by Cara Black
It’s never easy for Parisienne Aimée Leduc, especially with a baby bump in the humid summer when World Cup Fever overtakes Paris in 1998. Not only is Aimée attracted to bad boys, her ankles swell and she’s scaling down to kitten heels instead of her Louboutins. Then there are her cravings for cornichons and kiwis and finding the perfect crème to prevent stretch marks. What’s a Parisian maman-to-be to do?
Like many in her condition, it’s time to think ahead to balancing a bébe, work, and how to childproof a 17th-century apartment with archaic plumbing, and electricity last updated at the turn of the 1900s. Time for her find another place to store her Glock—she’s a licensed PI—instead of the spoon drawer. And learn to cook. Zut alors! But the City of Paris offers single mamans generous subsidized childcare and options; shared in-home nanny care, infant centers with a nurse on staff—choices, choices. That’s if you get your bébe on the waiting list in time—in other words, at conception—her best friend Martine reminds her. Aimée has more decisions to make—to work from home, or go part-time, perhaps sell the detective agency she inherited to the up-and-coming tech geek barraging her with offers. But could she live in the French countryside, be a full-time maman, grow tomatoes and leave the lights of Paris? Not this Parisienne.
So, as a writer, I’m approaching Paris differently now that my character Aimée Leduc—who’s taller and thinner than I—has gained a few kilos, should exercise, eat balanced meals, and lower her stress. She’s trying to do all this while juggling finances for the impending June tax, her morning sickness, and whether the biological father might factor in the future. And if she wants him knowing his family baggage. Helping the not very domestic Aimée to encourage her maternal instincts is her godfather, a Police Commissaire, who has signed her up for maman et moi yoga, and it’s René, her partner at the detective agency, god-father to-be and a dwarf who ponders the big question—diapers: cloth or disposable?
Writing the 14th book in the Aimée Leduc series, I felt it was time for Aimée to grow up. Well, a little. Now with a new life to prepare for in the pervasive heat of Paris in the grip of World Cup Fever, she faces doubts over motherhood. Integral to Aimée’s character has been a yearning for family, something she’s never really had. She has abandonment issues over her radical American mother who left her—whether or not to truly protect Aimée as a young child remains to be seen—and now is on the World Terrorist Watch List. She is starting to understand that family can be what you make it, not always in the traditional sense.
Growing up, Aimée never had a female role model and wishes her baby would come with an instruction booklet. I remember I did. But there isn’t one. Some of the issues Aimée must face are those my Parisienne friend Anne-François faced. Some are uniquely Parisian quandaries and others are universal ones. I’ve known Anne-Françoise for years, first as a singleton whom I’d go out dancing with in the Bastille. A free spirit who’d throw dinner parties with intellectuals, driving instructors, ministry officials and a Parisian policeman or two for me to meet. And work full time in high heels. What’s changed now that Anne has two daughters, aged three and eight? She still throws dinners parties, but on the weekends, and now the guests are also parents of her daughter’s friends. Anne is the sole baguette winner so childcare is on her shoulders and she has a wonderful shared caregiver with a family in their apartment building, well subsidized by the City of Paris.
Anne wrested with lots of questions about motherhood during her first pregnancy: would she be a good mother, even though she didn’t have a good relationship with her own mother? The changes in her body, giving up wine—very hard for a Parisienne. And would having a child mean she’d hit the glass ceiling at work? What were her priorities? I’ve watched Anne’s journey since her daughters’ births, her process of growing into motherhood with sleep deprivation, running to ballet lessons, working full time, and being rewarded by smiles and hugs when she returns home. Of course, it’s not easy and Anne relies a lot on a wonderful shared nanny. When I visit her, I can do the fun stuff with the girls and take them to the circus or read a story. I don’t have diaper duty anymore, but volunteer for after school pickup and make boulangerie stops on the way home. But, yes, she wears high heels, always has. When I point out it must be genetic in Parisiennes, she just laughs.
Cara Black is the author of fourteen books in the New York Times bestselling Aimée Leduc series. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son and visits Paris frequently. Her latest series installment, Murder in Pigalle, is out today from Soho Crime. Find Cara online at her website, on Facebook, on Twitter @carablack, and on Instagram.
Eiffel Tower: www.parisbypolaroid.com
Louvre and children: www.telegraph.co.uk