Saturday Excerpt: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan
Celebrate the weekend with a wonderful new read from USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan! One Summer in Paris is the perfect book if you are looking for a story about romance and friendship.
About One Summer in Paris:
To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.
Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.
Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Living in neighboring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them…
Grace Porter woke on Valentine’s Day, happily married and blissfully unaware that was about to change.
Downstairs in the kitchen she added slices of cheese to the bread she’d baked fresh the day before, put fruit and raw vegetables into lunch boxes and then checked her list.
Number four on today’s list: remind Sophie about dinner.
She glanced up. “Don’t forget Dad and I are out tonight. Your dinner is in the fridge.”
Her daughter, Sophie, was messaging a friend. “Mmm…”
“I know! No phones at the table—but this is urgent. Amy and I are writing a letter to the paper about that development they’re going to build on the edge of town. Dad promised he’d publish it. Can you believe they want to close the dog shelter? Those dogs are going to die if someone doesn’t do something, and that someone is me. There. Done.” Sophie finally looked up. “Mom, I can make my own lunch.”
“Would you include fresh fruit and veg?”
“No. Which is why I’d rather make my own.” Sophie gave a smile that didn’t just light her up, it lit Grace up, too. “And you’re starting to sound like Monica, which is a little scary.”
Her daughter was like sunshine. She made the world a brighter place. For years Grace had been braced for her to rebel, take drugs, or roll in drunk after an illicit party with friends, but it hadn’t happened. It seemed that Sophie’s genetic makeup favored David’s side of the family, which was a relief. If Sophie had an addiction it was causes. She hated injustice, inequality and anything she deemed unfair—particularly when it related to animals. She was the champion of all dogs, especially the underdog. Grace was quick to defend her friend. “Monica is a wonderful mother.”
“Maybe, but I can tell you that the first thing Chrissie is going to do when we get to Europe this summer is feast on a ton of fries to make up for all the years her mom wouldn’t let her touch them.” Sophie finished her oatmeal. “Did you say something about dinner?”
“Have you forgotten what day it is?” Grace closed the lunch boxes and put one next to Sophie. The other she slid into her own bag.
“Valentine’s Day.” Sophie slid off her chair and picked up her empty bowl. “The day it becomes public knowledge that no- body loves me.”
“Dad and I love you.”
“No offense, but you’re not young, cool and athletic.” Grace took a mouthful of coffee. How much should she say?
“It’s still Sam?”
Sophie’s smile faded as if someone had hit the dimmer switch. “He’s seeing Callie. They walk around together holding hands. She keeps giving me these smug smiles. I’ve known Callie since I was three, so I don’t understand why she’s doing this. I mean, date him, sure. That sucks, but it’s life. But it’s like she’s trying to hurt me.”
Grace felt a burning in her chest. Not heartburn, but parenthood. As a mother, her role was to support from the sidelines.
It was like being forced to watch a really bad play without the consolation of knowing you could leave in the interval.
“I’m sorry, honey.”
“Don’t be.” Sophie put her bowl in the dishwasher and then added the one her father had left on the side. “It would never have worked out. Sophie and Sam sounds pretty lame, don’t you think?”
Her hurt slid into Grace and settled deep in her gut. “You’re going to college soon. After a month in California
you won’t even remember Sam exists. You have your whole life ahead of you, and all the time in the world to meet some- one special.”
“I’m going to study, graduate top of my class and go to law school where I can learn how to sue people who are assho—”
“Er…not very nice people.” Sophie grinned, slung her back- pack over one shoulder and stroked her long ponytail over the other. “Don’t worry, Mom. Boys drive me insane. I don’t want a relationship.”
That will change, Grace thought.
“Have a great day, Mom, and happy anniversary. Twenty-five years of not yelling at Dad when he leaves his socks on the floor and his dirty plate on top of the dishwasher. Major achievement. Are you seeing Mimi today?”
“This afternoon.” Grace slid her laptop into her bag. “I made macarons, like the ones she used to buy in Paris. You know what a sweet tooth your great-grandmother has.”
“Because she lived in Paris during the war and she had no food. Sometimes she was too weak to dance. Can you even imagine that?”
“That’s probably why she talks to you about it. She doesn’t want you to take things for granted.” She opened the box she’d carefully packed that morning, revealing pastel macarons lined up in neat rows of rainbow perfection.
Sophie made a sound that was almost a purr. “Wow. I don’t suppose I could…?”
“No.” Grace closed the box. “But I might have packed a couple for your lunch.” She tried not to think about the sugar, or how Monica would react to the inclusion of empty calories in a lunch box.
“You’re the best, Mom.” Sophie kissed her cheek and Grace felt warmth flood through her.
“Do you need a favor or something?”
“Don’t be cynical.” Sophie grabbed her coat. “Not many people would teach French at an assisted-living center, that’s all. I think you’re amazing.”
Grace felt like a fraud. She didn’t do it out of any sense of charity, but because she liked the people. They were always so pleased to see her. They made her feel valued.
It was embarrassing to think she could still be needy at her age.
“Their French Club is the best part of my week. Today being Valentine’s Day, I’ve allowed myself to be creative.” She picked up the stack of menus she’d designed. “The staff are laying the tables in the restaurant with red-and-white tablecloths. We’re eating French food, I’m playing music… Knowing your great-grandmother, there will be dancing. What do you think?”
“Ooh là là, I think it sounds great.” Sophie grinned. “Just re- member that the average age of Mimi’s friends is ninety. Don’t give them all heart attacks.”
“I’m pretty sure Robert has his eye on Mimi.”
“Mimi is a minx. I hope I’m like her when I’m ninety. She has this wicked twinkle in her eye… It must have been fun having her living with you when you were growing up.”
It had been lifesaving. And that, of course, was why Mimi had moved in.
It was a time she’d never discussed with her daughter. “She’s one in a million. You’ll be okay tonight?” She checked the kitchen was tidy. “There’s casserole in the fridge. All you need to do is heat it up.”
“I’m eighteen, Mom. You don’t have to worry about me.” Sophie glanced out the window as a car pulled up outside. “Karen is here. I need to run. Bye.”
Telling Grace not to worry was like asking a fish not to swim.
Two minutes after Sophie had left, she slid on her coat, picked up her keys and walked to the car.
Turning the heat up, she focused on the drive.
Four mornings a week, Grace taught French and Spanish at the local middle school. She also tutored children who were struggling and occasionally gave lessons to adults keen to improve their language skills.
She took the same route she always took, seeing the same houses, the same trees, the same stores. Her view only changed when the seasons changed. Grace didn’t mind. She savored routine and predictability. She found comfort and security in knowing what was going to happen next.
Today the snow lay deep on the ground, coating roofs and gardens in thick slabs of white. In this little corner of Connecticut the snow was likely to linger for many weeks. Some people embraced it. Grace wasn’t one of them. By March, winter felt like a guest who had outstayed her welcome. She longed for sunshine and summer dresses, bare legs and iced drinks.
She was still dreaming of summer when the phone rang. It was David.
“Hi, Gracie.” That voice of his still made her insides melt.
Deep and gravelly, but smooth enough to soothe life’s hurts. “Hi, handsome. You had an early start today.”
And you left your breakfast plate on top of the dishwasher.
“Things are busy at work.”
David was editor of the local newspaper, the Woodbrook Post, and had been kept busy lately thanks to the astonishing success of the girls’ tennis team, the formation of a county children’s choir and a robbery at the local gas station during which the only things stolen were a box of doughnuts and a bottle of rum. By the time the local police had located the man responsible, the evidence had been consumed.
Whenever Grace read the paper it reminded her of all the reasons she lived in this quaint town with a population of only 2,498.
Unlike other journalists, whose sights might have been set on bigger targets, David had never shown a desire to work anywhere but this small town they’d both fallen in love with.
The way he saw it, he was the voice of the community. He was obsessed with the news, but he also believed that it was what happened right here in their hometown that mattered to people. He often joked that all he needed to fill the entire newspaper was to spend an afternoon at a backyard barbecue listening to the gossip. He was friends with the police chief and the fire chief, which ensured that he was given all the major scoops.
Of course in Woodbrook, a place most people had never heard of, there were more scoops in the ice cream parlor than there were in the local community, and that suited Grace.
“Happy Valentine’s and happy anniversary.” She slowed as she approached an intersection. “I’m already looking forward to dinner tonight.”
“Shall I book somewhere?”
Only a man would think it possible to get a table on Valentine’s Day without forward planning. “Already done, honey.”
“Right. I should be home early. I’ll fix something for Sophie to eat so you don’t have to bother.”
“I’ve handled that. The fridge is full of food. You can relax.” There was a pause. “You’re superwoman, Grace.”
She glowed. “I love you.”
Her family was the most important thing in the world to her. “I’ll drop by the store and pick out something for Stephen’s birthday on my way home. He says he doesn’t want a fuss, but I feel we should buy him something, don’t you?”
“I do—which is why I bought him a gift when I was shopping last week.” Grace waited for a gap in the traffic and turned into the school. “You’ll find it under the bed in the spare room.”
“You’ve already bought something?”
“I didn’t want you having to think about it. Remember that great photo of Stephen with Beth and the kids?”
“The one I took at the Summer Fair?”
She pulled into a space and undid her seat belt. “I had a print made and bought a frame. It looks great.”
“I’ve wrapped it. All you have to do is sign your name.” She reached across and gathered her coat and bag. “I’m at school, so I’ll call you later. You sound tired. Are you tired?”
She paused with one leg out of the car. “You’ve been working long hours lately. You need to slow down. There’s nothing for you to do at home, so maybe you should lie down and rest before we go out.”
“I’m not geriatric, Grace.”
There was a sharpness to his tone that was unusual. “I was trying to spoil you, that’s all.”
“Sorry.” The sharpness vanished. “Didn’t mean to snap. There’s been a lot going on lately. I’ll call a cab for tonight, so we can have a drink without worrying about driving.”
“Cab is already booked for seven.”
“Do you ever forget anything?”
“It’s all down to lists—you know that. If I lose my lists, my life is over.”