An architectural guide to Rome. Talking to Stephen Harby
Romance novel set in Alsace, plus we are Talking Location with author Sue Moorcroft
17th May 2017
Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft, romance novel set in Alsace.
Leah accompanies her sister on holiday, driving over in her Porsche Cayenne, whilst the family members travel in the Pink Pig people carrier (yes, it’s pink!). But this is not a run-of-the-mill family vacation, because sister Michele and brother-in-law Alister are in the final throes of their marriage, one last joint holiday for the 2 children, Natasha and Jordan. Leah’s role is part interlocutor, part cook and bottle washer (she is after all a creative genius when it comes to delicious puds) and part dilutor of marital distress. Leah is certainly thrown in at the deep end – just how do you cope with 2 teenagers, who hook up with a third young man from next door, when you have focussed solely on work and cars and given little – actually no – consideration to parenting!
As it happens there is a potential love interest in the shape of Ronan next door (father of aforementioned young man), who is a helicopter pilot recovering from a shoulder injury sustained from a forced landing. He is currently on sick leave, renovating their summer house.
There are quite a few unfortunate developments on their holiday – potentially making it the holiday-from-hell for Leah – but she is a likeable and resilient young woman who thrives in adversity; and keeps the show on the road for the others who are all grappling with their own emotional turmoil and wimping out.
The setting is delightful and as a reader I was there in the gîte, with Leah and co., soaking up the French atmosphere, food and ambience. Enjoy!
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Over to Sue who talks about why she chose Alsace as the setting for the book
Why France? Why Alsace?
I decided to set Just for the Holidays in France after I went out with my friend Andrea and she took a big gulp of wine and said, ‘Let me tell you about my holiday from hell in France.’
I let her tell me. I cried with laughter. Then I said, ‘May I use that for a book …?’
To be factual, I didn’t use that much of Andrea’s story; it was just the premise of a woman who was perfectly happy living her life without husband or children ending up looking after her sister’s husband and children.
The conflicts would have been much weaker if I’d set the book in England, the home country of the characters. Much better to heap troubles on Leah with language barriers, geographical barriers, cultural barriers and even problems with not ending up with enough drivers for the vehicles. And, as an aside, the location even deepens the conflict of the helicopter pilot next door receiving an uninvited guest.
So, if France was a given, why Alsace, up in the northeast corner of France and sharing a border (and a mixed history) with Germany? Because another friend, Julie, moved there and invited me to visit.
Seriously. Just for the Holidays was going to be set in the Dordogne, which I’d visited a couple of times in the preceding years, but then I remembered ‘If you ever want to visit …’
It was an entertaining visit for all kinds of reasons and Julie thoroughly entered into the spirit of the research. Just for the Holidays is set in and around Strasbourg, her nearest city. We visited a hospital where Julie translated my questions, we scoped out local wildlife, we rode the trams, visited the cathedral and a nearby patisserie (it was necessary! Honest). Julie introduced me to a local friend, Corinne, who answered loads of questions about Alsace, asked more questions of her medical contacts and, eventually, read the entire manuscript to help me get it right.
What can I tell you about Strasbourg? It’s pretty. It has tall picturesque buildings with steep roofs. Some are timbered, some painted or carved. There’s the most breathtaking gothic cathedral, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, so awe-inspiring that there are rows of deckchairs outside just so people can sit and look at it. The River Ill runs through the city and the glass-topped barges, the Batorama, glide beneath the many petunias-edged bridges. Typically continental pavement cafés are well patronised . . . and then there are those patisseries!
Much of the action in Just for the Holidays takes place outside the city in the village and town that came out of my head – Kirchhoffen and Muntsheim. Julie lives in the village on which I based Kirchhoffen. We spent a happy sunny afternoon wandering around the sun-drenched roads and lanes. I took a huge number of photos of the local houses and the park. The most embarrassing moment came when we stood in a driveway taking photos of a house and the owners came back and queued patiently behind us in their car.
The visit seemed too short but I brought all those hundreds of pix home with me for reference purposes and Julie and Corinne answered any questions I emailed to them.
I hope to go back to verdant, rolling Alsace one of these days, though. It’s gorgeous.
I suppose I could always set another book there . . .
Thanks so much to Sue for sharing how she came to choose and research Alsace for her book. You can follow her via her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Goodreads and she is a contributor over at TakeFiveAuthors. You can buy her books – including Just For The Holidays – here!
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