I went to hear Katie Fforde, famous English romantic novelist, at the Friends of the Takapuna Library recently. She is an effervescent grandmother who loves flamenco dancing and sings in her local choir. This was her only public appearance during a two month holiday in New Zealand with husband Desmond. She was bubbling over with enthusiasm about our awesome landscape and friendly people.
"I won't mind at all if you drop off during my talk, "she assured us. She often does it herself at the movies. But there was no nodding off – her wicked sense of humour and personal anecdotes kept us laughing out loud.
As she shared her writer's journey, she gave some really useful advice to would be authors.
"Persist, success often does not come easily," she said.
About the Author
When her children were small and didn't sleep well her husband was often away at sea. She found that she could pick up a Mills and Boon, follow the plot and enjoy the escapism even if she's had little sleep. It was so much better to be addicted to reading than chocolate or valium.
As a creative outlet she began to write Mills and Boon novels. But her manuscripts were rejected for eight years until an editor encouraged her to write a longer novel with more complexity and scope for character development. She hasn't looked back since and now has a string of romantic novels to her credit, some of which have been made into movies in Germany.
Her new book A French Affair is number nineteen. The story is about an eccentric old aunt who leaves her two nieces an unusual bequest: a small amount of money and an opportunity to run a stall in The French House (an antique business run from a stately old home). They don't have the faintest idea about antiques but decide to give it a try.
Gina, the oldest and a PR consultant has recently left a bad relationship. She has sworn off men for a decade. But her matchmaking happily married younger sister has other ideas. And Matthew, the tall dark owner of The French House with a "sort of saturnine cragginess," appears to be available. What begins as a business relationship blossoms into a love story with some thorns along the way: Matthew is having financial difficulties, the business is run down and his nasty ex-wife wants him to sell it.
Gina sets her heart on using her PR skills to rescue The French House and the livelihood of all the other stall holders. Changing Matthew's old fashioned ways and dragging The French House into the twenty-first century is not always appreciated by him and at times sours their relationship. But this is romantic fiction so readers will expect a satisfactory outcome
The French House is a fictional place in a small Cotswold village but Katy Fforde has enthusiastically researched how such places are run so we also get a feel for the antique business.
Romantic fiction can be froth without substance. But Katy Fforde's characters are true to life people who we can relate to.
I romped through A French Affair in a few hours. It's is a heart-warming story told with humour and a light touch. The kind of book that at the end of a hectic day you can curl up with while you have a well-deserved glass of wine and feel thoroughly relaxed.
Authors, even when on holiday collect new ideas. I imagine Katy Fforde is no exception. But she'll have to wait until she gets home and has her laptop fixed to jot down her memories of New Zealand. Husband Desmond unfortunately spilt a drink over her laptop while they were here on holiday and it crashed.
It would not be surprising if one of her future heroines falls in love with a trendy ski instructor on the Ruapehu slopes, a funky Ponsonby barista, or a silver haired farmer who is ready for a romantic fling.
Title: A French Affair | Author: Katie Fforde | RRP Imprint: Century RRP $36.99