A thirty-year-old woman retraces her gap year through Ireland, France, and Italy to find love—and herself—in this hilarious and heartfelt novel.
It's been seven years since Chelsea Martin embarked on her yearlong postcollege European adventure. Since then, she's lost her mother to cancer and watched her sister marry twice, while Chelsea's thrown herself into work, becoming one of the most talented fundraisers for the American Cancer Coalition, and with the exception of one annoyingly competent coworker, Jason Knightley, her status as most successful moneymaker is unquestioned.
When her introverted mathematician father announces he's getting remarried, Chelsea is forced to acknowledge that her life stopped after her mother died and that the last time she can remember being happy, in love, or enjoying her life was on her year abroad. Inspired to retrace her steps—to find Colin in Ireland, Jean Claude in France, and Marcelino in Italy—Chelsea hopes that one of these three men who stole her heart so many years ago can help her find it again.
From the start of her journey nothing goes as planned, but as Chelsea reconnects with her old self, she also finds love in the very last place she expected.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I'm getting married."
"We've already picked our colors, pink and gray."
"Um . . . pink and what?"
"Gray. What do you think, Chelsea? I want your honest opinion. Is that too retro?"
I stared at my middle-aged widowed father. We were standing in a bridal store in central Boston on the corner of Boylston and Berkeley Streets, and he was talking to me about wedding colors. His wedding colors.
"I'm sorry-I need a sec," I said. I held up my hand and blinked hard while trying to figure out just what the hell was happening.
I had raced here from my apartment in Cambridge after receiving a text from my dad, asking me to meet him at this address because it was an emergency. I was prepared for heart surgery, not wedding colors!
Suddenly, I couldn't breathe. I wrestled the constricting wool scarf from around my neck, yanked the beanie off my head, and stuffed them in my pockets. I scrubbed my scalp with my fingers in an attempt to make the blood flow to my brain. It didn't help. Come on, Martin, I coached myself. Pull it together. I unzipped my puffy winter jacket to let some air in, then I focused on my father.
"What did you say?" I asked.
"Pink and gray, too retro?" Glen Martin, a.k.a. Dad, asked. He pushed his wire-frame glasses up on his nose and looked at me as if he was asking a perfectly reasonable question.
"No, before that." I waved my hand in a circular motion to indicate he needed to back it all the way up.
"I'm getting married!" His voice went up when he said it, and I decided my normally staid fifty-five-year-old dad was somehow currently possessed by a twenty-something bridezilla.
"You okay, Dad?" I asked. Not for nothing, because the last time I checked, he hadn't even been dating anyone, never mind thinking about marriage. "Have you recently slipped on some ice and whacked your head? I ask because you don't seem to be yourself."
"Sorry," he said. He reached out and wrapped me in an impulsive hug, another indicator that he was not his usual buttoned-down mathematician self. "I'm just . . . I'm just so happy. What do you think about being a flower girl?"
"Um . . . I'm almost thirty." I tried not to look as bewildered as I felt. What was happening here?
"Yes, but we already have a full wedding party, and you and your sister would be really cute in matching dresses, maybe something sparkly."
"Matching dresses? Sparkly?" I repeated. I struggled to make sense of his words. I couldn't. It was clear. My father had lost his ever-lovin' mind. I should probably call my sister.
I studied his face, trying to determine just how crazy he was. The same hazel eyes I saw in my own mirror every morning held mine, but where my eyes frequently looked flat with a matte finish, his positively glowed. He really looked happy.
"You're serious," I gasped. I glanced around the bridal store, which was stuffed to the rafters with big fluffy white dresses. None of this made any sense, and yet here I was. "You're not pranking me?"
"Nope." He grinned again. "Congratulate me, peanut. I'm getting married."
I felt as if my chest were collapsing into itself. Never, not once, in the past seven years had I ever considered the possibility that my father would remarry.
"To who?" I asked. It couldn't be . . . nah. That would be insane.
"Really, Chels?" Dad straightened up. The smile slid from his face, and he cocked his head to the side-his go-to disappointed-parent look.
I had not been on the receiving end of this look very often in life. Not like my younger sister, Annabelle, who seemed to thrive on "the look." Usually, it made me fall right in line but not today.
"Sheri? You're marrying Sheri?" I tried to keep my voice neutral. Major failure, as I stepped backward, tripped on the trailing end of my scarf, and gracelessly sprawled onto one of the cream-colored velvet chairs that were scattered around the ultrafeminine store. I thought it was a good thing I was sitting, because if he answered in the affirmative, I might faint.
"Yes, I asked her to marry me, and to my delight she accepted," he said. Another happy, silly grin spread across his lips as if he just couldn't help it.
"But . . . but . . . she won you in a bachelor auction two weeks ago!" I cried. I closed my mouth before I said more, like pointing out that this was hasty in the extreme.
The store seamstress, who was assisting a bride up on the dais in front of a huge trifold mirror, turned to look at us. Her dark hair was scraped up into a knot on top of her head, and her face was contoured to perfection. She made me feel like a frump in my Sunday no-makeup face. Which, in my defense, was not my fault, because when I'd left the house to meet Dad, I'd had no idea the address he'd sent was for Brianna's Bridal. I'd been expecting an urgent care; in fact, I wasn't sure yet that we didn't need one.
Glen Martin, Harvard mathematician and all-around nerd dad, had been coerced into participating in a silver-fox bachelor auction for prominent Bostonians by my sister, Annabelle, to help raise funds for Boston Children's Hospital. I had gone, of course, to support my sister and my dad, and it had mostly been a total snooze fest.
The highlight of the event was when two socialites got into a bidding war over a surgeon, and the loser slapped the winner across the face with her cardboard paddle. Good thing the guy was a cosmetic surgeon, because there was most definitely some repair work needed on that paper cut.
But my father had not been anywhere near that popular with the ladies. No one wanted a mathematician. No one. After several minutes of excruciating silence, following the MC trying to sell the lonely gals on my dad's attempts to solve the Riemann hypothesis, I had been about to bid on him myself, when Sheri, a petite brunette, had raised her paddle with an initial offer. The smile of gratitude Dad had sent Sheri had been blinding, and the next thing we knew, a flurry of numbered paddles popped up in the air, but Sheri stuck in there and landed the win for $435.50.
"Two weeks is all it took," Dad said. He shrugged and held out his hands like a blackjack dealer showing he had no hidden cards, chips, or cash.
I stared at him with a look that I'm sure was equal parts shock and horror.
"I know it's a surprise, Chels, but when-" he began, but I interrupted him.
"Dad, I don't think a bachelor auction is the basis for a stable, long-lasting relationship."
"You have to admit it makes a great story," he said.
"Um . . . no." I tried to sound reasonable, as if this were a math problem about fitting sixty watermelons into a small car. I spread my hands wide and asked, "What do you even know about Sheri? What's her favorite color?"
"Pink, duh." He looked at me with a know-it-all expression more commonly seen on a teenager than a grown-ass man. Hmm.
"All right, who are you, and what have you done with my father?" I wanted to check him for a fever; maybe he had the flu and he was hallucinating.
"I'm still me, Chels," he said. He gazed at me gently. "I'm just a happy me, for a change."
Was that it? Was that what was so different about him? He was happy? How could he be happy with a woman he hardly knew? Maybe . . . oh dear. My dad hadn't circulated much after my mom's death. Maybe he was finally getting a little something-something, and he had it confused with love. Oh god, how was I supposed to talk about this with him?
I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath. Parents did this all the time. Surely I could manage it. Heck, it would be great practice if I ever popped out a kid. I opened my eyes. Three women were standing in the far corner in the ugliest chartreuse dresses I had ever seen. Clearly, they were the attendants of a bride who hated them. And that might be me in sparkly pink or gray if I didn't put a stop to this madness.
Reading Group Guide
Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay
Questions for Discussion
1. When Chelsea discovers her father is getting remarried, she has a strong reaction—one that causes her to rethink the last seven years of her life. Could you sympathize with Chelsea’s feelings and her decisions in the wake of her father’s announcement?
2. Chelsea decides to revisit her past to move forward with her future. Have you ever considered or taken a similar journey in your life? What was it? Did you find it helpful?
3. What does Chelsea hope to achieve in revisiting her postcollege gap year?
4. Have you been to Ireland, France, or Italy? Do you have a favorite foreign country you’ve visited or you’d like to visit? What about that place appeals to you?
5. Which of Chelsea’s former three loves—Colin, Jean Claude, or Marcellino—is your favorite? Why?
6. When does Chelsea start to see her work rival, Jason, in a different light? Have you ever had a similar experience— where your relationship with someone unexpectedly takes on a new dimension? What spurred viewing that person in a new way?
7. How does grief play a role in both Chelsea’s and Jason’s lives?
8. How does Chelsea’s relationship with her family change during the course of the book?
9. What does Chelsea discover about herself by revisiting her past? How is Chelsea different at the end of the novel from who she was at the beginning?