Reading Samantha Verant’s How to Make a French Family: Love, Food and Faux Pas may convince you that fairy tales can come true! While attending Syracuse University, Samantha and her friend, Tracey, travel to England to visit her relocated family. On a side trip to Paris, they meet two charming French men. Samantha and Jean-Luc’s mutual attraction is immediate though they spend less then two days in each other’s company.
When Samanatha returns to college, there are six letters in her mailbox from Jean-Luc. Because he is seven years her senior, more educated, sophisticated and mature, she doesn’t respond to him thinking of their time together as just a delightful memory. When Samantha’s life unravels 20 years later with a failing career and marriage, Tracey suggests she try to reconnect with Jean-Luc and apologize for abandoning their budding friendship all those years ago.
With nothing to lose, Samantha writes and apologizes to Jean-Luc and within three months she is on her way to visit him in France where he has had his own share of tragedy and disappointment; the death of his first ex-wife( and mother of his two children, 10 year old Max and 13 year old Elvire) and the demise of his second marriage. Within a year, Samantha and Jean-Luc marry and she moves to his small hometown, Cugnaux, in Southwestern France.
Her story revisits the first few years of their partnership with all the normal ups and downs of being a stepmother to two young children, trying to master the French language and making some embarrassing faux pas while attempting to speak French with local vendors(a laugh out loud moment for the reader) at the city markets. Verant writes with both the flair of a travel expert when describing the beautiful and historic countryside and the palate of a trained chef when relating how she learned to cook and appreciate the exceptional French cuisine(and there are recipes!).
But, everything is not always as merveilleux as it seems. There are some poignant and heartbreaking family moments. And, she experiences periods of homesickness, misses her family, deals with pets and fleas, tries to make new friends in a foreign country and is frustrated while navigating the well documented French government’s red tape when seeking to obtain a driver’s license. But, she overcomes and offers the reader an insightful look at her life as an expat who follows her dreams to Southwest France.