LAVENDER DAYS is inspired by a real-life romance between an Englishman and American woman. Set in Provence, with the heady aroma of lavender in the summer air, Lavender Days is a novella based on a section of diary rediscovered in a dusty attic after 20 years. Incredibly, some stalks of lavender found with this little record of events still retained their fragrance after two decades, aromatically evoking those dazzling days. But why had these musty handwritten pages, and the little bag of memorabilia they were in, been so completely blotted from the Englishman’s mind since that time? Perhaps not for the reasons that might be assumed…
Synopsis of Lavender Days:
“Before your arrival I wasn’t quite sure what to do with you… and now I don’t know what to do without you.”
Gabriel Reeve, a struggling English freelance journalist getting on in years, lives alone on the outskirts of London. The weather outside is bleakly autumnal – like his life, which is a drudge of bills, boredom and looming retirement. Looking through his loft one day he finds a child’s plastic shoulder-bag. At first he does not recollect where the bag came from, but when he opens it the heady aroma of lavender seeps out.
In the bag he finds a packet of still-pungent lavender stalks, and some letters dating back twenty years, written to him by an American divorcee. Her letters led to Gabriel visiting her for two weeks in Provence.
In the bag Gabriel also finds a diary of his visit – intended, he now remembers, to be a ‘date to end all dates’. It had been a blind date, too, for on his arrival neither really knew what the other looked like. Why had he so completely forgotten that brief time under the sunny skies of southern France? Had he made himself forget? Now, still alone, on a gloomy English day with winter coming on, Gabriel settles down with his musty handwritten pages from twenty years ago. He is curious to rediscover exactly what happened between himself and Kathryn in that blazing hot lavender-scented French summer. What made him want to blot it so completely from his mind?
Transported in Time
And so he finds himself transported back in time – out of his drab, damp surroundings to the vivid summer of 1993 when he was younger, more adventurous and still driven by the hope that he might one day meet his soulmate. He reads again how he travelled from London to Avignon, staggering from the coach after a seventeen-hour journey, choked by the cigarette fumes of his backpacking fellow-travellers. Unshaven and sweating in the unaccustomed heat, he wonders if his date might have changed her mind and not turn up to meet him, as happens all too often on blind first dates.
Kathryn will hate him on sight, and he almost certainly won’t fancy her. No one knows how the visit will go – it could be a disaster. She’s a single woman in charge of a child, in a foreign country. She has only agreed that he can sleep on the couch because he can’t afford local hotel prices.
Gabriel had already found Kathryn’s letters rather calculating and humourless, and senses the two of them may have little in common. Although he’s come prepared for the possibility of something ‘happening’ between them, his expectations are low.
But when he sets eyes on Kathryn Gulino, with her darkly-beautiful American-Italian looks and the colourful holidaywear that shows off her curvy slenderness, he reconsiders. And something in the shrewd way she seems to be assessing him makes Gabriel wonder whether this spontaneous instinctual vibe – of the kind dating agencies are powerless to arrange because it either happens or it doesn’t – might be mutual.
The ensuing two weeks are idyllic and life-transforming as Gabriel finds himself bonding with Kathryn and with the spirited Jodi. The story spans the period from American Independence Day to French Independence Day in July. It evokes themes of personal independence, emotional wellbeing, and changing perspectives as we age.
However, complications and tensions arise when Kathryn, her calculating head overruling her sensitive heart, continues to advertise in local newspapers for a Frenchman of property to settle down with in this enchanted land. What chance has Gabriel, a man without wealth or property, who lives by a railway line in rainy old England? None at all, the younger Gabriel decides.
Now as the older, wiser Gabriel looks back, he is initially shocked to revisit his younger self. But as realisation dawns on him, the story has one more surprising twist.
Read extracts from Lavender Days HERE
By Robin Squire
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