Dreaming of St Tropez by T A Williams ** Review & Extract**
Today I am delighted to be featuring T.A. Williams' latest novel, Dreaming of St Tropez and to whet your appetite, I have an extract for you. Before we get to it, here's a taster of what the book is about.
The perfect summer escape on the French Riviera. Sun, sea and secrets…
After a disagreement with a billionaire, architect Jess Milton is ‘let go’ from her job. However fortune intervenes – an elderly client asks Jess to dog-sit overweight, but loveable dog Brutus in St. Tropez.
Fed up with the mega-rich, Jess is reluctant to visit the playground of billionaires, but an all-expenses-paid trip and the promise of sunshine seals the deal.
Little does Jess know how much time she’ll be spending with the family living in St. Tropez. The sullen, but very good-looking David and his millionaire father are both welcoming but guarded, haunted by their pasts…
Can Jess bring some sunshine back into their lives – and, just maybe, find love in the process?
A heart-warming, funny and emotional journey for fans of Holly Martin, Tilly Tennant and Jenny Oliver.
They had an unexpectedly good night. Brutus seemed quite happy to curl up in his fancy dog bed, strategically positioned as close as possible to the open window, and even his snoring didn’t bother them too much. They were both tired after the drive and had little trouble getting off to sleep. Jess only woke once or twice and on both occasions was reassured to see the dog fast asleep.
Next morning, Brutus was visibly disgruntled that his breakfast only consisted of a small serving of dog biscuits and a bowl of water, but he did, at least, manage to accompany them on a full circuit of the hayfield before they lifted him back into the car and set off again. They stopped twice en route to the south of France to refill the fuel tank and to give the dog a chance to stretch his legs. By now, Jess had got the hang of reversing up to a bank or bump in the ground so that the lethargic dog could climb into the back of the Range Rover without exhausting himself – and that way, they didn’t have to lift him up.
By the time they got to the Mediterranean coast, it was late afternoon, but the sky had cleared and the temperature outside was twenty-eight degrees. Considering it was just the end of May, Jess had no doubt the full heat of the summer in July and August would be intense. Inside the luxury car, with the air-conditioning turned on, even with the back window partly open for the dog’s benefit, the temperature was very comfortable. Although Jess had been driving all day, she felt pretty relaxed. Their only stressful moment had been on the motorway around Lyon, where the traffic had suddenly swollen to London proportions, but, since then, it hadn’t been too bad.
At just before five-thirty, they turned off the motorway, paid the exorbitant toll, and followed the signs towards St-Tropez. At first they found themselves on a good, fast, road that climbed through tree-covered hills, before beginning a winding plunge towards the sea. As they dropped down the other side, the view opened up – and it was spectacular. Jess found a lay-by among the pine trees and pulled in so they could appreciate the scene laid out before them in all its magnificence. The sky was a completely cloudless clear blue, unlike the grey, overcast skies of northern France and England, while the sea in the distance was a wonderful aquamarine. The wooded hills extended down towards the shoreline where glimpses of pale golden sand had them dreaming of sunbathing on the beach. Jess shot a glance across at Hope, who was looking entranced.
‘Remind you of anything?’
‘They say the camera never lies. Jess… it’s gorgeous. It’s just like I’ve always dreamt it would be. And, look, over there in the distance, at the mouth of the bay, that has to be St-Tropez itself.’
Jess followed her gaze and immediately recognised the famous pink and yellow tower of the church, poking up amidst a multitude of weathered pink-tiled roofs. There wasn’t a high-rise block to be seen and the houses themselves were a mixture of every possible shade of yellow, orange, ochre and pink – all bleached by the sun. The harbour looked as though it was packed with boats of all sizes and the white of the yachts contrasted pleasantly with the deep blue of the water. She breathed deeply and found herself smiling.
Beside her, Hope was equally ecstatic.
‘What a view! And up here, amid all these trees, it’s so quiet, so uninhabited. I was expecting a whole mass of houses and people, weren’t you?’
They sat in silent appreciation for a few minutes until they were roused by a cavernous half howl, half whine from the boot. Clearly, Brutus was keen to get to the end of their journey. Jess pulled the gear lever into Drive and edged out onto the road again.
‘It’s all right, Brutus. We’re almost there.’
As they dropped down to sea level, the whole mass of houses and people was waiting for them. Down here, it was far from quiet and peaceful. Along with people and houses, they also suddenly found themselves in the midst of a whole lot of slow-
moving traffic. The closer they got to their destination, the slower it all became. As they joined the stop-start queue of traffic driving round the bay towards their destination, Jess opened all the windows and allowed some fresh air to come into the car. This even roused Brutus, who stood up, stretched and uttered his long drawn-out half-whine, half-howl again. Clearly, he too had had enough of being cooped up.
‘Just a few minutes more, Brutus.’ Jess glanced in her rear-view mirror and could have sworn he nodded his head in comprehension.
Jess – and no doubt the dog as well – was then surprised to see Hope unclip her seatbelt and scramble back over the seats until she could lean into the boot and hug the dog.
‘Thank you, Brutus. You may be a smelly old hound, but you’re the reason I’m finally here in the place I’ve been dreaming about for so long. I love you, Brutus.’
The Labrador stood up on his hind legs and did his best to lick Hope’s face as Jess smiled at the two of them in the mirror.
In fact it took them all of half an hour to do the last ten kilometres, and Jess found herself wondering how much worse the traffic was likely to get in mid-summer. If it was this slow in May, then August was likely to be total gridlock.
As they drove into St-Tropez itself, they started to catch glimpses of the sea between the houses, gardens and reed beds to the left of them. The town was positioned on the southern end of a delightful horseshoe-shaped bay, with green, tree-covered hills rising up behind. The deep blue waters of the bay were dotted with all manner of boats, ranging from local fishing boats festooned with bright orange floats and piles of nets to luxury motor yachts, sleek speed boats, sailing yachts, and a massive white cruise ship, whose layers of decks made it look like a distant wedding cake.
With the windows open, the smell of the sea came rushing in – a not particularly pleasant aroma of long-dead fish. Jess wrinkled up her nose and smiled at Hope.
‘It’s just as well posters don’t give you smells. Your kitchen would be a bit fishy by now.’
‘I must admit I was rather expecting the scent of suntan cream, expensive perfumes, and cordon bleu cuisine, rather than this pong.’ Hope grinned. ‘Although I think it’s rather nice that it smells like a real fishing port, don’t you?’
Jess nodded. The sight of the big flashy yachts had been confirming her fears that she was about to enter the domain of the super rich and spoilt. Somehow, the fact that it was still evidently a working fishing port made St-Tropez a bit less exclusive and a bit more down-to-earth. Maybe it wouldn’t be too ostentatious after all.
‘I know what you mean. So this means there must be at least some ordinary people living here.’
Just as she spoke, a high-pitched howl, not dissimilar to Brutus on a bad day, filled their ears, and a bright yellow sports car came screaming towards them from the opposite direction. As it swept past, Jess checked out the handsome driver, his sunglasses perched on his stylish mane of jet-black hair, a gold watch glittering on his bronzed wrist. Alongside him was a woman wearing a skimpy orange top that left very little unexposed. She had tied a scarf over her hair, Thelma and Louise style, and Jess could have sworn she saw the sunshine reflected from her exquisitely painted nails. As the car roared past, Jess turned to Hope with another grin.
‘I may have spoken too soon.’
This is another great summer read from T A Williams. I have been looking forward to reading it as I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dreaming of Florence. (You can read my review here.) This one lived up to my expectations. It has a tremendous setting, a great cast of characters, a sparky and intelligent central character and that gorgeous black labrador. The descriptions of St Tropez really make the place come alive, it is so full of the sights, the colours and the sounds of the South of France.
Jess is a thoroughly likeable heroine, without pretension and you really believe that she would fit into the place so quickly. There are some real touches of humour, some of which are the result of that black labrador's exploits whose eyes are always bigger than his tummy in good labrador fashion.
In short: A taste of Summer served up between two delicious slices of French bread.
About the Author
T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.
Thanks to T A Williams and Ellie Pilcher of Canelo for a copy of the book and a place on the tour.
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