Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The mystery of Penelope Kite's money


How can Penelope Kite afford to live in Provence? It’s been bothering some early readers of Death in Provence, and I think that’s great because it shows they are really trying to imagine her enviable new life in the sun. So while discretion usually applies to financial matters, I can’t allow the vexing question of Penelope’s money to overshadow the other mysteries in the books.

In fact, the answers are all there in the book – though subtly present, like all the best clues.

For more than twenty years, Penelope was married to David, a solicitor – later, partner – in a law firm that specialised in City of London transactions. In London “the City” is shorthand for banks and large companies, the US equivalent of “Wall Street”. It is quite conceivable that David would have earned several million pounds a year from the mergers and acquisitions and share issues he worked on, and equally possible that Penelope’s divorce settlement, after a long marriage, would have reflected this at £5-10 million.

Penelope owns a house in Esher, Surrey, an affluent suburb in leafy south-west London. It might have once been the family house. A spacious five-bedroom house in Esher currently costs £2-3 million, perhaps more.

But let’s err on the side of caution and say that Penelope bought a smaller house in Bolingbroke Drive after the divorce. Even that would most likely be worth more than £1 million. When she moves to the south of France, she rents it out. A quick look at rental prices for a well-presented three-bedroom house in the area shows that she could make £3000-4000 a month. That alone would be a very decent amount for a single person to live on.

But there’s more. Penelope is an only child. Both her parents have passed away. No further details are given in the first book, but it’s revealed in the next that Penelope’s father was a doctor, a GP and police surgeon, and that the family lived in Bromley, another leafy suburb of south London. Penelope would have inherited her parents’ entire estate, including a house that could easily have been worth £2 million, and other investments.


Penelope can well afford to buy a run-down farmhouse in the Luberon with a realistic asking price of around €800,000, which converts to c. £700,000. She can also afford substantial renovation work, along with croissants, bottles of rosé and new clothes – and the “nearly-new” Range Rover she buys for the hilly Provençal roads.

Fairly early on in Death in Provence, Penelope sees the red Ferrari that keeps popping up on the local roads and muses about where she fits into the social scale: ‘There was an interesting mix of people here in August, she thought: happy holidaymakers from northern Europe; artists and photographers; walkers and cyclists; the farming community; the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers who gave so much pleasure to everyday life; and some extremely rich people – Parisians and Swiss and Americans - staying at their second homes. Penelope wondered if people would assume she was rich. She didn’t think she was. Comfortably off, perhaps. And, for the first time in her life, reckless with a lump sum.’

Penelope doesn’t see herself as belonging to the Ferrari-driving classes. But, like most well brought-up, conventional British women, she is being discreet about her own wealth - which many might consider substantial.



Sunday, 26 August 2018

Lazy Sunday in Provence


After a "soft launch" of ebook and audio only, the paperback edition of Death in Provence is out now from Orion in the UK! A blog tour has brought forth a raft of lovely reviews and all's well with the world. In the US, readers have only to wait until February for the Harper hardback and ebook, but I am going to run a giveaway open to all so there's a chance to be an early reader.

In the meantime, here's a introduction to the main character, Penelope Kite in a piece written for The French Village Diaries blog - a Lazy Sunday in France:

Our accidental sleuth Penelope Kite loves Sunday mornings in Provence. Even though she no longer works nine-to-five as assistant to an eminent forensic pathologist, she still savours that delicious Sunday feeling of waking with no pressing need to leave a soft bed when the sun slants through the open shutters. No family to prepare lunch for, no housework, just lovely croissants for breakfast on the sunny terrace of Le Chant d’Eau, her recklessly purchased old farmhouse with views of the Luberon valley.
   Cello practice (what bliss to be able to play again, letting the notes rise into the open air, disturbing no one) is followed by a quick swim in the pool. The pool looks glorious in the walled garden now, with lavender lining the walls and four sentinel cypress trees. Fortunately, there is no dead body floating in it today.
   The sun is already hot as she prepares to go out tat-hunting at a classic Provençal brocante.


Continue reading...

"This was such an entertaining and refreshing read. With eccentric characters and a twisty but, at the same time, hilarious plot, you just need to sit down and enjoy this captivating mystery set in the beautiful South of France."

Review from Book After Book blog.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

New book! Death in Provence


At last, all can be revealed! The lack of posts on the blog this year is squarely down to hard work at the desk on not one, but two new novels. (There was also a lengthy trip to the US, the Bahamas and Chile, during which, blissfully, no work of any kind was undertaken!) But here we are, with publication next week in the UK of Death in Provence, the fun - yet fatal - mystery that Rob ("The Panto King" for long-time readers) and I have written together.

It's a soft launch, which means ebook and audio download first, on June 28, followed by the paperback on August 23. For those who want to pre-order, you can do so here: AMAZON. The good news is that until August, the ebook is only £1.99, so early readers will get a bargain.

Mercifully, Rob and I are still speaking, if only just, after five intense months drafting the sequel, Death in Avignon. Our nom de plume, Serena Kent has her own website, where you can find out more, see background pictures and read the opening.

And if you're wondering about the name, it's all that was left of our determination to make one from an anagram of our surnames, Lawrenson and Rees. Sadly neither Serena Rowlsen, nor Loren Wassener had the requisite charm, but we and the publishers all liked Serena. So Serena it is - with her young-at-heart, croissant-scoffing, clever heroine, Penelope Kite!


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Exciting news!

 
Thrilled to be able at last to share some great news...a new two-book deal with HarperCollins in the USA and Orion in the UK. But there's a twist! I'm writing with my husband Rob, aka The Panto King for long-time readers of this blog.
 
It started just as a bit of fun, but working on it was so enjoyable that it soon took on a life of its own. Here's the premise:
 
"Introducing Penelope Kite, less femme fatale than a fatal combination of Agatha Raisin and Bridget Jones, as she investigates a ...mystery in the beautiful setting of A Year in Provence. The first in a series of cosy detective novels featuring Penelope and her circle of local friends and acquaintances, set in recognisable locations in the South of France."
 
So I hope that appeals. These books will be rather different from the previous ones: the lush locations will all be there, but alongside banter, good humour and comic moments to lighten the dark deeds that Penelope uncovers. Can't wait to share more when I'm able to!
 
How far we have come from these two merry undergraduates at Cambridge all those years ago. And miraculously still on speaking terms after a no-holds-barred final editing session...
 
 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Provence: by the sea

 
The end of high summer in Provence means now is the time to set out for the beach. La Rentrée has seen off families with children who must return to school and soon the university students will be making for home too. Only the older or childless holidaymakers remain to share the sea and the sun with the locals.
 
Our preferred part of the coast stretches from Toulon to La Ciotat. Not the smartest on the French Riviera, but full of charm and the French themselves, which is always a recommendation. The photo shows Bandol, which has a line of beaches, each different in character. This is the seaward side of the sheltered Anse de Renecros, where the horseshoe bay is a perfect swimming lagoon.
 
 
There are plenty of cafés and restaurants serving fish and salads nicoises - and, of course, the famously good Bandol rosé wine is not to be missed.
 
I'm very fond of Sanary-sur-Mer, too, just along the coast towards Toulon. It has one of the prettiest seafront marinas and promenades of the whole of the south of France. Again, not conspicuously smart but friendly and relaxed, with plenty to do and see. 
 
 
And then there's lovely Cassis and La Ciotat, which looks so unpromising from a distance, with what seems to be an industrial zone where it butts up against the hills. The towering cranes turn out to be part of a yacht builders and chandlery and, again, it's a pretty town with good beaches.
 
 
If this has made you want to prolong summer with a spot of armchair travel to the sea, you might like 300 Days of Sun. You can find out more in this Q & A I wrote for Anne Bonny Book Reviews. 
  

Sunday, 6 August 2017

How book blogging has changed

 
In the year (and a bit) since 300 Days of Sun came out, I've been thrilled by some of the lovely reviews and messages I've received about it. Much of this has been on the newer, faster social media such as Instagram and Facebook, but this post is a shout-out for the stalwart bloggers who keep going, crafting longer, more detailed and insightful pieces about books and writing.
 
I know from hard experience that it's tough to maintain a great blog, and keep it fuelled with entertaining and worthwhile posts, especially when you are trying to write a book on the side! I began this blog in December 2010, and the best content dates from mid-2011 when I got into my stride, to around 2014. It simply takes a lot more effort to write a short essay than it does to share a photo with a few lines on IG.
 
Luckily, arts and book bloggers are both dedicated and made of steely stuff. They have to be. For just as publishing has changed in the past ten years, so has the nature of book blogging. It used to be a glorious, idiosyncratic free-for-all. Bloggers were delighted to be approached direct by a lateral-thinking author with a new novel to promote. Most of them hadn't yet been sucked into the marketing machine that sees bloggers as a cheap and very effective way of harnessing the power of reader-to-reader recommendations.
 
Nine years ago, when I was disappointed in the efforts of my then-publishers to get coverage for my novel Songs of Blue and Gold, I determined to go my own way. I discovered some fantastic British bloggers like Cornflower and Tales from the Reading Room, and whizzed off emails to them. It was such a rewarding experience. I can't think of anyone who didn't reply, sometimes within hours, or offer to review. Some of them became my first online friends, and some I met and we became offline friends, too.
 
 
Now, there are rules of engagement. Publishing publicists have lists of bloggers and blog tours, and what is still technically an amateur pursuit has a frighteningly professional edge. Bloggers are no longer simply happy readers, but suffering burn-out with too many books to get through and provide reviews. Bloggers worry about upsetting publishers (no more free advance reading copies of big books) and authors alike. Stress increases as the TBR mounts. More books are published, and schedules fill.
 
A consequence is that writers are often asked to produce guest blogs - which is great, don't get me wrong, as these often give you exposure to a new set of readers - but this does mean that there's even less time for the writer to create good content for his or her own blog.
 
When these work, though, it's a win-win situation. A blog I've admired for a long time, and greatly enjoyed working with is Trip Fiction, which is perfect for the kind of books I write, which have a strong sense of place and recognisable setting. Here's the link to the piece I wrote about Portugal and 300 Days of Sun.  
 
And then there's the pure joy of finding a review by a blogger who obviously went out and bought your book and just liked it, then thought he'd write a blog review. How great is that?
 
"Part romance, part thriller, part history lesson, 300 Days of Sun: A Novel will leave the reader entranced and wishing for more. It’s a sensualist adventure with an ever-present malevolent edge and by the time it’s over, you’ll be a little bit smarter and a lot more aware of life’s lovely but dangerous possibilities You’ll also be mightily impressed with Deborah Lawrenson, and her graceful ability to make the English language flow and shimmer."
 
Available from all good booksellers and Amazon

Sunday, 30 July 2017

A Good Year - take two, in Gordes

 
In the decade or so since Ridley Scott's "local" movie A Good Year was released to less than ecstatic critical acclaim and box office success, something rather extraordinary has happened. It had become everyone's favourite sun-drenched, feel-good Luberon comfort film. People in the villages featured still talk about the making of it, and Russell Crowe gossip snakes around. My own piece about it has been my most popular blog post for years.
 
So I can never pass the restaurant in the corner of the Place du Château at Gordes without being reminded of Max and Fanny, so beautifully played by Marion Cotillard. Gordes is a stunning place anyway, but this is just an extra dusting of stardust.
 
 
Sadly, though the atmosphere of the real life "Fanny's Café" is indelible, the restaurant under current management is not getting good reviews, and the crowds are staying away from its tables. We went to La Trinquette, tucked away down a precipitous street, the Rue des Tracapelles, and it was fantastic, with glorious views over the Petit Luberon.
 
Afterwards, a brilliant concert of operatic arias and Lieder starring Elsa Dreisig at the Théatre des Terrasses. The cobbled alleys down from the main square showcase the height of the village above the valley - and give a sweeping view of a great number of other locations used in A Good Year, including the Château la Canorgue at Bonnieux, the Provencal dream of a house and vineyard that Max inherits.
 
 
 
 
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