To borrow from a previous review:
The Chocolate Heart is book five in Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. The conceit of each novel is that an American woman is thrown into close proximity with a French chocolatier/pastry god. They fall in love quickly, get busy, and are engaged in short order. Florand provides consistently enjoyable escapism with romantic locations. The Chocolate Heart is not best of the series, that’s The Chocolate Touch, but The Chocolate Heart was certainly an absorbing and mostly entertaining read.
Summer Corey has been told all her life that she is spoiled and ungrateful. Her parents see her as property to be picked up and dropped as they see fit. The latest gambit in their cycle of attention and neglect is to give her a 4 star hotel in Paris as a Christmas gift. Their goal is to lure her back from the South Pacific island where she has been living and working as a teacher in blissful self-imposed exile. Summer must stay in Paris for three months to gain another expensive gift that she actually wants, a communications satellite something-or-other, for the island residents. She hates Paris, the hotel business, and dessert.
Luc Leroi is the charming perfectionist, and practically perfect in every way, head pastry chef at the hotel Summer has been given. He is driven and has worked relentlessly to reach the top of his profession and stay there. He’s only 30, but since he started when he was 10, it seems reasonable. He is always gorgeous and most of the time he manages to be charming, but Summer completely flummoxes him.
The Chocolate Heart has the most challenging of any of the American woman/French culinary deity combinations in these books. Summer is sympathetic, but not always likeable, and Luc is a victim of his own self-restraint. They are two wounded people hiding behind false fronts and suffering from painful miscommunication. Elements that had been successful in the preceding books reached an intensity that left me uncomfortable. Luc is so busy being in control that he becomes almost clinical and Summer is so vulnerable that it feels like she is being used. It’s not romantic, so much as really unhealthy. Florand seems to realise this, too, as the book has a lengthy “several years later” epilogue to let the reader know that Luc and Summer are in a better, healthier place.
I do not recommend The Chocolate Heart, except maybe to visit favourite characters from other books in the group. This is the complete series for those who want to know 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 very good fairy tale that made me forgive the metaphor. (2)
- The Chocolate Rose – Excellent passion, it needed just a little 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 good, but still very readable. (4)
A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.