It was lovely to read a category romance as gentle and subdued as Wallace’s One Night In Provence after Yates’s and Crews’s angsty intensity. One Night‘s first half and premise set-up were wonderful, richly descriptive and chockfull of lovely banter between hero and heroine.
The scene opens in Provence with Jenna Brown, who won a silent-auction luxury trip to lavender-country, something the Nantucket-based hospice nurse could ill afford otherwise. There, she meets lavender-field owner and charming Frenchman, Philippe d’Usay, as close to French aristocracy as it’s possible to be given the French Revolution. The novel’s first half is the better of the two, with Philippe’s charming, tender pursuit of Jenna. It was wonderful to read a romance that was “romantic”: dates with delicious French food, teasing conversation, outings to the countryside and the beauties of southern France the nonpareil. Wallace did the wooing and geographic wonders justice.
Philippe and Jenna are likable: his French charm is gallant rather than smarmy and her American wonder-struck-ness is adorable rather than eye-rolling gosh-darn-it naïve. Wallace keeps it light and lovely, but soon inserts Jenna’s and Philippe’s internal darkness, those forces that will serve to keep them apart as their love affair progresses and eventually results in the oopsie-pregnancy that will see them reunite. Philippe is a keeping-it-light avowed bachelor whose charm and ease hide a man still grieving his beloved and loving family’s loss. Jenna, on the other hand, is a cautious spinster thanks to watching her mother take her philandering father back time after time after time.
Philippe fears loss and Jenna fears betrayal: a perfect formula for creating two committed commitment-phobes. But the unexpected pregnancy sees Philippe’s fears confront Jenna’s on her home Nantucket-turf. This affords Wallace yet another opportunity to describe the wilder beauties of one of America’s loveliest destinations and make the halycon Provence romance the story of two people who have to overcome emotional fears.
More than anything I enjoyed how Wallace wove place with character and story. I remain unconvinced that closed-bedroom-door romance is my cup of tea. Two mature adults, obviously in love, having rooted their love in genuine liking and attraction and we are not privy to their most intimate moments? When the dark moment comes, and comes it does thanks to Jenna’s cold feet and suspicions, remains, as in every closed-bedroom-door romance, lacklustre, even though Wallace has drawn Jenna’s and Philippe’s insecurities so well. But this is my quirk and there is nothing inherently wrong with Wallace’s accomplished romance narrative. With Miss Austen, for ourselves alone, we say that One Night In Provence offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Barbara Wallace’s One Night In Provence is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on August 1st and may be found at your preferred vendors. I am grateful to the author for a copy for the purpose of this review.