In a rural French village, a letter is delivered decades late, inspiring a young woman to try to reunite two star-crossed lovers . . .
Middle school teacher by day, romance writer by night, and group knitter on Tuesday evenings, Flavie Richalet leads a fairly uneventful life—until she receives a long delayed letter meant for a total stranger. Postmarked 1971, the yellowed envelope, addressed to an Amélie Lacombe, holds a fervent message of love and a marriage proposal, signed only with the initial E. Given her own fractured family history, Flavie is dreamily determined to learn what became of the couple . . .
Flavie’s inquiries lead her to a French seaside inn—and to E. himself, a true romantic who never forgot the girl who got away so many years ago. But his protective nephew, B&B owner Romaric, isn’t sure that trying to find Amélie after all these years is good for his uncle. At odds with the tall, dark, and impossibly passionate Romaric, Flavie must show him, and perhaps herself, that true love is timeless—and always worth waiting for . . .
September 4, 1975
It was the most important day of her life.
She’d been waiting and preparing for this day for weeks, and she should have been deliriously happy. She should have been lighthearted and smiling.
But instead, she felt strange and uncomfortable. As though she was forgetting something important. As though she was about to make a mistake.
It’s just apprehension, she told herself. The usual jitters all women feel before they commit for life.
But did all women think of their first love on their wedding day? Amélie closed her eyes, and Erwan’s beautiful face appeared in her mind. She pictured his irresistible smile, his gray-blue gaze, his unruly hair, always too wild to lie flat. She felt his rough hands on her skin, his lips on hers, as though it were only yesterday that they had lain together on the beach.
She shook her head, willing herself to dismiss the memory. It was foolish to think of him, especially right before her wedding. It had been so long ago . . . four years, almost to the day. He’d obviously forgotten her, moved on with his life. He’d never written to her, never phoned her, never gotten in touch with her. She’d waited weeks, months even, for him to reach out to her, before she’d accepted the truth. It had only been a summer fling. So she’d grieved, but then looked to the future. She’d thrown herself into her studies in fashion-design school to forget. Forget all about him.
And now she was finally happy. She’d finished school and gotten the job of her dreams with a small fashion company that appreciated her style and her slightly extravagant ideas. It was almost more than she’d ever expected. Moreover, she was about to marry a wonderful man, one who loved her more than anyone and whom she loved very much. She knew they’d have a great life together. So why? Why was she thinking of the past, of a painful, bestforgotten period of her life, on the day she was going to marry Paul, for better or for worse?
She took a deep breath, trying to calm her heart, her nerves, her mind. She patted her veil, smoothed a few nonexistent creases in her satin and lace wedding dress. She’d designed it herself, and it was stunning, even if she said so herself. It was the dress of her dreams. Again, Erwan appeared in her mind’s eye.
“For God’s sake!” she swore, cutting herself off immediately. Someone knocked on the door and her mother peered in.
“Are you ready, sweetheart?” Viviane Lacombe asked, beaming.
Amélie cast a last glance into the mirror, took a deep breath, and nodded. “I am.”
It was no longer time to wonder about the past. So, she left her home, the home where she grew up, and, lifting the hem of her dress in one hand, her father at her side, her mother in front of her, beaming much more than her daughter was, Amélie slowly walked the short distance to the beautiful church of Karouac, where her parents had been married. Paul was waiting for her there.
Her family was waiting for her. The minister, and all their friends, were gathered here today to celebrate her wedding to the love of her life. She couldn’t wait to go in and marry Paul, the man who had always been there for her. Who loved her more than anything else. She couldn’t wait to start her life. The life she had chosen for herself. Yet before she walked into the church, she couldn’t help stopping to gaze around, searching for a face, a smile. She shook her head and cursed the damn memories trying to spoil the happiest day of her life. She turned back and smiled at her father, took hold of his proffered arm, and waited for her cue.
Hidden in the shade of a porch, unseen, Erwan watched as the love of his life walked into the church on her father’s arm to marry another man. He’d been too late, and he’d lost her once again—forever.
2 • Chloé Duval
He tamped down the urge to enter the church and beg Amélie, on his knees if need be, to come with him, repeating what he’d written in that unanswered letter four years ago, and walked away, his heart breaking, leaving Karouac behind him. Once again, and forever.
Stolen Time •
About the Author
As a little girl, Chloé Duval dreamed of knights slaying terrifying dragons and damsels in distress. Today, she’s still seeking, in her stories, to find again the sweetness and the enchantment of the fairy tales she absorbed as a child. A Frenchwoman by birth, Canadian by adoption, and Québecoise in her heart, Chloé lives in Montreal with her prince charming and dozens of characters jostling around inside her head.