Why I should not review this book
In her guest post yesterday, Patricia Sands told us how she was captured by the romance of France. That comes as no surprise, because in her Love in Provence series, the setting is such a powerful presence that it serves as another main character in providing the motivation behind so much of the love story. The same is true for her new release, I Promise You This—the final book in the trilogy.
But I really shouldn’t be reviewing this book. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I loved it. But I didn’t read it like a reviewer, marking significant passages and quotes, thinking about character development and pacing and setting. I’m sure it had all those things, because Patricia Sands is a talented and experienced writer. I just didn’t notice them.
Because to me, this story is about that little voice in the head of every expat. At least, it’s in my head. Like the fictional Katherine, I know every day that I’m in a place I love because I want to be here. When we lived in England, I woke up every day amazed to see the walls of a medieval castle around me. Here in Scotland, I’m in a Victorian-era hobbit house.
It’s fun and interesting and fascinating. But while it might be my current home, it’s not the one that comes to mind when expats get together and talk about what we miss. There are wonderful, exciting, and marvelous things here that wouldn’t happen in that old state-of-mind home. Some days we laugh about them. Some days we don’t.
What are they? In no particular order, here are a representative few:
- Bathrooms: Government regulations protect you from plugging in your hairdryer or a heater. The light switch is outside the bathroom (and to your dying day, you will still go in, close the door in the dark, open the door, slap on the light switch, close the door again, and carry on with your business). You’ll need specialized training to use the shower controls. Towel warmers are the invention of the gods.
- English: as noted here (okay, and here and here and a bunch of other places), you’ll have to learn it, even though you thought you’d been speaking it your whole life. [Public service note: for a quick template of how to hold a conversation in the UK, see here.]
- Gardens, Pets, and the Weather: the only acceptable topics of conversation. In Scotland, you can take your dog with you into many shops and pubs. I asked if the train allowed dogs and the ticket seller admitted with some embarrassment that if I brought more than two dogs, there would be a fee.
- Jokes: everyone here can tell them. Everyone does. They won’t get yours.
- Accents: they change every few miles. Really. Some you won’t be able to understand. (Geordie, Weegie) When people start to talk to you, they’ll sound virtually incomprehensible. When they realize you’re American, their voices often posh up into some semblance of BBC presenters.
- Appliances: Electric kettles work like magic. Electric washers not so much. Electric dryers not at all. Your refrigerator will not have an ice maker or water in the door. It will probably not have icecube trays.
- Roads: you can drive to Paris. They didn’t get around to putting back the road signs they took down during WW2, so if you don’t bring a GPS, you might do just that.
And the truth is that I love each and every one of these things that so clearly indicate I’m in a different place, the one I decided to make my home.
So…home. Where the heart is? I don’t think so. My heart might completely and delightedly embrace waking up each day in this new place. But the atavistic impulse that has salmon making epic journeys to return to the waters that spawned them, that sends birds on journeys of thousands of miles, or that returns butterflies to a certain grove of trees every year, will still be that tiny little voice whispering “back home we did it this way…”
Blurb: I Promise You This by Patricia Sands
Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price’s midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she’s in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him.
But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she’s helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again?
Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection.
With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Antibes, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible—if you’re willing to let your heart lead you home.
Book Title: I Promise You This (Love in Provence Book 3)
Author: Patricia Sands
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Length: 336 pages
Release Date: 17 May, 2016
I Promise You This is about what comes after happily-ever-after. The lovers have met, fallen in love, faced trials, and finally expressed their commitment to one another. That’s where the curtain goes down in most romances. But in this one, it’s just the signal for the beginning of Act 3.
This is really not the book to start without reading the preceding two novels in this series. As we saw in the earlier books, the main character, Katherine, is a woman who spent her entire married life going through the motions of what was expected of her, without ever considering what she expected of herself. Her unfaithful husband leaves her the cruelest way possible, but from the beginning the reader suspects what Katherine only eventually discovers—it was a desperate act to save himself from a soulless marriage. And it saves Katherine as well, although she is in agony along the way.
In the previous books we see how Katherine comes to terms with her relationships, both with her failed marriage, and with her dying mother. But most importantly, she takes a chance on life, both by fulfilling a decades-old promise to herself to return to France, and by accepting that she still has a chance at a loving and fulfilling relationship. In France, the setting itself becomes another main character—one that soothes and supports Katherine, encouraging her to unfold and become the person she was meant to be. And in France, she and Philippe fall in love.
So why the third novel? Katherine has committed to Philippe, but—as she realizes when she returns home to Toronto to care for her best friend Molly after a devastating accident—she hasn’t committed to leaving behind her old life, her home, and her history.
As an expat myself, that’s where the story got really interesting. Because no matter how much we expats are pursuing the life we’ve worked to achieve, no matter how committed we are to living in that incredible but ultimately foreign place, no matter how desperately we want to be there—it’s still not the place that our heart labels “back home”. The place where we’re not different, we don’t stand out, we sound like everybody else. The place where our memories and the things that define our past will always live.
Katherine is shocked to find out that in committing to Philippe and their love, she still has to do a lot of work to come to terms with all the other parts of her past that have defined her. This book is the lovely story of that journey. And, because I’ve come to know and love the huge cast of the three books, I have to admit that I cried when Katherine did successfully arrive at her journey’s destination.
I recommend this book and the series to anybody who wants to read a contemporary love story about a mature woman, a beautiful setting, and a wonderful supporting cast. And you’re so lucky that the series is complete, so you can read it all now. Bon voyage!