I LOVE this series. Laura Florand does not go wrong mixing dessert, France, and love stories. She has an excellent conceit and uses it to maximum advantage in this intersecting contemporary romance series. As in life, almost everything comes back to chocolate, except the sex, that’s fairly frequently about oblique vanilla kink, and, truthfully, once or twice about chocolate, too.
Plot Summary (All): American woman meets French food god. Instant attraction. Conflict. Delicious food. Hot sex. Lifetime commitment about three weeks later.
The complete series with (order of preference):
- The Chocolate Thief – Pretty good, it took me from 99 cents on Kindle to the complete series. (5)
- The Chocolate Kiss – A great fairy tale that made me forgive the metaphor. (2)
- The Chocolate Rose – Excellent passion, it needed just a hint more love story. (3)
- The Chocolate Touch – My favourite of the group, it was really sweet and intense. (1)
- The Chocolate Heart – The weakest of the group. (6)
- The Chocolate Temptation – Steamy, not quite as great, but still very good and enjoyable. (4)
Each of the heroes are artists in their chosen medium which, fortunately for the reader, are food related. As professional chefs, they are artists, intelligent, driven, and self-disciplined. The heroes were also a little more insecure than is usual in a romance. They carry themselves with bravado, but Florand lets the reader see their vulnerability. Is it because they’re French that they are allowed to be masculine and sensitive as well? I’m not sure, but I really liked it.
The Chocolate Thief (Sylvain and Cade) – The Poet
Sylvain is the world’s best chocolatier. Cade
Hershey Corey runs her family’s multi-billion dollar chocolate corporation and wants Sylvain to create an upscale product for them to market to the masses. Sylvain is horrified. I’m with him. The last thing the world needs is more bad chocolate hiding behind packaging and a shiny temper. Cade doesn’t succeed with her marketing idea, but she does land Sylvain. The poet of this group of men, he is a pure artist satisfied only with the very best.
The Chocolate Kiss (Phillippe and Magalie) – The Prince
A blatant take on Rapunzel complete with a golden-haired prince and a woman in a tower of her own experience and making. Will Magalie decide to come down? Can Philippe come up? There was a quasi-magic realism subplot involving wishes and hot chocolate that I found cloying and disruptive, but the love story still managed to sneak up on me and pack a wallop. It was so charming, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read any more of the books afterward.
The Chocolate Rose (Gabriel and Jolie) – The Beast
The two middle novels of the series feature fairy tale references in their structure. I’m not sure if the other two I’ve read do also and I just need to brush up on my Andersen and Grimm, or if Florand dropped the allusion. This Beauty and the Beast tale moves the story out of Paris and overlaps with another Florand series called Vie en Roses. That’s some savvy marketing, that is.
Gabriel is a patissier who runs a three star restaurant in a small town in Provence. He is passionate and has trouble not grabbing for what he wants. In this case, that means Jolie. Her father and Gabriel have a contentious history providing the maguffin to bring the leads into each other’s orbit. The energy of Gabriel and Jolie’s connection was enjoyable and he was adorably intense, but I had a hard time figuring out when they had fallen in love rather than lust. I’m not picky, a “they talked for hours” or variant thereof would have been sufficient to improve the story.
The Chocolate Touch (Dominique and Jaime) – The Warrior
I love a big lug. Dominique is a giant lug, plus a chocolatier-patissier and a maverick in his field. He worked his way up from violence and squalor, but still has qualms about his roughness and the brutality in his past. He has potential for acting out that he keeps reined at all times. He is not afraid of what he is, but what he might become and of how it will affect those around him. In a miracle of contemporary logic, he has received psychological help for his issues. Alleluia!
Hershey Corey chocolate heiress Jaime is convalescing after being severely beaten while undertaking aid work in the Third World. She is a remarkable, striving woman who nonetheless lacks confidence due to her privileged upbringing and the aftermath of the assault. She and Dominique are magnetically attracted to each other, even though neither can understand what the other person sees in them. He’s a kind of rock star, she considers herself ordinary. These two had the most issues and the most intense instant connection of the four books. It made a kind of sense for what each had been through and I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance in which the hero’s frailties were so thoroughly examined. They fall in love too fast, but not because it’s a novel, but because falling in love too fast is what people this damaged, and damaged in this way, often do. Dominique and Jaime seek refuge in each other, but in a healthy way.
A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.