Exclusive: That Holiday in France by Rhoda Baxter Cover Reveal & 1st Chapter!

that holiday in france by rhoda baxter LEAD
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Note from Frolic: We are so excited to share with you the adorable cover and 1st Chapter of That Holiday in France by Rhoda Baxter, out June 1st, 2020!

About That Holiday in France:

When Ellie’s boyfriend forbids her from going to France to attend her best friend’s wedding, she decides she’s had enough. She dumps him and goes to France by herself. But travelling alone is scary and Ellie realises how reliant she’d become on the men in her life.
On holiday, she learns to trust her own judgement. Just when she decides she doesn’t need a man to complete her, she meets Ash, who is everything her ex wasn’t.
But is Ellie willing to give up her new found independence and link herself to another man?

  • Friends to lovers
  • Heroine asserting her independence
  • Summer in France
  • Tiny puddings

That Holiday In France is a standalone story set in the little Yorkshire village of Trewton Royd. Ideal for fans of Mhairi McFarlane or Sophie Kinsella.

Chapter One:

April

Ellie was late getting home because of the rain. She shook her umbrella out on the doorstep, and rushed in to put it in the kitchen sink before it dripped everywhere.

“That you, our Ellie?” her dad said, from the living room.

“Yes, it’s me.” She took off her coat and hung it up.

“What’ve you got for us today?”

She popped her head round the door to find her dad sitting in his chair, still in his work overalls but without his shoes, with the telly on low. “How was work?” she asked him.

He shrugged. “Same as ever. How about you? How’s the cakes?”

“Not bad,” she said. “I’ve got some apricot tarts and a few bits of fruit cake.”

His eyes crinkled into a hint of a smile. “Ah. Lovely.”

“Do you want another cuppa to go with it?”

He nodded, drained his mug and held it out to her.

Ellie went into the living room to take it from him. Close up, he looked tired and, to Ellie’s surprise, old.

Back in the kitchen she frowned as she made the tea. Strong tea, two sugars for Dad. Milky tea, one sugar for her. She popped two of the apricot tarts and the crumbling cake on a plate. The best perk from working in the bakery was that she got to take home some of the cakes that were too wonky or broken to sell. She saved the least damaged apricot tart to give to Luke.

She looked at the clock. Oh no. Later than she’d thought.

She rushed through, two mugs clutched in one hand, the plate with the cakes in the other. She pushed the door open with her bum and backed in.

“Here you go, dad.” She put his mug down on the side table next to him, nudging the remote control out of the way.

“Ah, you’re a good gel,” he said. He picked up a tart and examined it. It had an apricot half embedded in frangipane. The cakes in the shop had a delicate glaze over the top. Being a reject, this particular tart had singed a little on the top. “This looks fancy.”

“It’s Sue’s new recipe,” she said. “I’ve not tried it yet.” She grabbed her own and said, “I can’t stay down here and chat, dad. Luke’s coming over in a bit to pick me up. I’d better get ready.”

He looked disappointed, but nodded. “There’s some post for you. Nice, posh looking envelope.” He nodded towards the windowsill, where the post usually ended up. The days were lengthening, so the curtains were still open. When her mother had been around, the curtains were drawn and the lights were on by now.

Ellie stifled a sigh and put her tart back on the plate. She turned on the lights, rescued the post and drew the curtains. The net curtain was looking a little grey. She’d have to wash them again soon, once it stopped raining quite so much. She looked down at the post. The envelope was creamy and thick. “That is fancy,” she said, quietly.

“You going to open it, then?”

She sank down onto the small two seater sofa and opened it, trying not to tear too much. The postmark was foreign. For one insane second, she thought maybe Mum was writing to her. 

“Oh, hurry up, lass,” her father said. He was clutching his mug of tea and leaning forward.

She winced at the lovely paper tore at the end and pulled out a card. A wedding invitation. She opened it and quickly scanned what was inside. “Oh my god!” She giggled and put her hand over her mouth. “You’ll never guess what, dad. You remember Sophie from school? She’s getting married.”

“Oh aye.” He leaned back again, and brought his tea up to his face to blow on it. “What’s she doing now? Went somewhere down south didn’t she?”

“She went to university,” Ellie said. She herself had stopped going to school at seventeen and taken on more hours at Sue’s bakery. She didn’t regret it, mind, but sometimes she wondered what it must be like to leave Trewton Royd and go somewhere else. Most of her friends who had left had drifted away, out of her orbit, but Sophie had stayed in touch. “She got a job in France last summer and stayed there.”

“Who’s she marrying then?” her father said. “Anyone we know?”

“Ethan. She met him at university.” Ethan was tall and handsome and French. Hence Sophie’s move to France.

There was a note written on the inside of the invitation. ‘Ellie, I know it’s a long way, but I hope you can come. There will be a few people from Trewton there, but not many. Ethan’s grandparents have this fabulous old place. If you RSVP before the end of next month, I can try and save a room for you and Luke. If not, there’s also lots of space to pitch a tent in the garden. I really hope you can be there. Love Sophie’.

“Aww,” she said. “She’s getting married in France. How exciting.”

Her father sniffed. “Shame you won’t be able to go,” he said. “Bit rude that, sending you an invite knowing you can’t come. Rubbing your face in it.”

“What?” She looked up. “Who says I’m not going?”

“Well y’aren’t are ye?” he said. “It’s bloody expensive and it’s all the way in that Europe. We’re trying to get out from under bloody Europe. We don’t need to be travelling across to France, swelling their coffers.” He turned his face back to the telly. “Bloody Europe. Bloody Europeans.”

Ellie sighed. This again. “It’s been ten years,” she said. “And I’m not Mum.”

No response. “I’ll have Luke with me, anyway.”

“Didn’t stop your mum, did it?” It was a growl.

Ellie opened her mouth to argue and then shut it. What was there to say? They had gone on holiday and while Dad slept off his hangover, Mum had met Arno and fallen in love. It had taken another two years of furtive calls and meetings before she left, but Dad had never trusted anything European since. Or women. She put the card carefully back into the envelope. “I’ll talk to Luke and see what he thinks.”

“You do that,” said her father. “He’ll tell you the same as me. You’ll see.”

Ellie tucked the envelope into her waistband, grabbed her tea and the plate which now only had one pastry on it and made for the door. “If you need me,” she said. “I’ll be upstairs getting ready.”

***

Luke, when he arrived, wasn’t impressed with the invitation. “Oh, she’s getting married in France, is she? What’s wrong with Yorkshire? Not good enough for her?”

“I dunno, I think it sounds nice, having a wedding in France.” Ellie had never been to France. Dad had refused to let her go on the school’s French exchange trip. She thought of the family she’d seen on Location, Location, Location, who had all moved to a French chateaux. “I think it sounds dead romantic.” She put the envelope carefully back on her bedside table.

Luke rolled his eyes. “I didn’t know you were even in touch with Sophie.”

“She’s my best friend!”

“Was, love. Was. She’s barely looked at any of us since she went off to uni.” Luke stood and looked at his watch. Clearly, it was time to go.

“We go out for a drink every time she comes home.” She realised how defensive she sounded. Sophie didn’t come home often, it was true. But she did email a couple of times a week at least, and when they met up, it took a few minutes for them to catch up, and the months fell away. “We talk to each other a lot, thanks.”

“Course you do.” Luke gave Ellie an affectionate pat on the bottom before clattering down the stairs. He popped his head into the living room. “We’ll be off now, Roy,” he said to Ellie’s dad.

“Have a good time,” Dad said.

When Ellie joined Luke, her father said, “See you later, then, love.”

They set off in the balmy evening to walk to the pub. It was quiz night. Ellie put her hands in the pockets of her denim jacket. Luke gently teased one of her hands out and curled his big, warm hand around it.

“I know it’d be nice to go to Sophie’s do,” he said. “But face it, babe, we can’t afford to go to France, even if we wanted to. We’re saving up, remember. For when we move in together.”

“Yes, I know, but maybe we could -”

“You want to spend money that we’re saving so that we can start our own future, to go to someone else’s wedding?” said Luke. “Don’t be daft.” He tucked her hand into his arm and strode on.

Ellie hurried along, to keep up. Their future. Everyone talked about it as though it was a done deal. She and Luke had been together for nearly four years, since she was seventeen, and they were going to get married. Fact. Except Luke hadn’t actually asked her to marry him … or even to move in with him.

“Luke,” she said, as they got to the end of the main road that wound its way down towards the village. “You know you haven’t asked me yet.”

“Asked you what?”

“To move in with you. You’ve just assumed we would.”

He stopped walking and turned to face her. “We talked about it. I don’t have to propose. It’s not like getting married.”

“I don’t think we did discuss it,” said Ellie. “You just said.”

“Ellie,” said Luke. “What are you trying to say? Do you not want to move in with me? Is that what this is about?”

She looked at him, at his eyes which were narrowed in annoyance, at his scowl. He wasn’t very nice when he looked like that. He was much bigger than she was. When they’d first got together, she had loved the way he stood protectively by her. Now, just sometimes, she wasn’t so sure what he was protecting her from.

“Well?” he said. “Because if that’s what you’re saying, we may as well not bother with any of this.” He shook her hand out from the crook of his arm and stepped closer. “What are we doing going out together if we don’t move in together? Where’s the future in that?” He was very close. She fought the urge to step back.

She shook her head. “That’s not what I meant,” she said. “Forget I said anything, it’s all fine.”

“Is all this fuss because I said you can’t go to that wedding in France?”

“No, it’s fine. Let’s go. We need to get to the pub before the quiz starts.” She started off again, he paused for a beat before following her.

The pub was busy, like it always was on quiz night. The ‘team’, mostly men from the garage where Luke worked, were sitting in their favourite place – at a table by the quiz machine. Sometimes, one of the girlfriends came too, but not tonight. Luke went to get the drinks in, leaving Ellie to say hello to the guys. Someone had just finished a packet of peanuts. Ellie looked at it. “You know,” she said. “I really fancy some peanuts.” She got back to her feet. “Anyone else?” she asked.

“Get us another packet of ready salted, would you Ellie,” one of the guys said.

When she got to the bar, Luke said, “Is something wrong?”

“No. Just fancied some peanuts.” She smiled at Phil, the landlord. “Hiyya Phil. Can I have two packets of peanuts please – ready salted.”

Phil passed her two packs and returned his attention to the pint he was pulling for Luke. Ellie passed some money to Luke, picked up the peanuts and turned to go.

“I’ve ordered us chips,” Luke said.

“Lovely.” They always had chips on quiz night. It served as a meal until they went back to hers, when she would make them late night cheese on toast before they went to bed. As she made her way back to the table, she wished Sophie were there. She liked Luke’s friends, but there wasn’t much that she could talk to them about. No one ‘got’ her like Sophie did.

Someone called her name. Ellie turned. A young man jumped up from his seat at a table not far away. He was thin, tall and brown skinned. “Hi Ellie.”

She smiled. “Ash! Hiyya. How’re you? How’s uni?”

“Good. Good, thank you.” He pushed his black hair back from his forehead.

“You’re looking well,” she said. He looked different since the last time she’d seen him. He seemed to have grown taller, and he was certainly more outgoing than he used to be. This time last year, he would barely have spoken more than a few words to her. Even that would have been at a mumble. “I almost didn’t recognise you just now.”

“Thanks, I think,” he said, giving her a friendly smile. “I … er … did you hear from Sophie? About the wedding?”

“Oh yes, isn’t it brilliant. A wedding in France sounds so exotic.” She remembered that Sophie knew Ash quite well. They’d had some classes together. Physics or something.

He nodded, put his hands in his pockets and bounced a little on the balls of his feet. “Are you … are you going?”

“Ah, no. Probably not.”

“Oh?” He looked surprised. “Why not? Since you guys were friends, I thought …”

Well yes. You would think she’d be going to her best friend’s wedding. Ellie forced herself to smile. “Well, Luke-”

“Did someone mention my name?” Luke appeared beside her and put his arm around her. “Alright, Ass?”

Ellie winced.

Ash stilled at the old school nickname, and took his hands out of his pockets. “Luke.”

“What are you two gossiping about?” said Luke, giving Ellie’s shoulders a squeeze.

“Ash,” Ellie said, pointedly, “was just asking if I was going to Sophie’s wedding.”

“Oh, she’s not,” said Luke.

Ash looked at Ellie, a question in his frown.

“Can’t afford it,” she said, quickly. “It’s a shame, really. I’d have loved to go.”

“You’re going, I suppose,” said Luke.

“I was thinking about it, yes.” Ash’s gaze moved from Luke, to the arm holding Ellie firmly and back to Luke. Suddenly, Ellie felt very small.

“I suppose you’ll be dipping into your trust fund,” Luke sneered.

Ash’s eyes flicked upwards. “I don’t have a trust fund.”

“Yes, well it’s okay for your sort,” said Luke cryptically.

Ellie knew that Ash wasn’t rich. He worked in the corner shop in the holidays. She had only spoken to him a few times, when she went to deliver the bread to the shop, and he seemed like a nice guy. She didn’t know why Luke was being so weird. She gave Luke a quizzical look, which he ignored.

“Anyway, come on, love. Let’s go sit down, shall we?” Luke steered her away.

She mouthed ‘sorry’ to Ash as she was led away. He raised a hand, as though to say it was fine.

“Did you have to be so rude?” she said to Luke.

“Well, he was hitting on my girl, so yes. He’s lucky I didn’t do worse.”

“We were having a conversation. He was not hitting on me. He was asking me if I was going to my friend’s wedding. Which I really should be.”

Luke stopped and frowned. “What has got into you today, Ellie?”

For a second she was speechless. She fought to think of a response that wasn’t just a wail of ‘I want to go to Sophie’s wedding’.

“Anyways,” said Luke. “Looks like the quiz is starting.”

And just like that, she missed her chance. Ellie sat down, threw one packet of peanuts across to the man who’d wanted them and tore open her own. Someone passed her the pen and paper with ‘you’ve got the best handwriting’. She took it and bent her head so that no one could see her fume.

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