Blog tour review + guest post: We’ll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson

By | July 29, 2016
FINAL We'll Always Have Paris revised-3 
Does first love deserve a second chance?

When she was almost seventeen, Rosie Draper locked eyes with a charismatic student called Peter during their first week at art college, changing the course of her life forever. Now, on the cusp of sixty-five and recently widowed, Rosie is slowly coming to terms with a new future. And after a chance encounter with Peter, forty-seven years later, they both begin to wonder ‘what if’ . . .

Told with warmth, wit and humour, We’ll Always have Paris is a charming, moving and uplifting novel about two people; the choices they make, the lives they lead and the love they share.

I’m so relieved it’s finally my turn on the blog tour for this book – I’ve been dying to tell people how very much I enjoyed it! I had the great pleasure of meeting Sue Watson at Romance in the Court in May, and the moment she started to describe We’ll Always have Paris I had a feeling it might just be the book for me. I’d read and enjoyed Sue’s writing before – I really enjoyed Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes, far too many years ago – but this one sounded quite different. 

We’ll Always have Paris was published for kindle by Sphere on 27th June – the paperback is due in March 2017, and is available for preorder. And, do you know, it was every bit as perfect as I hoped it would be.

My review follows, but first I’m thrilled to welcome author Sue Watson to Being Anne to tell us more about how we should be talking high heels and lipstick rather than “old and grey”…

Sue at her desk-2

When I decided to write We’ll Always have Paris, I knew there may be some challenges ahead. I usually write romantic comedies about women in their forties, who I love to send on adventures, help them find romance and provide plenty of laughs and inspiration for readers along the way (I hope!) 

But this book is special for me because it’s close to my heart in many ways. It’s a slightly more serious novel about an older heroine dealing with big issues, like love, family, death and life – something we all deal with at some point during our time here. I was aware, as a writer I needed to create an extraordinary heroine who can bring light, warmth and humour into what is sometimes a pretty dark place. I also wanted her to be believable, lovable – and most of all relateable to readers of all ages.

We’ll Always have Paris is a story about Rosie, a woman in her sixties who’s facing a huge change in her life – and in the aftermath of this, she meets her first love Peter. Meeting him 47 years after their heady, teenage romance throws up so much of Rosie’s past and she has to revisit some wonderful, and some painful memories. This causes her to reconsider her present and the woman she has become – and change the path she’d planned to take.

We meet Rosie at 64, but also at 17 and I wanted to be able to show how much we change, yet how little we change. This is put to the test when we see Rosie glimpsing her teenage self and Peter through older eyes – and as I writer I welcomed the opportunity to explore the past and present in this way.

As someone more than a decade younger than Rosie I had to imagine how it must feel to be 64 and still want the excitement of romance, and new adventures. How does your family react to mum/grandma embarking on a love affair? 

One of the first people I spoke to about how I would write a heroine like Rosie was my mum, who is somewhere between 70 and 80 (it’s a mystery, she lies about her age even to me!).

Sue and her mum

Sue and her mum

Anyway, mum’s response was that she feels no different inside than she did at eighteen years old. She said she’s wiser, greyer and carries a few more laughter lines than she did back then, but essentially she’s still the same person who has fun, enjoys life and embraces new challenges. She says of course she misses my dad (who we lost in his sixties, like Rosie’s husband) – but she says the older you become the more appreciative you are of the time you have and you don’t waste it on things you can’t change. So she never says no to an invitation, lives her life in high heels and bright lipstick, is always great fun and looks and feels fabulous!

This made me question why a heroine in her sixties, seventies or even eighties should be any different than the forty-somethings I usually write about? Women in their sixties and beyond can dance, laugh, love and have just as many wonderful adventures as any younger woman does. And trust me they can also fall in love… because it really is never too late. 

So I wrote this book for every woman out there whatever your age – and especially for my high-heel-wearing, feisty, funny and very active mum, who’s will always be somewhere between 18 and 80 years of age.

Thank you Sue! Now, before I touch up my lipstick and head for my next adventure, what did I think of We’ll Always have Paris?

My review

This may surprise some people, but I’m approaching 61 years of age. I know I don’t look it (you were thinking that too, weren’t you?!) and I most certainly don’t feel it or behave like it. But I have written before about the increasing difficulty of engaging with the many books that focus on city girls in their twenties. Sue Watson has done something extremely clever with this book. By telling the story of the youthful passion and romance of Rosie and Peter, younger readers will find people here that they can identify with. But by telling the story of their second chance love, after a chance meeting forty-seven years later, both of them in their sixties, she’s also written a book that readers of my age can engage with fully too. And she’s done it quite perfectly.

I loved Rosie from the very first pages, as she frantically searched the supermarket shelves for the pineapple yoghurt her dying husband had asked for. Her sense of total loss at his death is beautifully done – as is her re-entry into the world, with its whole range of new experiences. I particularly loved her relationship with her adult daughters, and the way they feel the need to look after and protect her, stepping into the “parent” role most adult children find themselves assuming. Her mature romance is simply perfect – very affecting and totally realistic – and I have to say that I’d rather like to find a Peter of my own. I was with her every step of the way as she wrestled with getting her daughters to accept that she and Peter are rather more than just friends, and that moving forward doesn’t mean that she’s betraying the memory of their father. 

As well as touching your heart with its gorgeous story and the warmth of its telling, the book also has a gentle humour, never overdone and perfectly judged. The ice cream scene was particularly wonderful – as were Rosie’s observations on what her daughter would make of it, two older people feeding each other because they probably couldn’t manage to feed themselves. Rosie’s voice is just perfect throughout – I loved her thoughts, internal debates, memories and observations, her worries and concerns, and her infectious joy when she gets to dance again. She’s warm, intelligent, witty, self-deprecating at times – and entirely authentic and convincing at all times. 

Perhaps understandably, I’ve focused most on Rosie’s second chance. But the youthful romance – told in the past tense rather than the present of the later years – is also totally enchanting. The author captures all the pain and anguish of being desperately in love, the awkwardness of youth, the hopes and dreams always a little out of reach. 

 I really want to share one lovely passage that I marked, that brought a particular tear to my eye and a smile to my face:

Since Mike went, I’ve missed the chance to laugh with someone my own age about how the younger world sees us. They think we’re different, but we’re all the same and one day they’ll find out what we already know – that it doesn’t matter how old you are because inside you’re always twenty-five.  

Isn’t that just perfect? This book totally captured my heart… 

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Sphere (Little, Brown) for my advance reading e-copy, and to Clara Diaz for her support for the tour. The other stops can be found here:
About the author:

Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before working in a career in TV where she was a producer with the BBC. She has published six novels, her most well-known being Love, Lies and Lemon Cake. Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives in the Midlands and writes full time.

Follow Sue on Twitter or through her Facebook author page: she also has an excellent website.