WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In this roller-coaster finale to the French Summer Novels Series the characters come together to share joy and heartbreak, hope and despair, as unforeseen events and long-hidden secrets test the bonds that unite them. Holding it all together is the unshakeable friendship of three women…
Claudie: Free spirit Claudie has finally found the man of her life. Now all she has to do is get rid of his mother.
Caroline: Caroline’s planning a Happy Ever After Wedding, but can she prevent Wicked Sister Annabel materialising at the altar in a puff of smoke and turning her Prince Charming into a frog?
Jill: Jill’s busy packing up 120 pairs of shoes in Edinburgh. Au revoir, lonely hearts club! Bonjour a new life in Biarritz, lost in translation with her hot Basque and his extended 500-member family. But there’s a surprise in store…
It’s August in Biarritz. Villa Julia is humming as Caroline and Edward prepare a big family event–a magnificent birthday party for the Etcheverria twins, Julie and Anouk, 60 years old this year. Making the sumptuous cake is famous pastry chef, Pete, Claudie’s new beau. Yes, Anouk’s independent, feisty, three-man-woman daughter has undergone a transformation. She has become Claudie in Love, with eyes only for her Pete, who is similarly moonstruck. But heading for Biarritz and a big birthday surprise is heat-seeking matriarchal missile, Hibiscus Plant, Pete’s mother…
In Edinburgh, Jill has decided to take a chance on romance and give up everything in the name of l’amour. So what if she and Antoine have only known each other for a few weeks and don’t speak the same language? There are other, non-verbal, ways of bridging the linguistic gap, aren’t there?
In Wiltshire, a chastened, damaged, Annabel is learning to heal through counselling sessions with the enigmatic Dr Novak. But how much has she really changed? How will she react when she learns that her nemesis, Edward, is getting married to sister Caroline in the spring?
And unknown to any of them, in a small northern village a woman is dying, leaving her son to confront bittersweet memories and a life-changing discovery with far-reaching repercussions…
#FREE on Amazon on 30 March -31 March 2019:
The following excerpt features Gérard and Anouk, parents of Claudie, the romantic lead in Biarritz-Villa Julia.They have just arrived at the villa after a long drive from Paris, along with Figaro the cat and Julie and Adam, parents of Edward. Here they are the following morning, in the bedroom, sharing a domestic moment…
CHAPTER 11: GERARD AND ANOUK MAKE THE BED
‘Why can’t we get Madame Martin to change the bloody sheets? I’ve never got the hang of these damned quilt covers, don’t even know why we need a quilt anyway, it’s far too hot.’
‘Just concentrate, chéri, nearly there.’
Gérard had started the day most unusually by bringing his wife coffee in bed. Then he had promptly spilled it all over the clean bed linen.
Anouk, who had been luxuriating in her unexpected lie-in, had sprung to her feet, repressing a desire to strangle her husband as she rushed into the bathroom for towels to staunch the flood while he stood flapping his hands and swearing.
The previous evening they’d enjoyed a refreshing swim before falling on the wonderful meal prepared by Pete and Claudie. It had been late by the time they’d all straggled to bed, reluctant to leave the night garden, its pools of light, its mysterious rustles, its pine-scented fragrance. Figaro, prowling and sniffing under every bush, lifted his head to check on them from time to time, his yellow eyes like miniature headlights amid the shrubbery. As they were finally making their way upstairs, Adam, ever the English gentleman, had caught hold of Gérard’s arm.
‘What say we give our two wonderful ladies breakfast in bed tomorrow, eh Gerry? Let them have a lie-in after the long journey?’
Gérard’s face had been a picture. Anouk and Julie had burst out laughing. Gérard was definitely not a ‘let-me-bring-you-breakfast-in-bed-mon-amour’kind of person. He had huffed, but he’d put a brave front on it, patting Adam on the arm and muttering ‘good idea’. At eight o’clock this morning Anouk had experienced the once in a lifetime surprise of seeing her husband march into the bedroom bearing a tray of croissants and a pot of coffee. Which he’d then proceeded to pour over the bed.
She could have cried. The coffee had smelled heavenly, the croissants were warm from the oven. She had instantly resolved on a revenge trip. Her husband was going to get his own once in a lifetime experience. He was going to help her change the sheets.
She clamped her lips together and tried to keep a straight face watching him fume as he wrestled with the quilt cover which had miraculously doubled in size. Damn. She should have got Antony to hide behind the armoire and film the sequence to put on YouTube.
‘In any case, Madame Martin has quite enough to do today, chéri. Plus she’s too old to be dealing with sheet-changing.’
This was a downright lie. Madame Martin, whose age was a thing of mystery, was as nimble as a cat. But the spectacle of Gérard’s face getting redder and redder and the sound of his breathing getting huffier and puffier as he fought to wedge the top corner of the quilt into the top corner of the cover was just too delicious.
‘Good, that’s it, now the bottom corner, see it’s not as difficult as you thought, is it? You’ll be able to help me at home.’
Gérard glared and wrenched the quilt out of her hand.
‘Very funny. Stand back while I give it a good shake.’
He sucked in his stomach and flexed his muscles. The quilt flew up and down a couple of times then settled across the bed. They both stared at it. On Anouk’s side it was perfectly aligned in its cover; on Gérard’s side a hunched, lumpy mess.
‘I think you’ve put your top corner in your bottom corner.’
Gérard flung up his hands.
‘Nonsense! You sawme put my top corner in my top corner. The thing must have twisted round, this is your side.’
Anouk folded her arms. She thought of the great philosopher, Michel Montaigne: ‘No retort is as biting as scornful silence.’
Her husband gave a strangled roar, drew a deep breath, then launched himself into the air and landed like a dead starfish flat on top of the quilt, arms and legs flung out. He tried beating and kicking the corners into submission.
He raised his head, breathless.
‘This is no job for a man, dealing with these…these female contraptions. We’re wired to judge the width of a car, you lot are wired to put quilts in covers. It’s simple biology.’
Anouk’s arms remained folded.
With a long-suffering sigh he got to his knees, stuck his head inside the cover and burrowed around furiously. Thirty seconds later he emerged, what was left of his hair standing up like a hoopoe’s crest.
There were now two indentations, like little ears, cosying up in the middle of the bed, and a lot of empty cover dangling over the side.
Anouk gave a loud sigh.
‘Sometimes you can be so…medieval, chéri. Let’s start again. ‘Your lot’ will hold her side in place, while ‘Car Man’ sorts out his width problems on the other.’
She could have done the whole job on her own in a matter of seconds. But she wasn’t going to. The battle continued grimly until all four corners were finally in the right place.
‘Thank God for that. Now the damned coffee’s cold. What’s left of it.’
Gérard picked up the cafetière with a scowl.
Anouk righted the overturned cups and shook out the soggy croissants. She put the bundle of damp sheets in a heap in front of the door.
‘You can pop downstairs and put these in the machine, chéri, while you make a fresh pot. Is anyone else up yet?’
‘How the hell should I know? There was nobody in the kitchen except me and Adam, both of us wearing pinnies and preparing breakfast trays.’
‘That was a sweet idea of Adam’s, wasn’t it? I do hope Julie’s not having to change beds and mop up coffee on hernice lie-in.’
Satisfied that she’d made her point, she changed the subject.
‘So anyway, what do you make of Pete’s mother?’
Gérard gave a shrug.
‘Plenty to say for herself. Doesn’t mince her words.’
‘She is a bit ‘full on’, isn’t she? Not like her son. I do like that boy, he’s so polite and attentive as well as a natural charmer.’
‘Yes, well, I don’t know how he puts up with your daughter. God help the poor sod. She’s impossible to live with, look what happened with those others, that chap with the Porsche and the Rolex, he soon gave her her marching orders.’
Anouk’s nostrils flared.
‘It was ourdaughter who issued the marching orders, may I remind you. She wasn’t ready for marriage and motherhood, she hasn’t even finished her studies yet, and Stéphane was too demanding and self-absorbed. Personally I never took to him. A Porsche and a Rolex aren’t exactly character references.’
‘Too demanding! That’s a good one. She’s like the foutuequeen of Sheba, our daughter, bossing people around, insisting she’s right about everything. She doesn’t deserve a nice guy like Pete.’
‘She’s not bossy. She’s feisty. She has strong opinions which she’s not afraid to express but she’s ready to listen to others. She’s independent. And funny.’
Gérard rolled his eyes heavenwards. He picked up the bundle of sheets and opened the door.
Anouk got back into bed.
‘And neither do you.’
‘Neither do I what?’
‘Deserveme. Don’t trip as you’re going downstairs.’
As the door banged, she sank back against the pillows. Her thoughts wandered to her beautiful new dress, hanging in the wardrobe. Creamy white linen. The colour of honeysuckle petals. It would look stunning against her tanned arms and dark hair. And so would Julie’s gorgeous number in indigo blue silk, the bleu de Lanvin. Sixty? Pah. Sixty was nothing these days. When they were young they’d worn flowers in their hair and followed in the footsteps of their role models, the two brilliant Simones, Simone de Beauvoir and Simone Veil. When they stood side by side on the day of their birthday, ready to greet their guests, they’d look like a million dollars.
And so would her daughter. Her feisty, funny, independent, loving, loveable daughter.
And merdeto her antiquated father.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Laurette was born in West Yorkshire and grew up breathing the same air as the Brontë sisters. She fell in love with ‘exotic’ France aged 13 on a school trip when, like the local village ladies, she and her penfriend strolled out to the boulangerie to buy the morning ‘baguette’ while still in their pyjamas and dressing gowns. It was there she had her first crush, on the tobacconist’s son, he of the bad-boy haircut and bold black eyes. Not surprisingly, she studied English Literature at university and after graduating began a teaching career in the UK and the US before moving to Toulouse, SW France. Here, she worked with adults whose motivations for studying the language of Shakespeare ranged from passing advanced exams to launching rockets. She met a lot of people in the vibrant ‘pink city of space’, learnt many new things (though not how to launch a rocket), had a great time, wrote a best-selling textbook, translated a work of literary criticism, and fell ever more in love with la belle France. In 2011, moving from the buzz of France’s fourth city to a hilltop hamlet in Cathar country, she began her dream of writing a romantic family saga set in her adoptive country. The books are published as the French Summer Novels: Biarritz Passion, Hot Basqueand The Passage of Desire.Biarritz-VillaJulia, the series finale, came out in February 2019.
When she’s not writing or reading, the author may be spotted lurking near a lavender bush, brandishing secateurs. She’s proud to have turned a hill of brambles into a Mediterranean garden, now home to hundreds of bees, butterflies and the neighbour’s cat. It’s in this corner of paradise that she and her partner can sit and watch the sun go down and listen for the song of the nightingale in May.
FIND OUT MORE ON:
-Laurette’s (more or less) monthly blog about whatever has got her excited at that particular moment–new authors, writing projects, bats in the bedroom, Cathar history in Occitania. She’s delighted when readers jump into the discussion.
-her Facebook page, where, in ‘Diary of A Provincial Lady SW France’, she recounts the latest breaking news from The Hamlet (neighbour’s new puppy escapes, poppies in bloom, how to cook a magret decanard).