I’ve decided to finish my 2015 Romance Novel, Grand Hotel Koe. This is a story that I thought about for a long time before I decided to join NaNoWriMo for the first time ever in 2015. I won NaNoWriMo that year, but because I had to stop writing to focus on college, I never finished it. I have a few chapters left to write, even though everything was already outlined, and I’ve tried to make myself finish it a few times, but I’ve decided after my horrible NaNo2016 story that I NEED to finish this one NOW!
So! In order to get myself back into the swing, I decided to post the first chapter here! Now, bear in mind, I haven’t so much as proofread this, so this is a crazy rough draft, haha. But I just wanted to put it somewhere that people can see it so that maybe that motivates me to get off my butt and FINISH IT!
Here’s a synopsis, and the actual chapter will be below a read-more for you guys. Hopefully it doesn’t entirely suck, but I haven’t read it since I wrote it over a year ago, so this will be a first read for me, too!
Grand Hotel Koe by J. Chelsea Williford
In 1912, Jonathan Carver, the son of wealthy hotel magnate and millionaire Lionel Carver, lives a happy life as the manager of Grand Hotel Koe, one of his father’s multiple hotels, on the shores of Lake Sonders at the base of Mount Koe in the Adirondack mountains, far away from the society of Manhattan. Every day, the highlight of Jonathan’s morning is the trip into the small town of Sondersville, where he and the head chef of the hotel pick up the day’s fresh produce. It is an excuse to escape the hotel business for a short while, but more importantly, the morning produce run is the only excuse Jonathan has to see the object of his affections, Amelia, the daughter of a poor farmer who has stolen Jonathan’s heart.
However, when his father dies suddenly, Mildred Carver, Jonathan’s mother, calls him away from his happy, peaceful life in the hills back to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan high society. Set to inherit his father’s entire estate, Jonathan is urged both by his mother and most of the socialites in the city to marry well and marry quickly to secure the future of the family wealth.
Will Jonathan choose to carry out his duty to his family, or will he follow his heart and return to the woman he loves and the life he enjoys at the Grand Hotel Koe?
Nestled at the base of a mountain, on the banks of a lake, miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Grand Hotel Koe was a vision of luxury for the wealthy traveler. Standing four stories tall, painted a light yellow, and topped with a red roof and white trim, the massive structure was visible for miles, a beacon of modernity hidden in the Adirondacks far from the lives its visitors sought to escape for the duration of their stay.
The Grand Hotel Koe boasted forty-two rooms, six suites, and three specialty suites often reserved by visiting celebrities who wished to entertain in their own private space, not the public areas of the hotel. The hotel employed twenty maids, ten butlers, seven bellhops, a whole team of groundskeepers to tend to the vast grounds, and the best kitchen staff in the state, or so the management would say. To say the hotel was a successful destination resort for all seasons would be an understatement.
Jonathan Carver looked out across the lake on his way out onto the veranda, and all he could think about was something his father told him before he left the city: there was nothing more beautiful in the entire state of New York than the majesty of nature stretching beyond the banks of Lake Sonders. The hills rolling across the horizon, a sea of never-ending green in the summer sun, kissed the bluest sky Jonathan could ever remember seeing in all his life. After growing up in the heart of Manhattan, Jonathan counted every single day he was allowed to walk outside to the clear, crisp mountain air and the beauty of the forested hills reflected in the mirror-like lake surface as a blessing.
When Jonathan was twenty-six, after being away at university in Europe for several years, his father gave him the pick of his seven hotels to move to and become the hotel manager. After a whole life living amongst hordes of boys in his schools and the oppressive crowds of Manhattan, rather than pick one of the beachside resorts or city hotels, Jonathan immediately asked for the mountain getaway that had great renown as a quiet, private getaway for the wealthy, which was exactly what he wanted to experience. Quiet and calm. Five years later, Jonathan had yet to regret his decision for a single moment. His job had its demands, surely, but for the most part, he finally had the quiet, simple life he had always wanted.
“Mr. Carver?” Jonathan turned and saw Ms. Barnes approaching. She bowed her head. “Sorry to intrude, Sir, but Madame Trudeau is insisting she speak to the manager about the state of her breakfast,” she said, and Jonathan sighed, giving her a knowing smile.
“Don’t worry, Ms. Barnes. We all know what Madame Trudeau is like.” He put a hand on her shoulder to guide her back inside, falling into step with her. “Hurry along and clean up whatever she knocked over and let me deal with this,” he suggested and she nodded.
“Yes, Sir, thank you, Sir,” she said gratefully, relief shining in her eyes as she hurried away, soles clicking on the polished floors just inside the French doors to the Veranda as they went their separate ways.
Madame Trudeau was a wealthy widow who came every summer to stay in one of the suites for the season. She was an older woman who, to Jonathan’s knowledge, was not actually French at all, neither had her late husband been French in spite of his surname, but she introduced herself as Madame and what a guest wanted to be called, the staff of Grand Hotel Koe was glad to call them. Madame Trudeau was very demanding, very particular, and very prepared to express her displeasure in the most undignified manner. It was not at all uncommon for her to be unhappy with a meal brought up to her room and proceed to tip the dishes over onto the floor, the cart, and even the maids who served her on occasion. Each time, she demanded Jonathan take her complaint personally, and he gladly did so, and he learned very early on that there was nothing truly wrong with her meals. He never fired the maids she demanded be released. He simply had them assigned to a different guest for the remainder of Madame Trudeau’s stay at the hotel.
When Jonathan found Madame Trudeau waiting for him at the circular front desk in the lobby, he fixed a smile upon his face that he had practiced long and hard to perfect. He knew he was a handsome man, blessed with height and dark features just like his father’s, but he had always struggled as a boy to appear pleasant when he had no genuine desire to smile. After a few years of practice in Manhattan society and his various schools, however, he knew well enough how to fool Madame Trudeau into believing he was happier to see her than anyone else in the world as he approached her. “Madame Trudeau, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting,” he apologized profusely as he neared her.
She turned and gave a great sigh, dramatic as per usual, and shook her head. “Mr. Carver, I fear you have yet again employed an imbecile,” she began, and he forced a concerned look to overpower the amusement he felt deep inside.
“Oh? Whatever has happened now?” he asked.
Madame Trudeau shook her head, tutting as she fanned herself with a silk glove covered hand. “That horrible girl brought me over-ripe berries, cold tea, and butter that had been sitting out for far too long. I know it could not have been your kitchen staff, heaven knows they are respectable enough,” she clarified, as if Jonathan was unable to follow her. “It was another of those girls, I tell you.” She wagged a finger at him. “You have to watch these farmers’ daughters, you know. They know nothing of proper dining. It’s a wonder they know which spoon goes with what dish.” The face she made reminded him of someone who had just come upon the kitchen’s refuse pile at the end of the day. “I must demand that you find a proper young lady to tend my needs, and quickly. I know it is not your fault, my dear, but it is just unacceptable to have such a deplorable child tending to me.”
Jonathan raised a hand to his breast, bowing his head. “Madame Trudeau, I personally and humbly apologize for Ms. Barnes’s mistakes. I promise you that my staff are all very well trained and highly instructed. However, I will most definitely assign you a new maid and I will have Chef Moreau fix you something very special for brunch instead. And to steady your fears for the rest of the day’s meals, I am going to personally make the trip into town to get the very best produce in just a short while, so rest assured that dinner will be the very best Chef Moreau can offer.” He gestured to the doors he had come from. “Now please, go relax outside, enjoy some fresh air, and I will bring you your brunch myself,” he promised.
Madame Trudeau gave him a smile, offering him her hand. “You’re a good boy, Mr. Carver. Such a wonderful young man.”
“Oh you’re too kind, Madame,” he said in parting, waiting for her to turn and start towards the veranda before heading the other way himself. However, before he could get very far, one of the butlers waved to him on his way down the main staircase.
“Mr. Carver! Mr. Carver, I was just coming to get you,” he called, his voice rapid with urgency but lowered to avoid attracting unwanted attention from any of the guests. He strode quickly right up to Jonathan, voice soft. “Sir, Mrs. Harrison is very upset indeed. She has locked herself up in the library, of all places, and refuses to leave. Mr. Harrison is at the door, trying his best to get her to allow him inside or at least unlock the door, but I fear she just won’t have it. I haven’t the slightest idea what he did this time, but she is going to attract attention soon,” he hissed.
Jonathan smiled tightly. “Leave this to me,” he said, diverting from his original course with nothing but a clap to the man’s shoulder before he rushed up the stairs. He was well used to Mr. and Mrs. Harrison and their dramatics. Mr. Harrison and his new wife had arrived for a one month romantic getaway after their marriage and of the three weeks they had been there, a solid week’s worth of time had been spent with the two of them fighting. Jonathan had deduced after the second argument that Mr. Harrison had married his young, pretty bride without probably ever having a conversation with the woman, for she seemed to become upset by everything he said. Jonathan had noticed Mr. Harrison was not the kindest or most intelligent man Jonathan had ever come across, and he truly felt bad for the poor young lady who had, most likely, married him because he was wealthy and a preferred choice of her parents from their social circles.
It was just one of the many reasons Jonathan was glad he had no sisters. He couldn’t bear to see a beloved sister settle for a man who was practically a stranger as her husband simply because their parents found him wealthy enough and without too many scandals. Jonathan knew quite well that, while a young woman could argue against her parent’s wishes for a while, eventually the choices would run thin and it would be ‘the best of the rest of lot’ that was left for her. Mrs. Harrison was a very beautiful young lady, so Jonathan felt pretty sure that, had she turned down Mr. Harrison, there would’ve been plenty of other options, for in the three weeks they had been there, she seemed to genuinely hate the man sometimes.
Jonathan managed to sort out Mrs. Harrison, convincing her to open the door and leave the library to the other guests who might wish to sit and read for the morning. He was pleased to see Mr. Harrison seem genuinely humbled by whatever claims she made against him, so at least Jonathan had hope that maybe their life together would not be entirely horrible once they got to know one another’s temperament well enough to find a comfortable compromise in what they disliked about one another.
Jonathan once again headed for the stairs, hoping to find the head butler before Madame Trudeau decided to run up to her room and find Agatha cleaning up her mess, but before he could make it further than the top step, a little girl came running past, giggling as she ran along the hallway. He opened his mouth to tell her off for running around willy nilly, only to have his eyes widen in alarm when he saw her carrying one of the antique vases from further up the hall. “You there!” he cried, rushing back up the step and running after her. “Miss, stop that!” he hissed, chasing her around a corner, only to have her giggle at him and then duck down the corridor. “Miss, if you do not stop I will find your mother and she will be very upset with you!” he called, and she stopped long enough for him to get a look at her face. He narrowed his eyes dangerously. “You!” he whispered. It was little Annie Sorrel.
Annie Sorrel was the daughter of one of his most prestigious guests. Mr. Sorrel was a cotton merchant who traveled in the summer with his wife and their daughters, and this summer they had chosen Grand Hotel Koe. It was great business, for the family spared no expense on their comfort and entertainments, but Annie Sorrel was quickly becoming the thorn in Jonathan’s side. The curly pigtails and rosy cheeks hid the demoness nature of the child. She constantly ran up and down corridors, disturbing guests and employees alike, and she had broken more than one expensive piece of furniture or decoration. He father paid for it all, of course, but that did not replace the broken items immediately and ordering replacements took ages so far away from the city.
After chasing Annie down and taking back the vase to return to its original place (at least until she once again got her grubby little hands on it), he finally made his way downstairs, hoping Madame Trudeau had not become too cross in his absence. Just in case, he hurried along, crossing the lobby at a brisk walk in hopes no one else could corner him and demand more of his attention before he could get the situation with Madame Trudeau sorted out, lest she demand someone else’s job for the lateness of her replacement meal.
Jonathan found the head butler just inside the staff hallway beside the kitchens and flagged him down. “Thomas,” he called out, catching the attention of the man in question. “Can you find another maid for Madame Trudeau?”
Thomas sighed. “Poor Agatha. She never did anything wrong.”
Jonathan chuckled. “When do any of them ever do anything wrong?” he countered. He shook his head. “I have to go to Frederic now and get him to set up a brunch for her on the veranda to calm her.” He grimaced. “Also have the staff keep an ear out for another fight between the Harrisons – I really do not need to have to intermediate once again to free up one of the public spaces – and do look out for that evil little girl.”
Thomas gave him a strange look. “What little girl?”
Jonathan grumbled. “Annie Sorrel. That little monster was running around with one of the antique vases. Nearly had to fight her for it, and I do not at all doubt she’s aiming to break a record number of expensive items. A few more and she’ll have cost her father more in replacing furnishings as he’s spending on his entire trip,” Jonathan complained.
“Ah guests!” Thomas said with a sigh. “The least likeable part of this whole hotel business, aren’t they?” he teased and Jonathan laughed as he carried on his way. He rounded the corner into the large, open kitchen, full of people hurrying around, clearing up after breakfast and preparing for the next meal. Jonathan felt bad for the poor couple who had to get to work on Madame Trudeau’s brunch on top of their already busy work day.
Jonathan sought out the head chef, Frederic Moreau, in his small office at the back of the kitchen, knocking on the open door before leaning in. “Frederic? I’m afraid I have a special request,” Jonathan said, giving Frederic a sheepish smile as the man in question turned from where he stood, making notes as he gazed out the window, and gave Jonathan an unhappy look.
“Trudeau?” he asked, the name sounding far more French in Frederic’s accent than it did in the American of its owner.
“Trudeau,” Jonathan confirmed. “Poor Agatha Barnes got the brunt of her temper this morning. I fear if Madame Trudeau keeps this up, we’ll run out of maids and then where will we be?” he asked rhetorically.
Frederic sighed, shaking his head. He walked to the doorway, prompting Jonathan to step aside to allow his large frame to fit past. He looked around the kitchen and pointed to two cooks who were cleaning their stations. “You and you. Prepare a dish with some fruit and croissants, whatever fruit is freshest. Have someone in a clean uniform take it out to the old lady on the veranda.”
“Yes, Chef!” one of the cooks said, as the other hurried to the pantry to find the freshest fruit they had.
Frederic turned back, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes as his mustache twitched in his attempt to not smile at how efficient his kitchen was. Jonathan knew how impressed he was with the crew they had managed this season after adding more hands. “Well. Now that that is sorted,” Frederic said with a harrumph. “Let u get out of here before someone else accosts you and we’re unable to make our trip to the market.” He grabbed his jacket and gave Jonathan a knowing look. “Heaven knows how you look forward to market day most of all.”
Jonathan didn’t bother to answer, either to affirm or deny his claim, he simply smiled and gestured to the door. “After you, my friend,” he said politely, falling into step behind Francis as they left the kitchens in hopes no one would catch them on the way out.