Travel with Mona to France-The Loire Valley

A Writer’s Inspiration: France

Of all the countries I visited, France has always been my favorite. Maybe because of its rich culture and history, or maybe because I am fluent in French and have several friends living in Paris who always welcome me.

With its cobbled streets, stunning Basilica, artists, bistros … Montmartre is full of charm! Perched on the top of a small hill in the 18th arrondissement, the most famous Parisian district has lost none of its village atmosphere that appealed so much to the artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Sacré-Cœur basilica is a masterpiece of grace and grandeur. You can see this entirely white landmark from all parts of Paris. Built at the end of the 19th century in the Romano-Byzantine style, it is dedicated to the heart of Christ and is an important place of worship in the capital. It houses the largest mosaic in France, measuring no less than 480 m²!

A narrow street with cafes in Montmartre.
A unique view of the Tour Eiffel from the
balcony of my hotel room
Perched on the Butte (hill) Montmartre, the basilica is accessible by funicular from the Place Saint-Pierre or via the lawns and steps from the little public garden ‘Square Louise Michel’. 

If you go to Paris, you’ll probably climb the Tour Eiffel or use the elevator after staying in line for an hour. You’ll visit the Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, Les Tuileries, many more monuments and must-see places and of course Versailles.

Although Paris would inspire any visitor with fabulous dreams, there is more to France than its capital. A few years ago, my husband rented a car and we toured the Loire Valley.

The valley is known for its dry white wines,
and sparkling-wine 
Blois, a hillside city on the Loire River, is the capital of the Loir-et-Cher region in central France.

The châteaux of the Loire Valley (French: châteaux de la Loire) are part of the architectural heritage of the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the river Loire in France. They illustrate Renaissance ideals of design in France.

The châteaux of the Loire Valley number over three hundred, ranging from practical fortified castles from the 10th century to splendid residences built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux in the Loire Valley, the nobility, drawn to the seat of power, followed suit.

The Chateau de Chambord, the most sumptuous one, was built by King François I and inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci. The chateau remains one of the most famous and visited buildings in France. Chateau de Chambord was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The château d’Amboise was built over an old roman fortress. Throughout France’s troublesome 16th Century, the château d’ Amboise was the home of King Henry II and his wife, Catherine de’ Medici. Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life here, as a guest of King Francis I. Although he lived in the neighboring château of Clos Lucé, Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the Royal Château of Amboise.

The château de Chenonceaux, called the Ladies’ Castle, is famous for its architecture which bridges the Cher River. Founded on the pilings of a mill in 1513, the château was completed in 1522. The château was confiscated by Francis I in 1535. Henry II presented it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. On his death his queen, Catherine de Médicis, forced Diane to give it up. Chenonceaux was extensively restored in the 19th century. The village was occupied by the Germans and slightly damaged in World War II.

The château de Chaumont, built in the 10th century, is one of the oldest castles in the Loire Valley.

Villandry is better known for the magnificent gardens surrounding the castle.

The château de Blois has been the residency of several French kings. It is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English out of Orleans.

The château de Cheverny was built between 1630 and 1640, because a young wife was caught cheating on her husband.

While visiting so many famous castles, I visualized gallant aristocrats entertaining beautiful women in lavishly decorated galleries and plush gardens. Stories played in my mind. I don’t write historical romances but kept thinking about the settings.

A year later, my niece related her summer training in France. As a Harvard University student in Architecture, she was offered the unique opportunity to work on the restoration of a chapel in a French castle. When I asked jokingly, “Was the owner a haughty old man?” My niece answered: “He was a young, handsome count and the five girls in my team had a crush on him. He dated my friend.”

Oh, oh. Château . Handsome count. Training on a historical chapel. Maybe looking for a historical statue. I had an epiphany. Here was my story premise. Below is the château I used in my story. When I pitched it to an agent at the RWA conference, she suggested I change the plot to make it a romantic suspense. I took her suggestion to heart and upped the stakes with a missing statue and the murder of a professor. THE MISSING STATUE was born.

THE MISSING STATUE: Are his statue and chateau worth endangering the life of the impetuous young woman who’s turned his life upside down? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010FX4OOY/  

“… is a great romance with an excellent mystery.” ~Publishers’ Weekly

This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley. There is an interesting cast of characters. The plot is full of action and the reader is never sure who is on the side of good or evil.” ~ Romance Studio
“Murder, mystery, and intrigue seem to follow Cheryl as she assists Francois on his project. A great contemporary romantic read.” ~Review Your Book
Mona Risk brings old-fashioned romance back into style… full of mystery and intrigue.  I loved Ms. Risk’s injection of humor into the story. A sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.” ~ Two Lips Review


If you have a chance to go to France, do yourself a favor and visit the châteaux de la Loire. I promise you won’t regret it.

I have three new books on pre-order.

KISSING PLANS: From best friend to lovers. But she’s engaged. What better way to get rid of the undesired fiancé? Finding him a girlfriend.

FAMILY PLANS: The plane crash devastated two families and revealed painful secrets. Can a brighter future arise from those ashes at Christmas time?

HEALING PLANS: He adopted two minority children but lost his wife. Finally things settle for him, until the lovely surgeon he hires turns his life upside down.

10 Pain Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

According to M. Crouch, AARP,

1. Pain with loss of function The doctors say: If you hurt your leg but can still walk on it, it may be just a sprain. But if you can’t move it and you’re having pain, that should be investigated immediately. Loss of function can indicate a fracture, nerve injury, loss of blood flow or a serious infection. From personal experience: if you have a fracture you’ll be in excruciating pain. Something heavy fell on my toes last week, I’m still in pain and unable to wear shoes!

2. Eye pain that comes out of nowhere The doctors say: It could be caused by a blocked blood vessel, internal bleeding or acute glaucoma, a serious eye condition caused by increased pressure inside the eye. Eye pain can also be the first symptom of shingles, a viral infection that causes a painful rash. From personal experience: Take the shingle vaccine as I did two years ago and eliminate an unnecessary problem.

3. Chest pain The doctors say: An older adult experiencing any type of chest pain should be evaluated by a doctor right away. A heart attack doesn’t always manifest as sudden, crushing pain, it’s more like a dull pressure or a heaviness. Other signs of a heart attack are dizziness, fatigue or shortness of breath while doing ordinary activities like going up the stairs or gardening. Chest pain may also be a signal that a blood clot has moved to your lungs or heart — a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment. From personal experience: So many times I rushed to the hospital with chest pain and was told it was a stomach problem. The stomach pressing on the heart and causing muscle spasm. I would still go to the ER, if I have the above symptoms. No need to take unnecessary risks.

4. Pain in one or both arms, your jaw or between the shoulder blades The doctors say: These lesser-known symptoms of a heart attack are more likely to affect women, according to the American Heart Association. Nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness and light-headedness are other heart attack symptoms to look for. Severe pain between the shoulder blades can also be caused by an aneurysm or a tear in your aorta, a major blood vessel.

5. The worst headache of your life The doctors say:  An occasional headache is usually nothing to worry about. More concerning is one that feels more severe than usual.

6. Severe abdominal pain  The doctors say: “Pain in your abdomen that keeps getting worse — or that is associated with vomiting, swelling or a fever — can be a marker of acute appendicitis, a serious infection, or diverticulitis. You know your body. If you’ve had this pain on and off for years, that’s one thing. But if it’s new and it doesn’t let up or it keeps getting worse, I want to see you.”

7. Calf or thigh pain, especially if in just one leg  Increasing pain in your calf or thigh after a prolonged period of inactivity, even if it’s not severe, can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This dangerous type of blood clot is especially common in patients recovering from knee or hip surgery. Patients sometimes describe the pain as feeling like a muscle cramp, and it’s often accompanied by leg swelling or redness. DVTs need to be treated right away because the clots can travel through your bloodstream and block the blood supply to your lungs, a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.

8. Pain from a minor wound Say you’re working in the yard and something sticks you in the hand. Or maybe you cut yourself doing a home repair. If the pain from a wound (especially one that is red and swollen) keeps getting worse over a few days, that can be a sign of a serious infection that can turn deadly if not treated.

9. Pain after a procedure or injection Spinal injections, biopsies or other therapies that involve injections can occasionally cause infection or bleeding. If you experience persistent pain or loss of function after one of those, call your provider right away.

10. Pain with fever  If you have a high temperature as well as pain, your body may be fighting a dangerous infection. It’s especially important to seek treatment quickly.

On preorder FAMILY PLANS, Love Plan Series, book 7

Left inconsolable by his wife’s death in a plane crash, Tim Kent dedicates himself to his daughter, Brianna. He allows her to get closer to her best friend Debbie whose father died in the same plane crash. When Tim meets Erin Perkins, Debbie’s mother, he’s impressed by the beautiful, young woman struggling to raise six children on her own while working at an exhausting job. He does his best to help her. Attraction develops between them. While Brianna practically lives with her friend Debbie and shares Erin’s motherly attention, Tim acts as a surrogate father for the six fatherless children. But the sorrowful plane crash that brought them together threatens to separate them when shocking secrets are revealed.

Can a brighter future arise from those ashes at Christmas time?

Family Plans is part of the Love Plans Series.

On preorder KISSING PLANS, Love Plan Series, book 6

Susan Chen returns to Cincinnati to work as university professor. Her best friend, Royce Winston who’s been secretly in love with her for years, is determined to change their relationship for the best. Little did he expect Susan to arrive with her mother and a Thai fiancé imposed on her by her family. When Susan asks him to accommodate the unwelcome fiancé until he finds a job, and then help her get rid of him, Royce eagerly obliges.

The best way to succeed is to push the fiancé into another woman’s arms—even if she’s Royce’s former girlfriend and the fiancé has become his houseguest and good buddy. The complicated situation threatens to explode at any minute…and finally does, ripping apart their best laid plans.

Kissing Plans is part of the Love Plans Series.

Summer Fun by @PatriceWilton

It’s that time of the year again when we can get outdoors, enjoy the summer sunshine and warm weather—hit the beach or pool, national or local parks, and get plenty of family time. I’m thinking of sweet corn-in-the-cob, grilled steak, chicken, sausages, practically anything on the grill.

The mellow, golden days of summer. Life has changed over the years, but we still have those good times to bring a smile on your face.

I know times are hard, but being with family is one thing we need to make time for. I have two families who don’t live near me, my daughter and family in New Jersey, and my second daughter and family in Virginia Beach. We are trying hard to make sure we see each other for 4-5 days every year and make this a new tradition.

Last Year’s Summer Adventure

Last year, we were trying for Maine and ended up in Vermont. Near Stowe, and high on a mountain, but such a great place, the brave of heart could go ziplining from the top of the mountain to the half way point. After a five-minute lesson, off you go! They all loved it and made it safely back! The hotel offered many activities and we might end up going back there again.

This year, the working girls managed to get the same time off and we are going to Ashville, N. Carolina. Everyone is enthused about white water rafting and ziplining once again. We will enjoy the beautiful town, and the grounds of the Biltmore.

Both of these trips, not one of us have been to before, so making new family memories is the best way to enjoy life, keep close and connected, for as long as we can. The children will be off to college soon, but until then, we will capture as many moments as possible.

Wishing you all a great summer full of sunny days, laughter, and love. Hope you enjoy some of the pictures below of my summer fun!

Patrice's Family and Nessie

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

 

 

My Favorite Place on Earth: Siesta Key, Sarasota

It’s summertime, and I am currently in my favorite place on earth: Siesta Key, Sarasota! I fell in love with it back in high school when I lived in Sarasota for four years. The day my parents and I moved away, I cried for hours in the car. I was able to come back once, a few years later, for a friend’s wedding, but then it was years before I stepped foot back on the white sandy beaches.

For my 50th birthday, I brought my husband and my daughter to Siesta Key to see it for the first time. Both of them fell in love with the soft powder sand and beautiful greens and blues of the ocean. Now, today is my 53rd birthday, and we are back again. The older I get, the more I want to listen to the waves, kick back, and relax.

We have driven around town and checked out some places that bring back many memories. We have enjoyed shopping around St. Armand’s Circle and taking the trolley into Siesta Key Village. We also visited Turtle Beach and drove down to Venice, where we checked out Caspersen Beach, the home of shark’s teeth. We didn’t find any, but we found many beautiful shells! We hope to try again later in the week.

Each night, we watched the sunset and walked on the beach. It’s time away from the world’s stress and the chance to reconnect with my family.

If you are a beach person and enjoy reading on the beach, check out my short story series: Finding Love in Special Places.