(Yes, I have been working on the next Luna City installment, wherein the path to a happy romantic conclusion for Kate and Richard is never without some deep potholes! Richard’s parents have just walked into the Cafe, as Richard has finished unburdening himself to Jess and Araceli. Kate accepted his proposal, and the ring … but then she walked out, and will not answer his calls and messages. just then, the chime over the front door rings, and Richard’s parents walk in…)

“Darling!” Exclaimed Mum, exuberantly rushing up to Richard, and flinging her arms about him – really, it was most uncharacteristically English of her. Not for dear old Mum the undemonstrative upper-class stiff-upper lip. Must be all that French influence, Richard thought, as he returned the embrace. And the prior influence of Gram, working-class, opinionated and fiercely proud of that, too. “I’m so happy to see you, at long last! You look so well! Is this your dear little restaurant! Everyone says that the menu is so absolutely scrumptious, and that you have done a marvelous job with it! Are you happy, darling? We so worried for you, early on, but we thought it best not to interfere… you didn’t want us to interfere, did you, Richie? Your father said no, it was best that you find your own feet… you have found them, haven’t you, dear?”

Mum looked up at him anxiety clouding her eyes, and the fresh fair countenance, the English rose look, hardly burnished by a suntan in all of her half-century of life, although her hair was gone to a faded blonde, intermixed with grey. Obviously, there was no decent hairdresser in Saint-Didier.

“No, Mum – I’m fine,” Richard, initially stunned. He hadn’t expected to see his parents for another couple of months, at least. “I’m at a crisis at present, though …”

“And is this your Kate?” Mum smiled brilliantly at Araceli. “How marvelous to meet you at long last. Richie left us absolutely stunned when he announced that he was going to propose…”

“No, that’s my cousin Kate,” Araceli replied, sturdily. “I just work for Ri – for Chef. Pleased to meet you. Araceli Gonzalez-Gonzales. Excuse me, we’re still working the breakfast rush. Can I show you to a table?”

“Of course, dear,” Mum replied, with a charming laugh. “That would be marvelous – we were so done in by traveling all this way, we missed breakfast at the hotel. They’re quite awfully strict about hours, even for room service. Dorothy Astor-Hall, but everyone calls me Dottie.”

“Dottie by name and nature,” Richard’s father added, with a look of tried affection which took out any malice from his words, as Araceli gestured them toward the small couples table, just out from the door into the kitchen, and handed them a pair of menus. “Alfred Astor-Hall. So pleased. You haven’t introduced us to your other lady, Richard.” There was a slight tone of reproof in his voice, and Richard sighed. Dad was so very much the Englishman, the pukka sahib of legend, tall, lanky, imperishably polite, and completely unshockable, a lean and angular face graced with a neatly trimmed mustache. No wonder he had gotten on so well with the wine-growing denizens of Saint Didier – he was the archetypal imperturbable upper-class Englishman of song, story, and movie, come to life.

“Jessica Vaughn,” Jess replied, switching her briefcase to her other hand. Richard wondered briefly if she would render a proper military salute – Jess had that ‘noticed by a worshipped senior officer’ expression on her face. “CPA – I do the financial management for the owners of the Café. Rich and I have worked together for … a good few years.”

“An accountant!” Alfred Astor-Hall’s expression warmed and lightened, as Araceli vanished into the kitchen. “How very marvelous, and what an interesting coincidence! I started out as an accountant. Been in finance for more years in the City than I like to think! Moved on, now I make fine wines – so very much more relaxing.”

“I’ve been guided by Mrs. Vaughn’s towering efficiency and competent good sense in money matters for the last few years,” Richard interjected.

“What a refreshing change,” Alfred murmured, and Richard winced. No, Dad still had the gift of the verbal stiletto, even though he had been indulgent far, far beyond the tolerance of normal parents when it came to Richard’s chosen career, and the inevitable, spectacular flame-out of the crash over the disastrous Carême opening. It came to him that his father had mostly been left to cope with the resulting financial disaster, after Carême. There was a hell of a lot about that disaster which Richard didn’t remember with any accuracy at all. But through it all, Dad and Mum had been good sports, against every natural human impulse to write off their only son as a dead loss on the human calculation. Richard was grateful, grateful beyond all words for their continued indulgence. For that, he could overlook the occasional verbal jab from Dad.

“Rich, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Jess replied, and with a polite nod to the gathered small clan of Astor-Hall, she was gone with the silvery tinkle of the bell over the Café’s front door.

“What a lovely woman,” Mum commented, “I so like her!

Alfred murmured, “Got a modicum of financial sense, then – pity you couldn’t marry her, instead.”

“She’s happily married already, Dad,” Richard snarled, “With three children, and a husband who looks like a tattooed human traffic bollard. And he is the chief of police in this place. Did I mention his extensive gun collection? And that his absolutely fascistic devotion to law and order is legendary? I daresay I did not.”

“You didn’t, dear,” Mum replied, soothingly. “But never mind about all that. We … your father and I came for the professional tour of wineries in the Hill Country, officially as other wine-involved professionals, you see. A business expense. But our main reason is to see you and your lovely bride … she is lovely, I am certain, knowing of your … umm, tastes. Oh, don’t clear your throat at me, Alf – we both know that Rich has a certain standard. Which is nice, considering the appearances of the resulting children. There is something to be said for breeding, you know. Attractive parents rarely birth unattractive children. This saves the poor little mites so many nasty schoolyard jibes over unfortunate physical features…”

“Mum!” Richard exclaimed, exasperated – yes, Mum was the most charming and possibly the silliest and least-tactful woman in the Home Counties, and Saint-Didier combined. The theory that a male was programmed to be attracted to the same kind of personality-type as his mother had caused him many an episode of misgiving over some of his sexual choices. “There is a crisis on … I proposed to my lovely Kate, and she accepted … but for some reason she has become annoyed with me.”

“I can’t possibly imagine what might have brought that on,” Alfred sank another mildly sharpened stiletto into Richard’s quivering ego.

“It was because …” And Richard drew in a deep breath, resolved to spill all, once and for all. “I am applying for American citizenship – and Kate assumed that my reason for proposing was an ill-conceived tactic to jump the queue, as it were – by marrying a citizen.”

“Oh, Richard – how could you?” Dottie exclaimed, her eyes already welling over. “How could you do such a thing?”

“It seemed most sensible, logical!” Richard protested. “I mean – I have lived here for five years, worked my fingers to the bone at all hours, taught people to appreciate fine cuisine, trained up the next generation of cooks…”

“No, I didn’t mean that!” And Dottie sniffled a bit and wiped her eyes. “How could you let her go on believing such a thing…”

“Because she won’t answer my phone calls!” Richard exclaimed, goaded beyond all tact. “Or my messages! Or that of her friends – also my friends, those ladies whom I introduced just now, they are going to plead my case! It’s a crisis, Mum – what am I supposed to do?”

“Breakfast,” Alfred replied, calmly. He had been perusing the menu. “I think that breakfast would do us all a world of good. Cinnamon buns, one each, I think. Scrambled eggs. And coffee. I have been accustomed for the last few years to have coffee with breakfast. Café au lait if you please. And nothing of this chalk-artificial-muck for creamer…”

“Dad – we do straight cream, half-and-half for the slimmers!” Richard protested. “It’s one of my inviolable principles, here at the Café!”

“Oh, good,” Alfred waved in a vague manner. “Carry on, then. And come and sit with us if you can and your kitchen duty allows. We need to tell you how you stand, with your current economic situation.”

“I can hardly bloody wait,” Richard snarled, as he went into the kitchen.

Why was this happening to him, now at all the times possible in the world?      


  1. Thank you! Looking forward to the new book.

  2. Should happen by the end of the month, Sherri! Glad you liked. Richard’s parents are my paternal grandparents, as I remember them.

  3. I’m definitely looking forward to it as well. I’ve been dying to see what Richard’s parents were like.