Thank you for your interview, Christophe. Can you tell us your story?
First, I ask that you excuse my accent. I am French, so sometimes, my English is not so good. Second, this is not really my story, it’s Fia’s. She came from a place called Ohio with these dreams about running her uncle’s bed and breakfast, but I watched her from the beginning.
You see, her uncle has something very valuable hidden in that house, something he collected in World War II, and if I retrieve it, my father will be very ‘appy.
My job was to get close to Fia, but she tempted me in ways I didn’t expect. She made me think about my life and doing the right things.
Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?
(Christophe lifts his shirt to show rippling ab muscles and crooks an eyebrow.) This is what some say is my distinguishable feature. I’ve been told I look like Gilles Marini. You know of him, yes? He is an actor. Like him, I have dark hair that I comb straight back, and my blue eyes have crinkles at the edges that prove irresistible to many women.
What would I love the most about you?
I am very patient and a good listener. I play the long game, you see. I can sit over a glass of wine for hours while we explore emotions. I can make you feel important. And that always worked out for me, until I met Fia. She stirred something within me. Ha! Some might call it a conscience.
What would I hate the most about you?
I am rather picky about doing the proper thing when it comes to traditions. Dinner should be eaten in a certain order. Coffee with milk should be drunk before noon only, after that, tiny cups of espresso. Riding motorcycles should be done in motorcycle leathers, not jeans and a t-shirt. In France, we have an order to the things we do.
Where do you go when you are angry?
When I am angry, I ride my moto very fast. The roads are narrow and curving here in Provence. I can swerve around on the edge of my tires, past a car with a zoom. This sends a thrill through me. When I have much anger, I ride on the cliff roads with the Mediterranean crashing below.
What is your greatest fear?
I fear losing the love of my family. My family, it is very complicated. My father, he wants us to do things, and he does not like when his children make other choices. Even though we all are grown, we follow the wishes of my father.
Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
The author was at the mercy of Fia as she described me. Fia saw my handsomeness right away, but she took longer to, how you say, warm up to me. I tried to woo her and found myself becoming enamored of her. Perhaps she took a harsh view of me because I wanted to sell a precious possession. Of course, the money would make life so easy. But slowly, I saw Fia’s point. Perhaps, the author made me seem greedy. Money provides so many advantages, but, (sigh) I guess other things are more important.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
Fia and I had a perfect day at the beginning of our relationship. She worked so hard in the bed and breakfast while her family, they played tourists. I convinced Fia to come to Nice with me. You know this place, Nice? A lovely restaurant, a walk on the beach, a swim in the Mediterranean. The day ended with making Fia blush.
Are you a loner or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends?
I enjoy being with many people; I can talk to anyone, but find that I cannot trust them because of the secrets in my family. I drink in the company of others, like a sponge, but I share nothing of myself. All anyone sees is my attractive surface. They must wonder what is beneath.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I believed every possibility. I thought to be a, how you say, sea scientist. Marine biologist, this is it. I would go to the market with my mother and my head barely reached above the tables, but I would stare at all the things from the Mediterranean – sea urchins, slick, silver-eyed fish, burnished red crabs with their claws curved around their bodies. I thought to study these creatures. But I quickly learned that my family needed me in the family business.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
I would go to my father and make peace. That is not to say I would kowtow to him, do what he wishes. But I would urge him to think about doing the right thing. Life can end any time and my père, he is still angry at me. After I make peace, I would take Fia back to that beach in Nice for a glorious day. I would want to make sure that I live every minute until the end.
About The Book
Title: The Summer of France
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback / eBook / PDF
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure
Buy The Book:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summer-of-france-paulita-kincer/1113110596?ean=9781300257332
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Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kCyorexMfo
When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she thinks she'll have the chance to bond with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to create the perfect family, she's saved by a phone call from her great Uncle Martin who operates a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn't tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house when he married Lucie after fighting in World War II, and he doesn't mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.
The quiet of the house mocked me as I rummaged through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
After a few sentences in the language that Aunt Lucie considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard his booming voice.
“Fia?” he called as if using a bullhorn rather than a telephone. Uncle Martin, the baby of my grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II, found a French wife, and stayed.
I’d never traveled to France to visit him, but Uncle Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
Hearing his voice on the phone, I glanced at the wall calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended nearly two weeks before.
“Uncle Martin! What a surprise. How’s life in France?” I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
Uncle Martin continued to bellow. “Look, Fia, let me get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness. “Lucie and I are tired.
We need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“What?” I gasped my voice growing louder to match his. “You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
“No,” I heard his old man grunt across the phone lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“Listen. Don’t jump to conclusions,” he chastised me. “We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling. Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
“This place” is what Uncle Martin always called the eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land that Peter Mayle described.
“We thought you could take over,” Uncle Martin blared, “obviously, since you’re not working.”
Thanks, Uncle Martin, for reminding me again of my current jobless status. When a huge conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
So far, mostly, I spent my time trying to stay positive so an amazing job would find me, and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the backyard?”
They suggested we go out for pizza or visit a sporting goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
Bills. Ooh! I couldn’t see Uncle Martin’s invitation to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been complaining about money.
As a two-income family, we had paid bills on time and planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until the bottom dropped out of journalism.
“Uncle Martin, you know we’ve always dreamed of visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it working financially.”
“I’m not talking about a visit,” his voice grew agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the twins.”
I sat stunned for a moment, so Uncle Martin repeated himself.
“I’ll send you the tickets. I’ll just buy them online for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
My kids were always “the twins,” as if sharing a womb 14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
“Whoa. That is heavy stuff,” I slid onto the swiveling bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Even as I said it, I felt hope rising in my chest. Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets. I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home, the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling the lavender.
I heard the front door slam and my husband’s heavy footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
I turned my back on my approaching husband and said into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
“I’m thinking… NOW. Last week,” Uncle Martin’s voice rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
“You make the job sound so enticing,” I tried to laugh lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make this happen -- with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled a recently plowed furrow.
“Look, I’ll have to call you back later,” I hissed into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
“Uncle Martin,” I said with a blasé wave toward the phone. “He has a business proposal…”
I tried to sound nonchalant, but I guess my eagerness showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
This conversation might prove more difficult than I’d anticipated.
About The Author
Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of France, I See London I See France, and Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.
Connect with Pauliat:
Author Website: paulitakincer.com
Author Blog: http://paulita-ponderings.blogspot.com/
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