Real-life romcom, complete with Provençal happy ending

Author Kristin Espinasse's journey from Arizona to Provence has all the ingredients of a hit chick-lit novel

The story of how Kristin Espinasse came to spend her life in France reads like a perfect Hollywood rom-com, complete with classic chance encounter that leads to love at first sight, shocking plot twist that could have ended the romance and wandering off happily ever after into the Provençal sunset.

Kristin tells the tale in her book, Words in a French Life, an account of her life in France that, despite being completely based on her real experience, would make a good novel: young Kristin grew up in Arizona, and had studied French for two years at university when, in 1990, her teacher told her about an exchange program in Lille.

“It was a complete culture shock,” says Kristin. “And it only lasted two months, which really isn’t enough time once you have come all of this way.” Luckily, one of Kristin’s classmates had plans to stay on and travel south to Aix-en-Provence. “She was much more adventurous than me,” says Kristin. “But she had already paved the way and figured it all out, so I followed her! We signed up to a language school, they helped us get student housing, and off we went.” 

Making the most of every opportunity to learn French, Kristin took in the sights and sounds of Aix, including its nightclubs.

Enter the tall, dark stranger – Jean-Marc Espinasse. They danced, they flirted, and Kristin went home with a business card with the words Roy d’Espagne on it. Unsure in her beginner’s French about whether she had just bagged herself a royal husband, she got back in touch with her new Prince Charming.

Jean-Marc turned out to be an accountant, not the King of Spain – Roy d’Espagne was just the name of his building. But the spark had been lit. “It was ...

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