Having met him in real life, I’m such a fan of T.A Williams so I’m hugely grateful to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for his latest book Dreaming of St Tropez.
Dreaming of St Tropez is published by Canelo and available for purchase here.
Dreaming of St Tropez
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?
An Extract from Dreaming of St Tropez
The next few weeks turned out to be very busy, and full of surprises. The first surprise, of course, was for Hope, who was blown away by the chance of visiting her dream destination, rent-free. She immediately set about trying to sublet her flat so she would have money to keep her going at least for a good few weeks. Her excitement was clear to see and Jess felt very happy for her.
As for Jess, in spite of her reservations about St-Tropez almost certainly being full of filthy rich, objectionable people, she began to feel a growing sense of excitement as well. The weather in London had improved slightly, but it still felt like winter in the mornings, and the idea of some Mediterranean sunshine was very appealing. As long as the sun shone, she felt sure she would be able to tolerate the people. As for money, the golden goodbye from her old firm would be more than enough to keep her all summer if she chose to stay in France for the full three months.
The next surprise was Mrs Dupont’s car. The following Saturday, Jess went over to the old lady’s house to pick up the car for the weekend, so as to get a bit of practice driving again. The surprise came when she opened the garage door and discovered that the vehicle in question was an absolutely enormous dark blue Range Rover. It was twice the length of anything she had driven before, and so high off the ground that she had to physically haul herself up into the thing. Apart from its size, the added complication was that it was automatic, and she had never driven an automatic car before.
Inside the vehicle – she couldn’t bring herself to refer to it as a car – everything was sheer luxury. It was a symphony of cream leather, burr walnut and thick-pile carpet, and this opulence felt as daunting as the size of the thing. After an embarrassing delay while she had to consult the handbook to discover how to start the engine – apparently you had to keep your foot on the brake at all times – she manoeuvred her way very gingerly out of the garage and into the traffic.
She immediately made two discoveries.
When she put her foot on the accelerator, the big heavy vehicle instantly turned into a Formula One racing car, and she found herself speeding along and in imminent danger of ramming the cars in front. It went like a bat out of hell. Fortunately, the brakes worked equally efficiently.
The second discovery was more welcome. Other road users appeared to be awed by the sheer mass of the Range Rover and she found that, from the commanding height of the driver’s seat, she was able to cut through the traffic pretty effortlessly. By the time she had negotiated her way through the crowded roads of northwest London and onto the M25, she was beginning to relax. And after her initial concern, driving an automatic turned out to be wonderfully simple, and she soon got the hang of it.
The next surprise came a few days later. Jess and Hope were on Google Earth, checking the address of the house in St-Tropez that Mrs Dupont had given them. They discovered that this was a villa, set in huge grounds. But the surprise was where it was situated. It occupied an absolutely fabulous position, only a few short metres from the sea. It was just outside the town, directly overlooking the Mediterranean. The views from the house had to be unbelievable.
From what they could see from the satellite image, there was a swimming pool, and what looked like a private pathway to secluded beaches. It was hard to make out any more than just the roof of the little house in one corner of the grounds where they would be staying, but they could see that it was separated from the villa by a wonderful, verdant garden, containing a number of statuesque trees, including tall palms. Hope raised her eyes from the screen and glanced across at Jess.
‘Wow, what a place!’
‘You aren’t joking. It’s amazing.’ Inevitably, as she looked at it, Jess put on her architect’s hat. ‘I can’t see much of the villa from above, but from the roof tiles, I reckon it’s probably old traditional Provençal style. It’s called Les Romarins, which apparently means rosemary bushes, and that sounds pretty traditional, doesn’t it?’
‘It’s hard to judge from the air. Is it very big?’
‘It’s biggish, but not too massive. I’d say the footprint’s about one-fifty to two hundred square metres. To give you an idea, this flat of yours is maybe forty square metres. And I’m talking footprint – you know, the area of just one floor. Although it’s difficult to judge from an aerial photo, it looks like this villa’s got a second storey, at least for part of the length of the building, so it’s a good size house. But it’s the position that’s amazing. It’s right beside the sea, on the Côte d’Azur of all places.’
‘So it would appear that your Mrs Dupont’s son isn’t short of a bob or two.’
Jess was beginning to get a bad feeling about this. ‘To own a place like that, he must be worth an absolute bomb. What have I been telling you about my not wanting to get involved with the filthy rich again? Maybe this trip to France isn’t such a good idea, after all, Hope.’
‘This trip to France is a bloody marvellous idea, Jess, and you just remember that.’ Hope took hold of her arm and looked her firmly in the eye. ‘Now, don’t you go getting all bitter and twisted about things, all right? The man’s the son of your Mrs Dupont, and you keep telling me she’s a sweetie. He’s probably just as nice. So, he’s loaded – that doesn’t mean he’s automatically bound to be another Drugoi.’
Jess repressed a shudder.
Jess visited Mrs Dupont regularly and they promised to stay in touch over the next few months. She liked the old lady a lot and dearly hoped that her son would be equally pleasant.
Finally, the end of May arrived and Jess and Hope went round to collect the dog and wish Mrs Dupont and Mrs Forsythe well. As they climbed into the huge car, Mrs Dupont handed Jess a little package, containing the registration and insurance documents for the car, Brutus’s pet passport, and dietary and care instructions for him. The dog himself stood in the boot, surrounded by doggie toys and his luxurious bed, wagging his tail as his mistress disappeared from sight. Jess had no doubt the old lady would be in tears, even though she knew he would be in good hands. She glanced across at Hope.
‘We’d better take damn good care of our four-legged friend. She obviously loves him to bits.’
‘He’ll be fine. I see what you mean about her being a sweetie. He’s a lucky dog to have a mistress like that – although she hasn’t been doing him any favours as far as his diet’s concerned. Do you want me to open this package and see what she says about what we’re supposed to feed the dog?’
As Jess manoeuvred the car through the London traffic, Hope opened the package from Mrs Dupont and perused its contents. The first thing she found came as a huge and very welcome surprise to Jess. It was a thick envelope marked Expenses, and it contained five thousand euros in cash and a scrawled note saying, Please keep what’s left over and have a wonderful holiday.
Jess was totally awed by Mrs Dupont’s generosity. Hope, on the other hand, was equally awed by the sheet indicating the dog’s dietary requirements. She read it out loud, disbelief in her voice.
‘Our hairy friend back there has a bowl of muesli and a big helping of dog biscuits for breakfast every day. He prefers full cream milk with his muesli, but skimmed is also acceptable. If he’s still hungry, he also has two or three slices of unsmoked back bacon.’
‘I’ve never heard of muesli as part of a canine diet before. He’s a Labrador, for crying out loud! Of course he’s hungry. They always are. So, we can safely assume he gets bacon every morning as well. Little wonder he’s a bit paunchy.’ Jess shook her head as she squeezed the big vehicle past a red bus and followed the signs for the motorway.
Hope was still reading.
‘It’s called killing with kindness, but listen to this. He has two main meals a day – taken at one o’clock and seven o’clock. At least one of these must include half a pound of best steak, medium to well done, allowed to cool, but not too cold. As a treat, every day at four o’clock, he’s allowed a slice of cake or, his personal favourite, a doughnut (jam, not jelly). Blimey, Jess, this dog eats better than I do.’
‘Poor Brutus. Carry on like this and he’s on course for a heart attack.’
‘Or some sort of awful stomach disorder.’
(And now, of course, I can’t wait to read the rest!)
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.
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