I am honored today to share an excerpt from All The Ways We Said Goodbye by THE trio, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White. This gorgeous novel will publish on January 14, 2020 from William Morrow. Each of these authors are amongst my favorites. Thankfully they are each very prolific offering the world so many fabulous books! A novel set at the Ritz in Paris through World War I and II through 1960’s, yes please!
About All The Ways We Said Goodbye
Isn’t it gorgeous? That red coat! Pre-order it here.
The New York Times bestselling authors of The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room return with a glorious historical adventure that moves from the dark days of two World Wars to the turbulent years of the 1960s, in which three women with bruised hearts find refuge at Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel.
The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .
The widow . . .
Three women whose fates are joined by one splendid hotel
France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.
France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.
France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . .
All The Ways We Said Goodbye Excerpt
I was awakened by the sound of the heavy slap of something hitting the table by my head. My head jerked up, and I regretted the quick movement as my neck revolted from being in an awkward position all night. My lap was cold, my canine companion having long since deserted me to the more comfortable confines of his bed and was enjoying the heat of the cast-iron stove that had apparently been lit.
“You shouldn’t be sleeping in the kitchen, Mrs. Langford. It’s not proper.”
I blinked up into the pinched face of Mrs. Finch, the housekeeper’s eyes enlarged by the thick lenses of her glasses causing her face to resemble her namesake. She was of an indeterminate age, the tightly permed hair and shapeless house dresses giving no clue as to her exact age. Mrs. Finch’s mother had been the housekeeper at Langford Hall for years until she’d moved to a cottage closer to the village and Mrs. Finch had taken over. Her mother had been called Mrs. Finch, too, and I rather hoped it was because the name came with the position rather than because of any improprieties in the family tree.
I blinked again, staring at the stack of post that had been dropped on the table beside me. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Finch. I just wanted to rest my eyes for a moment…”
“You were up wandering again, is more like,” Mrs. Finch said between tight lips. She jutted a pointed chin at the post. “That’s been piling up for a week now. I’ll put the kettle on and bring your tea and toast to the breakfast room where you’ll be more comfortable sorting through it all.”
The kitchen was Mrs. Finch’s domain and she resented any interlopers, including the mistress of the house. I could manage an entire cadre of forceful women in the Women’s Institute, supervise dozens of small children and live barnyard creatures for the Nativity play at the local church, as well as organize the annual gymkhana on the grounds at Langford Hall with ease and aplomb, but I couldn’t bear to argue with Mrs. Finch. Maybe it was because I always suspected that Mrs. Finch thought that Kit could have done better in choosing a wife. Someone who retained her good looks and youthful bloom and “didn’t let herself go” as my sister called my lack of interest in clothes and other feminine things meant to retain one’s attractiveness post-children. And maybe it was because I knew that she Mrs. Finch was probably right.
“Yes, of course,” I said, looking down at my lap, mortified to see that I still wore Kit’s navy blue dressing gown. “I suppose I should wash and dress first.”
Mrs. Finch looked at me with what could only be called disappointment and gave me a brief nod.
I grabbed the stack of envelopes on my way out of the kitchen, walking slowly toward the stairs as I flipped through each one to see if there was anything more interesting besides the usual bills and the slightly threatening overdue notices that had been coming in with an alarming frequency since Kit’s death.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t capable of handling the family finances, it’s just that Kit had always taken care of things. Even my father had told me that I was very clever with maths, something that had made my perfect older sister, Diana, positively green with envy. As if having all the poise and fashion flair in the family hadn’t been enough. I made a promise to myself that I’d finally sit down at Kit’s desk and open up all the account books to see what was what. Soon. When I could summon the energy. I was just so tired all the time now. So tired of hoping each day I’d feel better, that there would be some hope or purpose on the horizon. That I’d rekindle the joy I’d once had in the busyness of my old life.
I stopped, noticing an unusual postage stamp on one of the envelopes. It was a red US Air Mail eight cent stamp showing a picture of aviatrix Amelia Earhart. My name and address had been scribbled in barely comprehensible letters on the front in bold, black ink. Definitely not a graduate of a British boarding school, then, so perhaps not a school friend of Kit’s offering condolences.
I looked at the top left corner to read the return address. A. Bowdoin, Esq., Willig Williams & White, 5 Wall Street, New York, New York. I assumed Bowdoin was either a funeral director or a lawyer, having never clearly understood the difference between the two when it came to death and taxes.
Climbing the stairs, I slid my finger under the flap and began tearing the envelope, not wanting to go through the bother of retrieving a letter opener. Tucking the rest of the post under one arm, I pulled out a piece of letterhead paper and began to read.
Dear Mrs. Langford,
My condolences on the death of your late husband, Christopher Langford. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but my father, Walter, was a huge admirer and shared with me many stories of your husband’s bravery and courage during the war.
We only recently became aware of your husband’s passing when an old war friend of my father’s mailed him the obituary fromThe Times. It took a while to find us which is why it has taken me so long to contact you. I realize my letter might be a surprise, and might even be an imposition at best. But I hope you will bear with me so that I might explain myself, and to perhaps even enlist your assistance.
In the obituary, it mentioned your husband’s brave exploits in France during the war as well as his involvement with the French Resistance fighter known only as La Fleur. As you may or may not be aware, she has reached nearly mythical proportions in French lore—to the point where some even say she never really existed.
My slow progress up the stars halted, and I grabbed the banister, the other envelopes slipping from their hold under my arm before gently cascading down the steps. La Fleur. I closed my eyes in an attempt to regulate my breath before I passed out. Of course I’d heard the name before. But not from a history book or news article about the French resistance. I’d once heard it on Kip’s lips, when he was quite out of his head after his return when I wasn’t sure if he planned to live or die, wasn’t even sure which he’d prefer. My Floweris what he’d said in a near whisper, the words spoken as one would speak to a lover. I’d seen the name written, too. In another letter.
I leaned against the wall, listening to the sounds of Mrs. Finch in the kitchen and my own breathing skittering from my lungs like angry bees. Opening my eyes again, I raised the letter and forced myself to continue reading.
My father has had a stroke which makes communicating difficult as he can barely speak or write. But when I read the obituary to him and mentioned La Fleur he became quite agitated and upset. After I’d calmed him down, I was able to understand that my father had reason to believe that La Fleur was no hero but the grandest traitor of them all—and especially to my father. She ruined his life—something I’ve only just begun attempting to understand.
My father was OSS during the war and was scheduled to receive an important drop from La Fleur. He was told only that he was to receive something very valuable to the Resistance, something containing rare and expensive diamonds and rubies. It was not explained exactly what he should be looking for as it would be too dangerous, and was told only in a message from La Fleur to look for the ‘wolf with a cross.’
La Fleur never appeared that night, leaving my father empty-handed. A few months later, however, the wives of Nazi officers began appearing in public with beautiful diamond and ruby jewelry leaving many to speculate that my father had lied, and had profited from the treasure meant for the Resistance.
He was questioned relentlessly and his reputation permanently damaged, yet he consistently maintained his innocence. For all these years he has been dogged by not only La Fleur’s betrayal, but how he himself was forced into the position of being hailed a traitor and a thief. Unbeknownst to me, he has unsuccessfully spent his entire life attempting to clear his name, and find the illusive La Fleur. I’m afraid my father is near the end of his life, and it is his last wish that I might be able to succeed where he has failed.
I have sent many inquiries to various government offices both here in the states and in France for more information and have hit a brick wall as many records from the war are still confidential. However, after doing quite a bit of research as well as trying to piece together my father’s story, I came to understand that at least part of the answer might well be with your husband’s effects, or even in any of the stories he might have shared with you of his war years.
I apologize if this letter is unwelcome during this time of your grief, but a part of me hopes that you are not only able to assist me, but also willing to revisit some of your husband’s past.
I have arranged to be assigned to my firm’s Paris office for a brief period of time starting April 20th. I understand that this is short notice and you most likely have a very busy life and would be unable to make the trip across the Channel. Yet I feel compelled to at least ask—very brazen and American of me, I know. But I believe that being in Paris while searching for La Fleur is what I must do, and it is my strongest wish that you might be able to join me in this quest. My father never met you, but he was certain that the woman Kit Langford married had to be a force to be reckoned with. I’m not a betting man, but I’d like to wager that he is right.
I will be staying at the Ritz and you may address any correspondence there as they have instructions to forward to my office if a letter arrives prior to my own arrival. I look forward to hearing from you or, even better, meeting you in Paris.
Andrew Bowdoin, Esq.
My hands shook when I read the letter again, and then a third time. Then, carefully, I refolded the letter and returned it to its torn envelope. Ignoring the rest of the post scattered on the steps, I climbed the remaining stairs and headed down the long hallway to the door at the end, each step more purposeful than the last, my anger at the enigmatic woman I had been forced to share my husband with for almost twenty years growing with each step. The grandest traitor of them all.
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