Please help me welcome the lovely Julie Stock to my blog, author of The Vineyard in Alsace.
A romantic read set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in France.
The Vineyard in Alsace
Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?
Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.
Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.
Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?
‘Here, you can have this back!’ I wrenched my engagement ring from my finger and flung it in the general direction of their naked bodies, huddled together under the sheet on the bed. Our bed. ‘I obviously won’t be needing it any more.’
‘What the hell, Fran?’ The thunderous look on Paul’s face as the ring pinged against the metal bedframe almost made me doubt myself. I closed my eyes briefly. Don’t let him control you. You are definitely not the guilty party!
I took one last look at him and then I turned and ran. I kept on running, as far and as fast as my legs would take me, blood pounding in my ears, my long hair whipping around my face. The whole time my mind raced with thoughts of his double betrayal.
Eventually, my body couldn’t take any more and I stopped on the pavement near an underground station, doubled over and panting from the effort. Once I’d got my breath back a bit, I gave Ellie a call. She picked up on the first ring.
‘Hey, Fran, how are you?’
That question pushed me over the edge into full-blown sobbing and once I’d started, I couldn’t stop.
‘What’s the matter? Where are you? Is Paul there? Talk to me, please!’
‘Hold on a minute,’ I managed to choke out, wiping my face on the sleeve of my t-shirt. ‘I’m at the Tube station and I need a place to stay. Paul…Paul…well, there is no Paul and me any more.’
I heard her sharp intake of breath before she said, ‘Of course you must come here. Will you be okay on your own or do you want me to come and get you?’
‘No, I’ll be okay. I should be about half an hour. Thanks, Ellie.’ I rang off and made my way down into the depths of the Tube, grateful that I would have somewhere to stay so I didn’t have to go back home tonight. Afterwards, I couldn’t remember finding my way to the platform. I was so distracted by all that had happened and in such a short space of time but the next thing I knew, I was squashed into a seat on a crowded rush-hour carriage, trundling north on the Northern line.
No-one spared me a second glance on the train. It was oddly calming to be sitting among complete strangers in my misery and to know I didn’t have to explain myself. I wrapped my arms protectively around my body. Why on earth had Paul done this to me? I wracked my brain as the train rattled on, but I could make no sense of it.
When I arrived at Ellie’s, she scooped me into her arms at once for a hug, which only made me start crying again. She patted my back comfortingly, and eventually the tears subsided.
‘Why don’t I get us both a drink and then you can tell me everything that’s happened?’
Buy The Vineyard in Alsace here:
Julie:For me, when I start planning a book, the setting is what comes first, followed swiftly by my two main characters and their situation. My first book was set in Nashville mostly, with my main female character, Rachel, dreaming of going there to become a country music singer songwriter.Even as I was publishing my debut, I knew that my second book would be set in France, which as you’ll see is a country that’s very dear to my heart.The Vineyard in Alsace is dedicated to my maternal grand-dad, Charles Kirzdorf. He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1919 but moved to France around the time of the second World War during which he met my nan. After the war, they married and settled in the UK. I loved my grand-dad to bits when I was young. Most of all, I loved his French accent which he maintained his whole life, and the way that he taught me my love of languages. He also gave me a love of France and French culture that endures to this day.So it was a bit of a given really that I would write a book set in France at some point but I gave a lot of thought as to where precisely I would set it.During my degree, in French naturally, I spent a year abroad in France. Although I was sent to Clermont-Ferrand, not the most inspiring of places, I enjoyed the time I spent there with my husband-to-be, developing my love of the language and learning more about the country and its culture. I also began to learn about wine so it was an obvious decision, when I was made redundant from my first job after university, to retrain and look for a new one in the wine industry.Luckily, I found a job working for a mail order wine merchant and I picked up everything I could about wine along the way. There was lots of practical learning involved, of course!By the time I came to write this book, I had also spent numerous holidays in Francevisiting most of its regions over the years and I knew I wanted to pick an area that other writers don’t usually write about. After visiting several times, I began to think of Alsace.It’s a beautiful region, with a picture postcard beauty and a vibrant culture born out of its complex history of belonging first to Germany and then France, and back and forward many times. Not only that but it’s also renowned for its wines.And so I had my idea. I would write a novel set on a vineyard in Alsace and my maincharacters would be French as well. This would give me the chance to use my Frenchlanguage, to use my wine knowledge and also to use my love of France to help me tellthe story of Fran and Didier’s second chance at love. Fran’s grand-dad in the story, Papi, is based very much on mine and it was lovely to use some of his characteristics to round out my character too.
The story centres on Strasbourg in the north of the region and Colmar in the middle. We first visited in 1997 when my older daughter was just three months old and I had fond memories of both places from that time. So it was wonderful to go back there in 2015 with my younger daughter and rediscover all the lovely places we had been to before, along with some new ones. In the story, the characters visit the Church of St. Jacques-le-Majeur at Hunawihr and shortly after, they go to the nearby Jardin des Papillons, both places we had visited on or most recent trip. The church was built in the 15th century and is unusual because of its fortified cemetery. It is perched up on a slight hill with the vineyards stretched out before it. This is the little church featured on the cover of my book. If you look carefully at the cover, you’ll see there’s also a stork hidden among the vines. The stork is the symbol of Alsace and I wanted it on the cover to hint at the setting, along with the vines and the church. If you’ve never been to Alsace, you can discover it a little through my book, I hope, and maybe one day, venture there yourself.
- Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She self-published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and recently published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.