Today I’m welcoming a new friend who seems to be my own mirror-image. Whereas I came to France 25 years ago and stayed, she is a Lyonnaise who went to the UK and did the same. I had the great pleasure of meeting her at the book launch of “A Spell in Provence” on FB the other day. Marie Laval, welcome to the Bingergread Cottage. There is coffee on the Godin and a selection of pastries from Pierre’s. Do help yourself.
What took you to Britain in the first place and what made you stay?
It was love, Ailsa, what else? Having said that, I was always attracted to England and all things English, so it only seemed natural to fall in love with an English man…
I taught English to adults in France for 17 years. I understand that you too are a teacher. Tell us more.
I wasn’t always a teacher. When I first arrived in England, I worked for Manchester University as a PA for several years. It was a lovely job but I wanted something different and more challenging, so when my second son was born I retrained to teach French and German in secondary schools. I sometimes wonder if this was a wise decision, because although there are wonderful times, there are also more and more pressures these days and I am getting increasingly stressed!
Write what you know, isn’t that the advice? I take it you have used your own experience and switched it over as a basis for A Spell in Provence, haven’t you? Do give us a taster of the novel!
Rather than ‘write what you know’, my motto is ‘write what you love’! I did spend a few family holidays in the area where A Spell in Provence is set and this is when I first got the idea for the plot. In fact, it was a beautiful old fountain in the lovely seaside town of Cassis which first inspired me!
The story takes place in the Lubéron region, near Bonnieux. The heroine, Amy Carter lost her job back in England and decides to start a new life in France. She spends her redundancy package turning an overgrown Provençal farmhouse, Bellefontaine, into a guesthouse. However strange things happen as soon as she arrives and she understands that Bellefontaine is at the heart of dark mystery which not only endangers her hotel venture, but her life too. When she falls in love with Fabien Coste, the owner of a nearby château, she also wonders if there is any truth in an ancient spell that binds the ladies of Bellefontaine and the ducs de Coste.
This isn’t your first novel. Do tell us about the others briefly. Are they self or traditionally published? If you changed over, what made you do that?
My first two novels are historical romances published by Canadian publisher MuseitUp Publishing. ANGEL HEART is set mostly in France between 1815 and 1818 and is the story of young widow Marie-Ange Norton who travels to France to claim an inheritance escorted by handsome Cuirassier Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, but nothing is as simple or straightforward as it seems, of course! THE LION’S EMBRACE is set in 1845 and is the story of Hugo’s son, former French army scout Lucas Saintclair. Harriet, a feisty English heroine, hires his services to rescue her archaeologist father from a gang of Tuaregs who took him prisoner near Tamanrasset. This story has a special place in my heart because it mostly takes place in North Africa where my mother grew up and I did feel a special connection with the landscapes, the art and the music, and of course with the history of the place.
I absolutely loved writing and researching these two novels, so much that I couldn’t leave the Saintclair family alone. My next historical romance, DANCING FOR THE DEVIL, is the story of Rose Saintclair – Lucas’ sister – and will be published in the summer by Áccent Press.
To answer your last question, I love writing in different genres, whether it is historical or contemporary romance, or again short stories. My next project is a contemporary romance, followed I hope by more historical romances!
Thank you so much Ailsa for welcoming me on your blog today. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
The pleasure is all mine, Marie. Do come back any time for a chat and a decent coffee! Come and give me the three kisses before I put you on the magic carpet back to the UK.
With few roots in England and having just lost her job, Amy Carter decides to give up on home and start a new life in France, spending her redundancy package turning an overgrown Provençal farmhouse, Bellefontaine, into a successful hotel. Though she has big plans for her new home, none of them involves falling in love – least of all with Fabien Coste, the handsome but arrogant owner of a nearby château. As romance blossoms, eerie and strange happenings in Bellefontaine hint at a dark mystery of the Provençal countryside which dates back many centuries and holds an entanglement between the ladies of Bellefontaine and the ducs de Coste at its centre. As Amy works to unravel the mystery, she begins to wonder if it may not just be her heart at risk, but her life too.
You can find A SPELL IN PROVENCE on Amazon
You can also buy it in print at
Marie Laval Bio
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie studied History and Law at university there before moving to Lancashire in England where she worked in a variety of jobs, from PA in a busy university department to teacher of French in schools and colleges. Writing, however, was always her passion, and she spends what little free time she has dreaming and making up stories. Her historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION’S EMBRACE are published by MuseItUp Publishing. A SPELL IN PROVENCE is her first contemporary romance. It is published by Áccent Press.
He looked down. The light of the rising sun played on his face and made his green eyes seem deep and warm. Time slowed down. The noise from the crowd became muffled and distant, and all she could hear was the crystalline spring water trickling in the old fountain. The spring that ran through the forest between Manoir Coste and Bellefontaine and bound hearts and lives together, or so the spell said … Her heartbeat slowed, or maybe it stopped altogether. It was as if Fabien and she were alone. Desire, fear and another feeling she didn’t recognise overwhelmed her and made her dizzy.
Shivering in the cold breeze despite her shawl, Amy joined the guests lining up to be greeted by Fabien, who in true lord of the manor style, stood tall and imposing at the top of the steps, with torches burning on either side of him.
He might wear a black dining suit and a crisp white shirt instead of a suit of armour, but there was something untamed, fundamentally uncivilized and proprietary about the way he surveyed the crowd – as if he truly owned everything and everyone, like Frédéric had said, and Amy was seized by an irresistible, irrational and overwhelming urge to flee. She didn’t want to speak to Fabien Coste, didn’t want to put up with his arrogant ways. He could keep his fancy chateau, his contacts and glamorous guests, she didn’t need him. She would walk home. It wasn’t that far.
She was about to step aside when he looked down and their gaze met. Shadows danced on his face. The torches hissed in the breeze, their flames shooting high in the air and reflecting in his green eyes, giving them a deep, dangerous glow. For the space of a heartbeat, the noise of conversations around her became distant and fuzzy, and all she could see was him.
He walked down, took her hand and lifted it to his lips. Even though his mouth barely touched her skin, a flash of heat reverberated through her body.
‘Mademoiselle Carter – Amy, you’re here at last.’
It was the first time he’d spoken her first name. He made it sound French, sensual and incredibly romantic. Aimée. Beloved.
‘Shall I escort you inside and introduce you to a few people?’
Panic made her heart flutter and turned her brain to mush.
‘Well, it’s just that …’
He arched a dark eyebrow, looked down, and smiled as if he knew exactly what she was feeling.
‘You’re here now. You might as well make the most of it.’