way through your Two lipsticks and a lover: it was soooo entertaining! We had a french student to stay with us last summer. He was fortunate enough to have homes in Paris, the south of France and in the countryside just outside Paris (the family chateau). He was extremely good company- I stayed up way longer than usual having him talk AT me about the french novels he and I had read (yes he was a little arrogant but our previous four students had been pretty and utterly charming Italian females for whom my husband had gone out of his way -kind soul he is- to offer lifts, make packed lunches etc.!) Our french student seemed to want also to shame my two children (a young and older teenager) by offering to help me shop. “French children ALWAYS assist their mother with shopping!” he declared on the second day of his stay. He cooked the evening meal one Friday evening. I had explained that I was a little tired and anyway it was (almost) customary in our country to nip to the local Indian takeaway on that night of the week. He looked horrified. I went on to add that I hadn’t much in to prepare a meal with. “Your husband and children should help more in the kitchen!” he declared. ” I will use whatever is in your fridge to make a meal; that is the French way!” His meal was only just edible (it featured an uncooked egg) but I have made a huge effort since to avoid being wasteful as far as food is concerned as I think his way is better than mine as far as our finances go. As you stress in your brilliant book staying thin is of the utmost importance for the French woman. Well that’s good because our student was extremely rude about girls over size 10.The most memorable example is this: on our way to the shop we went passed the local pub. A young women alighted from a car and was wolf whistled at by several lads sitting drinking at tables. She was very pretty and the lads minded not a jot that her ever so slighly wobbly midriff was on show. My poor student though was mortified and I was very worried she might be able to hear as he looked at the ground repeating his judgement “Fat! fat! fat!” in a low voice until we were some way beyond the scene of the crime.

    I look forward to reading more of your books and visiting France again.

    Best wishes

    from England

  7. Cara Helena,
    as you can guess I’m Italian ( but leaving in England). I read your books about French women and , more recently, your lovely “Ciao bella”. I work as a translator and Italian tutor in England and I ‘m always interested in what people see in other countries, the different ways people perceive cultural differences and I ‘ve often made jokes about the way I can spot people from different countries by just looking at their shoes… Your “ciao bella” was really sweet and I recognized a lot of my story in yours. It was lovely to find your blog as well.
    can you tell me if you have Italian translated editions of your books? I would like to give them as presents to some of my Italian friends.
    Complimenti , con simpatia
    Chiara Borghesi

  8. Salut Helena!
    I have lived in S.W France for 5 years and my french is v.good, I buy almost all my clothes here, I have a good french haridresser, I have lost not just 10 kilos but 15, I even have a job here but everybody seems to know that I am British before I say a word! My friend just gave me your book Two lipsticks and a lover and now I know why…….I still buy my underwear at M and S and yes, I stock up on packs of five (oh the shame of it!) So, toulouse here I come and galeries Lafayette and La Perla if I’m feeling rich. And yes, I think those creams for cellulite do work. Many thanks for your book which also explained why I don’t have many french female girlfriends.


  9. Hi Helena,

    Just wanted to say that I’ve just finished reading your book “Two lipsticks and a lover” for the tenth time! I’ve learnt a lot from it, and I think New Zealand females are just as guilty as the English!

    Although I do have a father who instilled the importance of skincare from the age of 9 – that is when I was brought my first skincare set (Clairns), and have not stopped since. My partner wonders at all the creams I apply to my face, and I’m only 22! But I can say that I have better skin that people my age.

    I study law, and image seems to be quite important amongst fellow female law students; it was nice to have a compliment the other day about the bag I was carrying, my coat, plus my hair cut in which it called “very french”.

    From a kiwi fan,
    Denise 🙂

  10. Hi Helena

    Just returned from a fabulous summer holiday in Italy travelling to Rome/Tuscany (including Florence)/Venice. I am now reading Ciao Bella and loving it! I can imagine myself in the very streets/places you mention in Florence and Rome and reading it brought back wonderful memories of my time there! I had already read two Lipsticks and a Lover and hadn’t realised it was the same author. Loved that too! well done .

    A new(ish) fan

  11. I just listened to a program on Radio 4 Women’s Hour on which you made an appearance – a discussion of Ellen de Bruin’s book ‘Dutch Women Don’t Get Depresssed’ and its sentiment. It is, of course (as de Bruin readily admitted) another example of a ready habit that many people have to stereotype nationalities in a wildly uninformed manner. I can’t say I’m very interested in buying the book or discussing such silly stereotypes, but de Bruin seemed like a pleasant enough woman.
    Despite the fact that we were listening a discussion on de Bruin’s book, however, it was your drawling sarcastic comments and performance that really stood out. And not, I assure you, in a positive way. You seem to have an unpleasant obsesion with perpetrating such mindless, crude stereotypes, and some of your responses verged on xenophobic. The one about how Dutch people were happy because they smoked drugs? Embarassing. As for your claim about how women are happier when they believe they look better? I can only judge from the ridiculously smug picture you posted of yourself on this page that you at least are wholly believing that you look ‘good’? Your snappy tone and silly jibes on Woman’s Hour, however, was not the behaviour of a happy woman.
    I suppose, however, its all that can be expected from a woman who writes books with such ridiculous titles like ‘Two Lipsticks and a Lover’

  12. Dear Abigail
    The programme was meant to be light-hearted. Hence the jokes which you took so seriously.
    Are you by any chance Dutch?

  13. No, I am not Dutch. I was offended by your tone and attitudes in the show. I realise I initially came down on you too harshly and personally, and for that (and my failure to vet punctuation), I apologise.
    I was upset because I really felt that the author of the book was being bullied by you, and rather needlessly. At one point in the program, you claimed that a certain comment that you made was meant to be a joke, but then muttered that Dutch people had no sense of humour. I think you behaved quite rudely, and that this made the atmosphere of the program negative. I accept it was a difficult discussion to appear on, and I think that the subject of the book wasn’t easy, but you were often aggressive and cutting. You attacked very stereotyped views of women of different nationalities for such petty things as a perceived lack of style, and the fact that you placed such heavy importance on this issue of appearance was disappointing. Women should be seen in fuller terms, surely? I felt it was a rather disempowering discussion, on a program which is meant to be useful to women.
    I am sorry that I was initially so rude, but I think, as a woman who has an influence on a largely female readership, you might have been less aggressive towards women.

  14. Hello again Abigail,
    Apology accepted. I do realise that my sense of humour is not to everyone’s taste, but of course I was NOT being serious when I said Dutch people don’t have one, although she did seem slightly lacking it has to be said. I was never meaning to be aggressive, but having travlled for two hours to get there and been up all night with a sick child I really didn’t want to sit there and say nothing which I would have done had I not butted in.

  15. This is simply abhorrent. Women should be flattered for being sexually harassed? You completely trivialize a really significant matter. I’m male and if I saw this man commit this offense, I would report it to the police.Sexism does still exist you know? And THIS is an example of it.Maybe not in your cut off phallogocentric little world,but women are not ‘things’ that men can do what they like to. Would men here like it if a gay man pinched them on the bum? Grabbed their crotch area even? After all, it’s just his harmless way of telling you’re attractive. I somehow think you wouldn’t just ‘laugh it off’. I know some women claim that they’d like the attention(and I won’t go into details on that) but assuming that all women do? You really make me sick. Why should women be happy that men find them attractive? Do you consider that lesbian women exist? What does bum pinching achieve? The fact that a man can do what he wants to a woman? It is NOT acceptable, and you absolutely disgust me.

  16. Interesting that you don’t mention you grew up in Sweden. And you look of course native Swedish.
    Are you really that ashamed?

  17. Ha ha. Of course you look Swedish.
    I have problems with this issue myself. Look at Cristina Odone.
    I haven’t read all your stuff but my enemy is British provinciality. How was Durham? Cosmopolitan, I don’t expect.
    When I go to Sweden, I find a population two generations away from peasanthood and very fond of quietly blowing its own trumpet. There’s a Norwegian saying that Sweden is a prawn in the Ocean that says: “I am a lobster, olook at me, I am a lobster.” The writer Christopher Moseley said: Sweden is a country that thinks much of itself but no one thinks much about it.
    That said, there is much to be said for the country. Why don’t you you go and write sometjing interesting and even – pause – vaguely nice and untabloidy about Sweden? You have already got the information.
    It might do you some good.
    I write as someone who has shared your small-town ennui.

  18. Hi Helena,

    Long time no speak!

    I came across some of your articles in Sunday Times and Grazia magazine and thought to try to get in touch hence this message.
    In case you remember me from the old days (at Central European), do drop me a line.


  19. Helena,
    Our family recently went on a trip to Europe for 5 months, and a family friend purchased your book, All You Need To Be Impossibly French (Two Lipsticks And A Lover). It was amazing, and completely changed how I view things like face creams and matching underwear.
    Merci Beaucoup, and I hope that you write more books on the French in the future.

  20. Hello Helen,
    I would appreciate you allowing me to wrtite to you to ask for help/advice in purchasing a property in France.
    Don’t want to put detail here but as mentioned would appreciate making contact with you.
    Many thanks. Robert.

  21. Dearest Helena,

    I meant to write this sooner but I got busy at work. Your apology for the American bashing was totatlly unnecessary. It was Jules’ comments that really made me angry. Who even watches (or listens to) the rappers and other bizarre characters on TV these days. I just find the attitude behind the comments to be offensive to me as an American. It reflects an upper class British attitude that “I am better than you.” Most of my countrymen do not dress, talk and act like these folks. I’ll bet it is the same in Britain. I liken the addiction to schlock TV to be somethng like a watching a train wreck. You don’t really want to watch it but you can’t tear your eyes away. Fortunately “I do not have this problem. Anyway, I felt obliged to stand up for my country. Your blogs continue to entertain and challenge me. Thanks for listening.

    Sharyn G.

  22. i would just like to say that i loved your book ‘to lipsticks and a lover’
    i thought it was very funny at points, especially the chapter on children.
    i thought it was going to be a trashy read, but i was proven very wrong and got a very good insight into the french way of living.
    i am only a teenager, but now i certainly think about religiously cleansing my face!
    i have just purchased ciao bella on amazon, and the title alone enthralls me as it was all i understood when i visited italy!

  23. I am halfway through your new book AND CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF IT!!!!! How are the lips, by the way? Are they back to normal yet? I am so taken by your book that I’m also hoping to book into one of your ‘renew retreats’. Can you post some information on the weekend retreats please?


  24. Dear Helena,

    I just felt the urge to tell you how much I enjoyed your books “Two Lipsticks and a Lover” and “To Hell in High Heels”! Right now I`m reading “Ciao Bella”, which is moving, interesting, funny and intelligent.

    When I first spotted “Two Lipsticks”, I expected something in the genre of chick-lit, but your books are so much more, so witty and great!

    Like you, I’m also a “cocktail” of different nationalities; growing up in Finland, mother tongue Swedish, Russian ancestors and now married in Germany. I find your research into cultural differences highly entertaining and interesting.

    All the best!


  25. Hejsan Kia
    Thank you for your lovely post, I am so glad you liked the books. I am glad to hear I’m not the only one who is a total and utter mixture, I can’t believe I further confused things by moving to France!

  26. Hi Helena,
    I have only found out about you through WHO Magazine on the May 5th 2008 Edition, your article “My Botox Diary”.
    I am thinking along those terms however am also very scared of what it might do on the overall.
    Will be tarvelling to England soon and would be very interested to get in touch and contact people there you might know of who can assist. Or your Botox Brenda, does she really exit? And can I find her in England or Paris? I am heading that way too in less than 4 weeks times.
    Please e-mail me.
    Pacific Paradise.

  27. Hi Helena,
    Your article about “My Botox Diary” and Botox Brenda on WHO Magazine on May 2008 Issue really interested me.
    Is that real? Can you please give me real contacts so I can get in touch. I am arriving in London in less than 3 weeks from now and in Paris for a couple of days.
    Please contact me as I really need more information and direction. I am very interested as shooting 40.
    Pacific Islands.

  28. Dear Helena
    Now your moving to Abu dabi ( ? ) will your articles be appearing in the Sunday times ?
    Michael :O)

  29. Hi Helena,
    Thank you for writing books that are both funny and informative! I’m looking forward to a book on the way of life in Abu Dhabi.

    Best regards,

  30. Dear Helena,

    Let me start by saying that I picked up Ciao Bella at a very small shop in the town of Manarola, in Cinque Terre about 2 weeks ago ( I was immediately drawn to it by its national colors). I have just arrived back to the States, but at that point in my college graduation vacation I was 100% obsessed with everything Italian. I though what better way to spend my long hours on the Italiarail than by reading more about anything Italian. To my surprise, I found that there was another person on this planet who shared strikingly similar interests about the Italian culture, the men, women, food, and everything in between, not to mention a full blooded Italian father whose relentless criticisms and public displays of embarrassment I am now able to better understand =) I, too, am half Italian, and have spent most of my 24 years of life trying to understand this culture that my father’s side of the family has so strongly encouraged and engrained in me.
    Not only was it exciting to be reading your book and relating to the experiences in the places that I, too, had visited in Italy, but it also introduced/prepared me for the places I would be visiting in the next few days of my travels in different cities. And, because I know myself, I saved a third of the book for when I had to come back to the States, as sort of a gradual step-down process that would serve to curb my withdrawals from leaving Italy (this is weird, but true).
    I brought a journal in hopes to record my events in Italy, but found that I was too busy to write in it, and didn’t want the extra weight, so I tossed it. I felt guilty about it for the next few days until I started reading Ciao Bella. I feel like it is a more articulate and elaborate description of my time in Italy and family background, save a few of my own interesting and special stories.
    I will always hold this book close to my heart because it means so much to me that another person can so closely understand and be drawn to this culture, very similar to the way that I have been. So, thank you for writing Ciao Bella. This crazy place called Italy has an allure that I can’t quite put my finger on, but admit that I will be spending the next couple years trying to figure it out.

    As a stereotypical California/American would say, your “awesome”


    P.S. I look forward to reading you other books, and perhaps communicate with you more about your experiences in Italy.

  31. Hi Helena

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

    I read Two Lipsticks and a Lover when it was first published in Australia (2005??). Very entertaining indeed! I loved it. It was great to read a book written by a confident woman who could really ‘hold her own’ with the amazing (and sometimes rather trying) women of France.

    Just a few days ago I read your article ‘Vanity Case’ in the Saturday ‘M’ Magazine (The National) here in the UAE. I had no idea you had moved to this part of the world (I’ve been back and forth from Sydney to UAE for 3 years now).

    The dress that Mohammad Younas made for your Christmas party is stunning. When can we see some pics on the site? Bet you looked fabulous!!

  32. Thanks Amanda – I didn’t take any pictures sadly but will remember to do so next time. Let me know when you’re next in Abu Dhabi we could have a coffee.

  33. Well. I read your article about sweden. As you see from my name i’m from sweden. And the stuff you write is not true at all. http://www.nowpublic.com/world/best-country-live-list-countries-2009-un-hdi This is a list about where people from diffrent countries would like to live. As you see Sweden is at number 7. Uk is at 21. Still in your article you say that Sweden is an awful land where it snows 7 month a year. Well it don’t. And the last time it did was probably around 1750 or so. Unless you are from the very north part of Sweden. But in you article it only sais that in Sweden it snows 7 month a year. Not what part of it that does and such. My brother is actually married to a woman from England and she clearly sais that she think sweden is more better. And that it rains less then in the UK. Still in your article you complain about that it always snow and it always rain in Sweden. If I were you I would look up some information before I make an article saying that an country pretty much… Sucks compared to the UK. Sweden do have Free healthcare, Free Education, And like almost 80% of the countrys in the world… We drive on the right side of the road. This article you wrote just isn’t fair. You’re just telling all the people in the UK lies about Sweden and that don’t seem right to do. Just think about it. What if someone started writin that people in the UK are just stupid and such. Now im not sayin you did but you did clearly say such things that might upset people in Sweden. I think you never should had wrote that article. There is no reason to write such things about an country. The only thing you will succed with is making loads and loads of people in sweden pretty upset and this might not be so good for the people in both our countries. Now the UK think sweds are just stupid and such and us sweds will think that people in UK just talks trash about other people and there countries. Please give me the reason to WHY would you write this article? Why?

  34. Hi Helena,

    you DON’T need anything done seeing your picture and after having read your book. Enjoy your life in France and the wine, food, sun and beaches, mountains and foremost, your family and friends. Keep writing such enjoyable books (ref my comment on your ‘To Hell in High Heels’. Stay your true self and pass this onto your kids. By the way, I’m only slightly older and no, I am not having trouble with my age being spoken out loud, so great wisdom just comes from pure experience gained in my life. Keep up your work. It’s fun to read. Ann

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