My Heart Beats in French
Genre: Upmarket women’s fiction/ literary
Six foot tall Erin Hall, a bullied and anxious American Waffle House waitress on the run from her estranged mother, is discovered by an ambitious fashion photographer in Paris. Newly confident, she is determined to own the catwalks and make it to the cover of Vogue. She pursues a frenzied love affair with her photographer, Gilles Delacourt, over his initial objections, a professional catastrophe, as such fraternizing is strictly forbidden in the world of fashion and could derail their promising careers.
Erin is thrilled to be in Paris, discovering De Beauvoir and good sex. Her insanely jealous and unhinged Parisian friend, Delphina, is a flailing, club hopping, Instagram star wannabe, determined to discover their truth and ruin them both. She and her friend Victor, a hacker who works for the Russians, plant cameras in Erin’s Montmarte apartment in order to capture a sex video of Erin and Gilles. They post it online and leak it to the biggest gossip site in France where it goes viral.
Can Erin weather a career wrecking, humiliating public scandal, one that turns into an international story about online shaming, in order to get everything she thought she could never have? And is the life of a famous model everything it’s cracked up to be?
Delphina Motier had no success with a modeling career and now trolls the clubs taking selfies to post on Instagram. Her mother, Vivienne, bought Delphina’s way into an aristocratic boarding school where she was shunned and neglected. A promising dressage competitor, Delphina was thrown by an unfit horse, sustaining a head injury, and suffers from the lingering effects. Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she aggravates her mood swings with club-hopping drug use, trying to be Paris’ next “It Girl”.
You can’t sleep your way through closed doors in Paris, and Delphina embarrassed herself trying to catch an aristocratic husband. Her father lives with a younger woman in the Marais, and Delphina’s been thrown in the middle of her parents’ divorce. She befriends Erin in a free online class, and invites her to Paris, if only to have someone to gawk at her seemingly glamorous life. She helps Erin with her look, only to watch Erin become one of the fastest rising models in Paris who has snagged a famous photographer, on the down low, to boot.
Delphina uses sex to get what she wants, manipulating her hacker friend, Victor, to do her online dirty work to avenge anyone in Paris who gets in her way.
The second antagonist is the fashion world which prohibits photographers from having relationships with the models they shoot.
My Heart Beats in French
The Most Celebrated Model in France
The Girl With the Red Thumb
#4 GENRE AND COMPARABLES
The genre is upmarket women’s fiction. Written in the third person omniscient, the story has three threads, Erin’s POV, Gilles’ POV, and Delphina’s POV.
ERIN’S GOAL # 1:
1. Professional Success in fashion.
A. EXTERNAL STRUGGLE: Erin’s goal is to master the skills necessary to make it as a catwalk model in haute couture (called mannequins in France.) When Delphina torpedoes Erin’s image online, she must fight an unforgiving system to keep what she’s earned. EDUCATION STORY.
B. INTERNAL STRUGGLE: Erin was a victim of high school bullying for her height, long neck, and the prominent birthmark on her thumb, the very looks that make her unique as a mannequin. She struggles to overcome anxiety and a lack of confidence. All her life, she has allowed others to define her. When Delphina drops the sex video and it becomes a topic of international conversation, it is essential for Erin to take control and a define herself in the face of a horrifying public humiliation. She is unable to share her success with her mother, who’d returned after years of abandonment. Erin must realize her mother is who she is and will not change. She must learn how to change her reaction to her. MATURATION STORY.
ERIN’S GOAL # 2:
2. To enter into a love relationship with her photographer.
A. EXTERNAL STRUGGLE: Erin develops a wild attraction to Gilles during the hours they spend working together. He teaches her to walk and pose. Gilles knows the dangers of giving into the mutual attraction. It could lead to professional ruin and he wants to shoot her for the cover of Vogue, the pinnacle of his aspirations. She must overcome his resistance. ROMANCE.
B. INTERNAL STRUGGLE: Erin’s fiancé dumped her for her best friend, and rumors swirl around her hometown of Lancaster that he did so because she’s a starfish who just lies there, when in truth, he was just a lackluster lover himself. Lacking in experience, she questions her ability to satisfy a sophisticated man like Gilles. MATURATION STORY
To shoot the cover of Vogue.
A. EXTERNAL STRUGGLE: Gilles, a successful world music songwriter, has given up his career in music to pursue fashion photography. His ultimate goal is to develop a model to shoot for the cover of Vogue. He lost his chance when a model he discovered six years ago suddenly died at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. He wants to develop Erin professionally so he can take her all the way to the top. EDUCATION STORY
B. INTERNAL STRUGGLE: Gilles is attracted to Erin, just like he was with the model six years before. He must struggle against his own desires in order to achieve his professional goal. He is at war with himself, wondering if he could have saved the deceased model by declaring his love for her no matter the professional price. He must change his WORLDVIEW in order to achieve everything he wants.
To become Paris’ next It Girl and marry into the aristocracy.
A. EXTERNAL STRUGGLE: Delphina is desperate to marry Louis, a notorious aristocratic playboy who isn’t interested in her beyond using her for base sex. She also seeks notoriety in Paris that she can turn into Instagram stardom.
B. INTERNAL STRUGGLE: This is a twisted sort of STATUS story. Despite her advantages, Delphina has suffered in life and has come out emotionally damaged. She feels she is owed something, like the hero in Gladiator who lost his entitled status to usurpers.
The novel combines the fashion and glamour of the Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger with a frenemy story like Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak, and is underscored with forbidden sexual heat like that in Atonement by Ian McEwan.
***Very similar to this novel sold as recently as 5/13/21:
TALK BOOKISH TO ME author Kate Bromley's DESIGNED AND MINE, pitched as THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA meets Emily in Paris, in which an aspiring fashion designer attempts to launch her career by winning a design competition in Florence, but finds herself swept up in a romance with a handsome novelist, forcing her to decide if success and love are both possible in the cutthroat world of fashion, to Brittany Lavery at Graydon House, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world).
# 5 LOGLINE
A bullied and anxious American waitress puts her painful past behind her with an unlikely meteoric rise to the top tier of high fashion modeling in Paris, but a torrid love affair with her photographer gives a jealous friend the ammunition to bring her to ruin.
SECONDARY Erin, abandoned by her mother and homeschooled until high school by her aunt and grandmother, was bullied by her peers for her six foot tall height, long neck, and unique features she had yet to grow into. Her fiancé dumped her for her best friend allegedly because she was a starfish in bed and didn’t move. She is anxious and lacks the self-confidence to do much more than waitress at a Waffle House where everyone fits in, despite her desire to attend college.
When her estranged mother suddenly reappears appears from a life off the grid, Erin decides to house swap with a chef from France, despite her extreme anxiety when traveling alone. She will need to overcome these anxieties when trying to walk the catwalk in Paris, a very public activity. Her mother appears unwilling to change, and Erin must find the strength to accept that fact.
PRIMARY Erin wants to believe in her friend, Delphina, because she did bring her to Paris. When the sex video drops she must confront Delphina and find a way to see she gets help. She also must stand up for herself with the head of her agency, clients, the press, and the public.
PRIMARY Erin falls in love with Gilles, her photographer, during their intense learning sessions and photo shoots. She pursues him despite the risk to their careers, but he resists.
SECONDARY When it comes time to be sexual, Erin is self conscious of her inexperience. She will need to overcome her lack of confidence and let herself go.
SECONDARY Gilles has risked his successful music career to pursue fashion photography. He carries a wound from his father, who was critical of him his entire life and disapproving of his creative pursuits. He was in love with Anna, another model six years before, who he thought could help him reach his ultimate career goals in fashion. He follows the rules, refusing to pursue her in a love relationship, and she dies at the hands of another man.
PRIMARY When Gilles falls in love with Erin, he is torn between his desire to love and protect her and his career aspirations. If they are caught having a sexual relationship, he will be blackballed. He must find a way to achieve what he wants even as he breaks the rules.
PRIMARY Delphina feels Erin doesn’t deserve her place in the limelight in HER city and will do what it takes to bring her down.
SECONDARY Delphina never seems to get what she wants in life, despite having every advantage. She and her mother are obsessed with her landing an aristocratic husband, and she wants a glamorous career as an Instagram star. Delphina struggles with a lingering brain injury and Borderline Personality Disorder, which she exacerbates with drug use. She brings Erin to Paris and helps her with her look, only to be insanely jealous when Erin shoots to the top of the modeling world. Delphina is crippled by her mother, who seems unconsciously invested in keeping her unwell. Vivienne can buy the best psychologists, but what she can’t do is talk to her daughter. Delphina schemes and rages to get revenge on anyone she deems to have taken something she should have had, but sadly can’t articulate what she really needs, real attention from her mother.
All three major characters suffer from fractured relationships with a parent, but only Gilles gets resolution.
The novel is set mostly in contemporary Paris and gives the reader the opportunity to experience the glamorous fashion shows, cafes, artistic neighborhoods, nightclubs, glorious homes, as well as the snow spun beauty of the French Alps. We feel Paris in all of its seasons and often the weather reflects the mood. Erin arrives in Spring like a tender shoot, full of hope, and is blazing in her career and her love affair by summer. The autumn brings doubt as Delphina has wrought havoc and Erin is intimidated by one of Gilles’ former lovers, and the winter season sees mourning as Gilles and Erin come to terms with the death of his former protegee.
Notable character driven scene settings:
Waffle House - Erin works the night shift in a dead end job but at least everyone fits in there. Big windows, bikers, jukebox.
Erin’s Lancaster duplex: inherited, abuts an Amish farm, the air smelling like cow manure. Her bedroom is decorated with all things Paris (little Eiffel Towers, books).
Erin’s Montmarte apartment - modest furnishings with a chef’s kitchen. Has a view of the Paris skyline and the dome of the Sacré Cour. Stinks like paint because an artist lives just below.
Delphina’s house- 1st arrondissement, living room outfitted like Dior’s first atelier. Bedroom stuffed with designer clothes, cosmetics clutter the dresser.
Gilles Paris sophisticated apartment and studio- bar in the corner stocked with Japanese whiskey, expensive leather sofa, Helmut Newton black & white fashion photos on the walls, guitar in the corner. His studio is stark white with a small sitting area and a screen for changing clothes.
Gwendolyn LeMarc’s modeling agency FML- White walls, modern furnishings in blue & chrome, Vogue covers line the walls.
The courthouse for Delphina’s competency hearing- the windows haven’t been washed, the furniture is old, and the carpets need cleaning, signifying the court itself may not be competent.