Seven Letters From Paris
Random House AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
In 1989, Samantha and her friend Tracey holidayed in Europe. They were 19, had just finished their first year of college and were looking forward to an adventure. At a restaurant in Paris, they met Jean-Luc and Patrick. It was a perfect foursome – Jean-Luc and Samantha only had eyes for each other and Tracey and Patrick, despite a bit of a language barrier, were more than happy to be in each other’s company. The only thing was – the girls were leaving Paris the next day. They had non-refundable rail tickets and had to be in a certain city at a certain time to make a flight. There was no way they could stay longer, even though all 4 wished it were possible.
Fast forward 20 years later and Samantha is in a marriage that is going no where. She and her husband have lived almost separate lives for eight years, sleeping apart. Her husband travels extensively for work and when he’s home, he’s often frustrated and angry. Samantha doesn’t see a way forward for them, she knows that things are ending. She just has to gather her courage to do it. On a whim, she decides to track down Jean-Luc from all those years ago. After she left Paris, Jean-Luc wrote her seven perfect love letters, none of which Samantha ever replied to. She decides to apologise to Jean-Luc for not responding two decades ago. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to – there were other reasons why Samantha never got to post a letter back.
Jean-Luc, because of his profession, proves surprisingly easy to track down in today’s digital world. She sends him an email and from there it progresses to phone calls and then Samantha traveling to Paris to meet up with him again. So much has been lacking in Samantha’s life that this is exactly the sort of passionate, crazy adventure that she needs. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get a second chance, if you’re brave enough to take it.
Seven Letters From Paris is a memoir by an American woman who ended up getting a second chance at an old love. I have to say that although I read a lot of romance books, I’m not exactly what you would call romantic myself. In fact, my husband always tells me I don’t have a romantic bone in my body and he’s probably right. The ‘grand gestures’ are often lost on me so my feelings about this were rather mixed. Some of it I quite enjoyed but there were other parts where I didn’t really connect with what was happening and the people it was happening to.
Samantha and Jean-Luc spend basically one entire night together (but not like that) in Paris when she’s 19 and he’s 26. She’s on holiday and they meet in a restaurant and he and his friend offer to show her and her friend a few sights. He asks her to stay longer but already committed to the next part of the holiday, Samantha and her friend Tracey has to leave. This is 1989, no internet or cell phones to text so Jean-Luc begins to write her letters. Most people find these letters extremely romantic but to me, such flowery language and declarations after one day feels a bit strange.
Twenty years later and Samantha’s trapped in a marriage that has gone south and she discovers Jean-Luc’s letters and decides to get in contact with him again. As times have changed, there’s an immediacy to their contact now, they can email each other back and forth all day and speak on the phone with ease. They quickly reconnect and it isn’t long before they both seem to feel the same way they did twenty years ago. I didn’t really have an issue with watching them connect this way – it is possible to get to know someone intimately via emails, phone calls, texts, Skype etc as long as each person is up front and committed to being honest which it seems both Samantha and Jean-Luc are. They make plans for her to come to Paris.
What did surprise me was how everyone in Samantha’s life was all for this. I don’t think one person really said to her hey, are you sure you know what you’re doing here, flying halfway around the world to meet a guy you spent one night with twenty years ago? Have you put in place something to ensure your safety? Everyone was so enthusiastic about the Frenchman who had a way with words, even her parents. Yes Samantha is forty or thereabouts, clearly an adult but her life is also a bit of a mess. She’s unemployed and had to move back in with parents after she left her husband, she has twenty thousand dollars in credit card debt and has basically, the clothes on her back to her name. Luckily things really work out for Samantha and Jean-Luc. The connection in person is there just as much as it is in emails and on the phone and there’s no awkward moment where they have to try to extract themselves from this. They are both wanting to move forward together, to make a life together. There are a few complications – some problems obtaining Samantha’s birth certificate, the fact that Samantha needs to be introduced to all Jean-Luc’s friends and family, including his two children but none of these things make much more than a blip in the story. There are times when this reads as almost too good to be true. I mean it’s a memoir, so it is true. They’re still married and seem blissfully happy and it’s lovely to read about people who have gotten that second chance. Perhaps I’m too used to reading romantic fiction, which almost always contains conflict!
What I did love was the scenes in France. I’ve never been overseas and France is one place that everyone seems to feel passionately about. You have to go to Paris! people say. I loved their holiday, all of the buildings and castles they saw and stayed in, the food and wine, etc. That felt really magical as well, it kind of added to the romance – what better setting to fall in love again?
Seven Letters From Paris is a light, readable story that will definitely appeal to romantics and those who want that happily ever after.
Book #233 of 2014