INTERVIEW WITH HAZEL GAYNOR and HEATHER WEBB

Meet Me In Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb brings Grace Kelly back to life. Readers will take a journey to the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 as the authors intertwine the romance between the actress Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco and their characters Sophie Duval and James Henderson. These two authors, “Team H,” have a chemistry when writing together. They have a knack for creating an enchanting story written in one voice.

The plot opens with Grace Kelly ducking into a small perfume shop, owned by Sophie Duval, to escape a tabloid photographer, James Henderson. Sophie gives Grace Kelly a sanctuary from the paparazzi and sends James on his way. Very grateful Kelly forms a bond with Sophie and helps her failing business by publicizing that Sophie will be the “parfumeur” for the wedding to Prince Rainier. Meanwhile, James is given the coveted assignment to cover the wedding of the century, and sail with Grace Kelly’s wedding party to Monaco. Before sailing to Monaco he sends a letter to Sophia requesting a date. With the backdrop of the wedding Sophie and James have a whirlwind romance that has stretches of friendship, love, and tragedy. 

The romances stand out even more with the news clips fabricated by the authors. They transport the readers back in time to the 1950s and add authenticity and realism to the story. Also, bringing believability is the narrative where Grace interacts with James and Sophie are expertly woven into this cleverly layered fairy talelike plot. Sophie’s character is smart, confident and independent, while James is an enigma, surprisingly sensitive at times and aloof at others.

The novel is full of life lessons, difficult choices, and historical facts. Readers might even enjoy having their interest spurred and will find old pictures and footage. With a fabulous setting, interesting characters, and a story of second chances people root for all the characters to have their wishes come true.

Elise Cooper: Is this story based on any truth? Yes

TEAM H: Meet Me in Monaco was inspired by Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and wedding to Monaco’s Prince Rainier. All the events we write about in the book, surrounding their meeting, romance and wedding are based in fact. Also, one of our main characters, Sophie Duval, was based on a perfumer who was, in fact, asked to submit samples for the big day.

EC: How did you get the idea for the story?

TEAM H: We had such fun writing Last Christmas in Paris together, and wanted our second co-written book to be a real contrast to the setting of war. We started to think about a summer book, full of fun and glamour, and the south of France and Grace Kelly soon followed! Meet Me in Monaco starts at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, the year Grace met her prince—and when our parfumeur, Sophie Duval, meets press photographer James Henderson, sparks begin to fly. 

EC: Are either of you fans of Grace Kelly?

TEAM H: Of course! We have both admired her and have been fans of her movies, and after spending so much time with her during our research for the book, we are now bigger fans than ever!

EC: Did you write the press articles or are they real?

TEAM H: They are fictional, although closely based on actual articles we discovered during our research. We created our fictional journalist and these newspaper articles as a way for us to allow the reader to stay with Grace, even when she isn’t centre stage in a scene. Our newspaper articles and dramatic headlines also capture the media fascination with Grace Kelly throughout this period of her life. Grace’s wedding was one of the first paparazzi storms of the 20th century.

EC: How would you describe Grace Kelly? 

TEAM H: kind, unaffected, sincere, vulnerable, charming, talented

EC: How would you describe Sophie? 

TEAM H: adventurous, risk-taker, serious, focused, and passionate

EC; How would you describe James? 

TEAM H: Great sense of humor, caring, considerate, and passionate, too, in his own way

EC: Do you see any comparisons between Sophie and Grace? 

TEAM H: There are parallels both in the risks they chose to take in their lives and also in the way they used their talents to add a measure of beauty to the world. They went after what they wanted in a determined and dedicated way. We don’t go much into Grace’s life outside of the short stint of 1955-56, but all of the research pointed to these qualities in our princess.

EC: How would you compare Lucien and James?

TEAM H: Lucien: cold, demanding, controlling vs. James: Warm, down-to-earth, and passionate 

EC: Are there any comparisons between the relationship of Sophie and James versus Grace and Rainier?

TEAM H: We didn’t set out to deliberately create comparisons between the two couples, but we will let the reader decide this for themselves!

EC: Why the professions of a Parfumeur and photographer? Why not?

TEAM H: We chose these professions for our main characters because it gave them a way to get close to Miss Kelly. There really was a bespoke perfume created for the princess for her wedding, and, of course, press photographers were constantly at Miss Kelly’s side. Also, they are both artistic professions, which allows for some lovely sensory and descriptive writing.

EC: Do either of you have hobbies or knowledge of these?

TEAM H: No! We chose these professions for our main characters because it gave them access to Miss Kelly.

EC: What role does the landscape play in the story?

TEAM H: The dramatic landscape of the Cote d’Azur, Provence and Monaco’s winding roads were such fun to write into the book. These places are iconic, and it allowed us to create a sense of place for the reader. We hope to whisk people away to the South of France and Monaco, wherever in the world they are reading the book!

EC: Please explain this quote by Grace Kelly: “Women can do anything they decide to do.” 

TEAM H: We both love this quote. Grace Kelly was a feminist. It’s easy to say giving up her career for marriage is not a very feminist thing to do, but in reality, her profession just changed. She became wife and mother, certainly, and those are big enough and noble enough jobs in and of themselves, but she also began a foundation that continues to support artists today. She also raised very large sums for the Red Cross efforts and many other charities. 

EC: A heads up about your next book(s)?

TEAM H: We’re currently working on our third Gaynor & Webb book, Advice for Lady Adventurers. It’s a coming-of-age tale in the vein of Thelma and Louise, about two feuding sisters who must follow in the footsteps of Nellie Bly’s race around the world in order to secure their inheritance, only to encounter the Nazi occupation in Europe at the start of WW2. 

THANK YOU!!