Annabelle Essex’s eighteen-year marriage crumbles when she discovers her husband is gay and wants a divorce. Annabelle is gob smacked by this news of her husband’s sexual persuasion. But as she looks back on the past eighteen years, she realizes that there were signs that Blake was gay. Now Blake’s demand for a divorce forces Annabelle to take stock of her own life. After all, without Blake and a son away at college, she is simply stuck in a tiresome marketing job for a retirement home with a boss Annabelle has secretly nicknamed “The Jackal.”
There is one more thing. Annabelle loves art, and she has a talent for painting - although she hasn’t graced the art studio that she rents in her hometown of Orlando in awhile. Annabelle returns to her rented studio after Blake leaves and paints several canvases – one of which is borne out of her sheer frustration and pain over the end of her marriage. The other paintings reflect Annabelle’s typical style of painting flowers; she is a fan of Georgia O’Keefe’s works.
Rita, Annabelle’s sister, helps moves things along in Annabelle’s life by secretly applying on Annabelle’s behalf for a three-month fellowship in Paris, where twelve artists will compete for a $100,000 prize. Annabelle is selected for the fellowship, and she whisks offs to the City of Light on a new adventure. Having always wanted to see Paris (but never having done so due to Blake’s disdain for Europe), Annabelle is exhilarated but also terrified: she is embarking on a totally new course in life.
What Happens In Paris is about Annabelle’s life at a time of forced, painful change and how she makes the most of what she has – her talent for painting, her sister, and her son. The most enjoyable aspects of the novel are Annabelle’s adventures in Paris (which includes a love tryst that will interest romance readers) and how her painting style matures during her fellowship. This book is about the journey, not the destination, and how Annabelle learns to appreciate what she has and not what she has lost.