Welcome to my website, where I will be blogging about my debut novel, A Thousand Kisses. Years spent writing marketing plans and reading excellent books made me wonder if I could tackle the story of my paternal grandmother’s fascinating life.
A Thousand Kisses is a novel of historical fiction based on a true story. In the late 1800’s, the main character, Hélène Aubry is living with her two younger sisters in Châlons-sur-Marne, France. She endures escalating molestation by her step-father, M. Collard, which ultimately results in a pregnancy. When her mother, Charlotte, discovers this, she throws Hélène out of the family home, denying any possibility of wrong-doing by her husband, and refusing to speak to her daughter again. Hélène’s daughter, Lili, is born in Paris just after Hélène turns 18 in 1908. Virtually penniless and without the protection of a father or husband, Hélène struggles for a year to raise her daughter on her own. She ultimately decides to leave Lili with a family in Barisis, in northeastern France, where she will be taken care of for the cost of her upkeep. Vowing to return to France and be re-united with her daughter, Hélène moves to Saint-Pétersbourg, Russia to work as a French governess to the children of a wealthy Jewish family. When WW1 unexpectedly breaks out, Hélène is unable to leave Russia, and her daughter is trapped in German-occupied France. Frantically trying to maintain contact with Lili and the rest of her family in France, Hélène dreams of reclaiming her child, receiving her mother’s forgiveness, and finding a husband and father who will unite her and her daughter in a happy family.
In early 1917, now working as a Red Cross nurse in Saint-Pétersbourg/Petrograd, Hélène meets Walter Scoffield, a Chief Engineer in the British Merchant Marine. He is suffering from acute pneumonia, and they fall in love while Hélène nurses him back to health. Hélène’s dream of a triumphant return to France is on the verge of being realized when they marry a few months later. Against the dramatic backdrop of an increasingly unstable political situation in 1917 Russia, and the ongoing battles of WW1, Hélène realizes she is pregnant and flees from Petrograd weeks before the final October Revolution when the Soviet Bolsheviks gain control of Russia. Walter re-joins his ship. Evading German U-boats and Zeppelins, as well as the stormy seas of the North Atlantic, Hélène safely reaches Hull, England in October, and stays with her husband’s family while awaiting his return. Their son, Albert Walter, is born in February, 1918, but, unfortunately, Hélène dies three weeks later from complications of childbirth.