In my wildest dream, I could not wish for a long lost uncle who owns a vineyard or a chateau or runs a bed and breakfast place in France but I can spend a day getting lost in a story where the protagonist gets the opportunity of a lifetime to run to France to experience a life completely different from where she comes from. I have always enjoyed a good story set in Provence such as A Good Year by Peter Mayle, so when I get a chance to review a fiction that has the adventure of a lifetime in picturesque Provence, I have to read it. Life is fiction and it can be magical just like what happens in a fairy tale if you allow yourself to take a giant leap from your comfort zone.
A Book Review
Falling for Provence by Paulita Kincer
Falling for Provence is the sequel to The Summer of France but Falling for Provence can be read as a standalone because its author, Paulita Kincer has tied in very nicely the background of the protagonist, Fia Jennings and her teenage twins fifteen-year-old West and Kasey , where they have hailed from and how she ends up running Le Beau Horizon, a bed and breakfast place for Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie in Provence after losing her job at the local newspaper back home in Columbus.
Falling for Provence is a story of mystery, romance and family. It is action-packed full of twists and turns. You might want to suspend disbelief to enjoy the fun ride. The suspense takes you from Madison Public Library in Wisconsin to the Louvre in Paris and for most part of the novel, the setting is in dreamlike Aix-en-Provence.
Paulita Kincer is an excellent story-teller as she cleverly weaves the story interchangeably in two voices, Fia’s voice and a third person’s voice that narrates what is brewing amidst all that chaos in Fia’s world.
In Fia’s voice,
‘ Moving to France with teenage twins was guaranteed to bring complications, I reminded myself as I saw West’s cheeks redden. His chest, right about chin level for me now, rose and fell in quickened breaths. His hands clenched in fists, until he opened one and slapped his palm on the butcher-block countertop.
“ Incroyable!” he exclaimed as he switched from English to French. “ C’est impossible! I am dropping the class. I will not be spoken to like that.” And his indignation sounded astonishingly French, which gave me a thrill, but I didn’t point out the irony that his accent sounded excellent while he complained about his French class.’
She imagines having a perfect beau with her wandering through the market and seeing what she is enchanted with. In her wistful voice,
‘ ….And a partner would have laughed at my urge to sift through the spices. He might have directed my attention toward the dull-mustard color of the curry powder in another basket. We might have leaned over the spice -laden table and inhaled the rich scents that mixed and weaved their magic as they reached our noses. Instead, I only paused for a moment before moving along again.
‘ A partner might have nudged me to take a deep breath again as we stood by a tub of sardines in cold water, their silver bodies glimmering. He might have given me a wink and gone to the butcher to order the cow lungs or stomach lining piled on one table, looking like an undersea sponge rather than the innards of an animal. I imagined making retching noises as I pulled him away.
But none of that happened………’
Then she knows that scene would never have happened with her husband, Grayson whom she is now in the midst of divorcing as he has betrayed her in more than one way. Just as she is rebuilding her life in Provence without Grayson, aside from dealing with her fifteen-year old twins’ frustrations in adjusting to the French school system and coaxing their angst, enters a guest at the B & B, Ali Jaffari, an American academician who studies Mesopotamia. Fia is about to be taken on a roller coaster ride with the arrival of the mysterious man, her mother, Evelyn Dunham, a great looking grandma who dresses ‘like an ad for J.Jill’ and Christophe with whom she has romantic liaison resulting from the circumstances and all that happened when she first landed in Provence with her family in toll. Fia begrudges her parents for not being caring parents and she is not fond of her mother who is self-centred. In the mix of all that is happening with Fia and her parents and children, a heist involving the Code of Hammurabi nearly 4000 year old, ‘a black stone, like a 7 foot obelisk made of basalt, tapered at the top to represent a giant finger’ which is on display in the Louvre is being plotted. The art piece is said to be stolen from its Babylon site in Iraq and the French excavated it in Iran in the early 1900s and brought it back to France. As the plot thickens, Fia proves to be courageous and perhaps a little foolhardy when she sets out to help Christophe in Paris to prevent the Code of Hammurabi from being stolen. What a thrill ride for Fia.
Falling for Provence written by Paulita Kincer is a page turner and definitely a book you would very much like to read it in one sitting. It is a much-needed escapade in presently uncertain and challenging times. I am truly glad to have the opportunity to participate in France Book Tours. Many thanks to Paulita Kincer who has kindly answered the interview questions.
Interview with Paulita Kincer
Ms Kincer, I understand that Falling for Provence is the sequel to The Summer of France. What inspired you to write a sequel to Fia’s story?
Fia was the original character who lived the dream that so many of us have, leaving behind a mundane life and starting anew in France. It’s one reason I started writing fiction, so I could live out my fantasy, if only on paper. But I knew that things weren’t always going to be easy for Fia, I needed to see how her new life was going. Hopefully, we’ll get to spend winter and spring with her too now that we’ve had summer and fall.
Was The Summer of France your first novel? What’s the inspiration behind it?
The Summer of France was my first published novel. Aside from the dream of running away to France as inspiration, I had an uncle who fought in World War II and talked about his experiences. Then when I heard about the pilfered art and some pieces that were still missing, I figured, why not combine all of those elements and that became The Summer of France.
Can Falling for Provence and The Summer of France be read independently from one
(Interviewer’s note_ I feel that Falling for Provence can be read as a standalone because you have tied in very nicely the background of the protagonist, Fia Jennings and her teenage children and where they have hailed from and how she ends up running Le Beau Horizon, a bed and breakfast place for Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie in Provence when she lost her job at the local newspaper back home in Columbus.
Was that your intent that both novels can be read separately and independently when you wrote the sequel?
Definitely. If you read Falling for Provence first, it might give away part of the plot of The Summer of France, but I wanted to make sure that it could stand alone. Also, The Summer of France is free on Barnes & Noble and Kobo. I hope to offer it free on Kindle too, eventually, so people can read it and decide if they want to read more of my books.
Falling for Provence is a story of mystery, romance and family. Are the narratives or themes in any way influenced by reality? What do you hope for readers to take away from the story?
Falling for Provence is definitely a story about family with a little intrigue and mystery thrown in. I hope if a reader finds herself in a situation with family or with friends and realizes that she is unhappy, then she can change that circumstance. We only have one shot at life, and we don’t want to wait too late to create the life we want.
In the story, Fia had to get adjusted to the drinking of wine or beer by teenagers and her children had to adapt to the style of teaching in the lycée, did you and your children have similar experience?
Does your character’s relocation to France mirror your own experience in any way? What was it like adapting to the lifestyle in France? What were the most challenging aspects ?
The way that France handles alcohol is so much better than the way we do in the U.S. I learned that when visiting friends in France and watching how their children tasted alcohol, drank it for special occasions, sipped a glass at dinner, but didn’t become weekend binge drinkers like so many American teenagers do. One of the stories I tell is based on our friends. The 13-year-old boy, after a long day of taking exams in Paris, asks for a Coke at dinner, and his father says, “You’ll drink wine like the rest of us.” Of course, the wine was less expensive, too. It’s just part of their culture.
The biggest difference between Fia’s move to France and mine, is that Fia had to deal without her husband, while my husband is supporting my dream. Also, Fia felt pretty lonely in France and I am, fortunately, surrounded by new friends with so much socializing that I sometimes have to beg off a night, but not very often.
Your main characters have quite an adventure within less than a year into their move to France. It is a very tight plot. Did you work out the entire plot before penning the novel?
I try to have an overview of what will happen in the novel, but sometimes the plans go awry. I’m still not sure what happened in the end? Are you?
Where did you get the ideas for your novels? What sort of research did you carry out? Did you study anthropology and art history?
I haven’t studied either anthropology or art history, but I am drawn to stories about art and history, which ties to my love of France. The idea of countries not possessing their own art because other countries have claimed it seems very unfair, and I’m always ready to fight for an underdog. I think we’re past the idea that some countries are civilized and others aren’t.
The characters in your novel have to learn French while they are in France. In the story, Fia missed speaking English with an American so much that when she had the American guest of Middle Eastern descent, she was truly happy to be able to converse with a fellow American. In real life, did you and your family speak French before moving to France?
I speak French but not as well as I would like. I worked as an au pair when I was 23 and learned a lot of French, but I haven’t returned to that level of French yet. My husband is learning French. He can do the important things like go to the bakery and buy me croissants. Too much of our time is spent speaking English with people from the UK. But I have learned a lot of British expressions.
I haven’t given up on my French though. We’ll begin lessons again in September and I’m working online. I do well speaking, but have more trouble understanding what French speakers are saying.
I read from your website that you decided to publish independently when you received feedback from an agent about your novel Trail Mix. Do I understand correctly that you wanted to dictate the kind of women fictions that you wish to tell and not to be told what kind of stories these publishers want to publish thus that motivated you to opt for independent publishing?
Basically, the New York publishers weren’t interested in stories about older characters or characters from the Midwest. They didn’t seem to understand why a woman might feel aimless after her children moved out of the house. I knew so many women who felt that way, and I thought it only fair to tell their story. Publishing companies may have expanded in the years since, but a lot of fiction is still told with very young women as the heroines rather than those of use with more experience.
Can you elaborate the process of independent publishing and share some of your experience and insights about independent publishing ?
Independent publishing is pretty straightforward. Once I format the novel and pay for a designer to create a book cover, then I can upload it to Kindle and other ebook platforms. The hardest part is making sure the novel is good and mistakes are removed. Even though I teach college English, I still end up with a number of mistakes from commas to misspellings, so I am lucky to have a supportive copy editor who goes line by line and page by page to find my mistakes. The publishing itself is easier than the marketing. It takes a lot of hit and miss to figure out how to help readers find my books. FranceBookTours is a great choice for me.
Do you have any advice that you would share with writers who are starting out ?
I have been writing for a long time, since I learned to hold a pencil, and in the beginning, I didn’t have a lot of experiences to share. So I would encourage young writers to get out and live their lives. The more they love, fight, cry and rejoice, the more they will have to write about.
Thanks so much for the interview questions and thanks for reading my novels. I’m really grateful.
Thank you Ms Kincer for a wonderful read.
Nice, 9 October 2012