JFK. En route to Paris. Sounds glamorous, right? I picture towering glass walls and and fancy lounges, business suits and luxury goods. But I’m sitting in a huge grimy room at midnight with crumpled papers on the floor. The people across from me are slumped in their chairs, shoes off, sleeping. There’s a constant racket of announcements over the loudspeaker and I’m already tired. My flight has been delayed six hours and even changed airports. I still have seven hours in flight, customs, passport control, and an uncertain commute ahead of me before getting anywhere near the City of Love.
Romance novels usually represent a rose-colored worldview without those daily details. That’s fine with me. That’s often why I read them and it’s true of many I write. But there's a particular irony in this trip for me as I’ve been revising the five novellas in my Carmichaels series about five privileged sisters. The first of them, Corinne, was also my very first romance novel, written during a NaNoWriMo month and published shortly afterward. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for that novel, where Corinne Carmichael falls in love with Paul Drouet, a French photographer. They meet on a beach in Hawaii and get to know each other at her college in Los Angeles and her home in Boulder before she visits him in Paris. That first trip unspools as a classic French film montage, and Corinne is enough of a film buff to realize it at the time. It’s bistros and cobblestone streets and Edith Piaf growling about l’amour…. She and Paul go on their first real date and it’s magical.
A few years ago I arrived by myself at the Gare du Nord in Paris and stepped out onto the street, dragging my luggage. I don't remember why I was arriving by train but I know it was very early one weekend morning; no one was out and all the stores were closed. That neighborhood is fine but train stations do attract sleazy: Le Sex Shop across the street advertised cabines automatiques. Some funny-looking little vehicles rustled past sweeping the streets. It was so...foreign. And so unnerving to be alone at that moment, in that place, that I still remember it vividly. I grew up and still live in a city that never shuts down and I don’t have more than rudimentary French. So I kind of freaked out—like maybe I had stepped into an apocalyptic scenario, populated by zombies I couldn’t see or hear. I clutched my phone in my hand and walked briskly toward my hotel, pulling my wheelie over those picturesque cobblestones. But of course it was too early to check in so I had to leave my bag and go back out into the quiet. I finally found an open cafe and just sat until the city started waking up and I started calming down.
As I’ve been writing this a flight to London has left and now people are queueing up for a flight to Moscow. It *is* glamorous (and highly privileged) to be able to travel like this, but it’s not a romance novel either. Once in Paris though I’m revisiting Paul and Corinne and writing them a new epilogue. Stay tuned. A box set version of the whole Carmichael series will be out April 2nd is available for pre-order here at an intro price! Or enter a giveaway for a free copy from Goodreads here!