Tag Archives: La Vie en Roses

La Vie en Roses: A Kiss in Lavender by Laura Florand

Short Version: I liked Laura Florand’s A Kiss in Lavender, though it felt more serious than other books in the La Vie en Roses series. The love story was heartfelt, the happy ending earned, and it had a substantial, forthright hero and a deeply vulnerable, but assertive heroine with the heart of a lion. I’ve read it twice now and while it’s not as swoony as some Florand, it has a kind of grounded solidity that I appreciate.

Long Version Including Discussion of a Book in a Different Laura Florand Series:

Before going on a well-earned sabbatical, Laura Florand had three book series running concurrently: L’Amour et Chocolat, La Vie en Roses, and Paris Nights. As with any writer, I preferred some books over others, but A Kiss in Lavender is the first Florand in which I felt she managed to resolve character issues from a previous work. Not for the original characters themselves, but for similar ones.

From my review of The Chocolate Heart:

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.

In A Kiss in Lavender, Lucien Rosier is visiting his family for the first time after a 15 year self-imposed exile. He joined the French Foreign Legion after learning something that challenged his entire sense of self. Assuming a true nom de guerre, he disappeared and built a new life for himself of which he is justifiably proud.

When Lucien’s Tante Colette hired Elena Lyon to track Lucien and assorted other scattered family members down and bring them into the Rosier fold, there’s a good chance she knew or hoped sparks would fly. Without a functional family of her own, Elena has resolute strength, but a tenderness where relationships are concerned. She has learned the hard way what happens when the adults meant to protect you fail to do so and the lasting impact it can have on your life. The results of all-too-human caregivers are a frequent theme in Florand’s books, and I find that in contemporary romance especially, building a new family is a recurrent motif.

But back to Luc and Summer:  I have recently reread The Chocolate Heart and Shadowed Heart to cope with Florand’s publishing absence. The author seems to both have a soft spot for their broken, loving persistence, and for the characters themselves. She wrote them a book, a novella, and a bonus story. Luc and Summer were genuinely messed up people and neither of them had any business being in a relationship, especially since their personal demons were guaranteed to cause each other maximum stress. In contrast, Elena and Lucien clash, but learn and grow into each other to move forward as a unit which is pretty much the essence of a romance novel.

In A Kiss in Lavender, it’s like Florand has written Lucien and Elena as the psychologically healthier version of Luc and Summer. Lucien, like Luc, is very much in control of himself, but in this case, it’s a quality that nurtures his partner. He is proving his trustworthiness and reliability. When Elena is vulnerable and shuts down, she does so by drawing on inner strength rather than lashing out as Summer does.No longer painfully miscommunicating characters finding moments of bliss between rounds of angst, this alternate story has two people falling in love and persisting, then insisting on working towards shared happiness. None of the four are exactly happy-go-lucky, even in their insistent pair bonds, but at least Lucien and Elena seem like they are united in working towards a stable future.

La Vie en Roses Series:

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La Vie en Roses: A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand

I miss Laura Florand! She’s been taking a well-earned break from a prodigious output of swoon-inducing and charming contemporary romances set in the worlds of pastry, chocolate, and perfumery. Her great gift as a romance writer is in creating the heady intensity of small romantic moments, as well as portraying elements of sexual tension and anticipation. Creating characters, she excels at people who balance each other out, often providing a security or grounding that one of them has lacked.  I’m hoping Florand will return with her final book in the La Vie en Roses series, but I am rereading and reviewing some of her other works in the meantime.

A Crown of Bitter Orange

Tristan Rosier and Malorie Monsard have known each other their whole lives. They both come from old Provencal families devoted to the perfume trade, but while Tristan is grounded by his history, Malorie is torn at by hers.

Living in the same place for centuries means the sins of ones forebearers are sometimes carried by descendants. With scurrilous family members having acted shamefully during World War II and, admittedly, more recently, the marks born by Malorie caused her to leave home immediately upon finishing high school. After the death of her grandmother, she’s back to either finally shutter her family’s landmark company or settle in Grasse permanently.

All of this means nothing to Tristan Rosier. Well, not nothing, he wants to see the Monsard business restored to its former glory, but he doesn’t care about the negative aspects of her family, what he really wants, what he has always wanted, is Malorie. After being seated together to help keep him and his bouncy distractedness in line at school, he was quietly and awkwardly devoted to her for years. Not that she noticed. Malorie liked him well enough, but considered him a bit of a charming pest and was oblivious to anything more because, well, Tristan is lovely to everyone.

Beloved by his protective clan, nurtured in the family trade, and aided by his own hard work, Tristan’s challenges have always been managed. Hard work has brought him incredible success as a “Perfume Nose” for their perfume dynasty. His only major professional setback was when Malorie, in her role as a firm accountant (pun intended) suggested less expensive substitutes for the ingredients in a perfume Tristan created.

With all of that set up in place, the story begins and moves, as Florand often does, very quickly to a romantic alliance full of joy and delightful vignettes with an assortment of family members.  A Crown of Bitter Orange was never less than enjoyable and Tristan continues to be amiable and appealing, as he was in the other series books, but the story never really grabbed me. I liked and understood Malorie, but her relationship with Tristandjust kind of moved along nicely and reached its anticipated and sought out conclusion.

La Vie en Roses Series:
Turning Up the Heat (Daniel/Lea) – prequel novella
A Rose in Winter (Raoul/Allegra) – prequel novella –  Florand can and has done better
The Chocolate Rose (Gabriel/Jolie) – prequel novel I *really* like
Once Upon a Rose (Matt/Layla)  – fun, great light escapism
A Wish Upon Jasmine (Damien/Jess) – not her strongest, it had a lot of promise
A Crown of Bitter Orange (Tristan/Malorie) – not memorable, he’s charming, see above
A Kiss in Lavender (Lucien/Elena) – good, recommended

Laura Florand’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works — of which I recommend many. I adore her particular brand of romance. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

La Vie en Roses Series: A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

This second book in Laura Florand’s La Vie en Roses contemporary romance series was not my favourite, but that in no way changes the fact that I will continue to buy everything she publishes, nor my strong recommendations for her novels. If nothing else, A Wish Upon Jasmine made me go and re-read a large portion of the preceding book Once Upon a Rose and that made me all smiley.

Damien Rosier, “the mean one”, is the glue that holds his family’s perfume business together. Working in the south of France among the rose, lavender, and jasmine fields, it falls to Damien to take care of the money that finances his family’s dreams. A blade of a man, he has a soft heart and a hard shell which rarely cracks, but six months ago it was shattered. Meeting, consummating their mutual attraction, and falling more than a little bit in love during an unintentional one night stand, the woman who snuck away comes back into his life when she receives a piece of his family history (a local perfume shop) as an inheritance. Damien’s Tante Colette has been doing this frequently of late and her gifts propel the action of the series.

Jasmin Bianchi, a top perfumer, may have had the Rosier shop fall into her lap, but it is exactly what she needs professionally and personally. She had an extremely tough year and although there was one possible bright spot, her intense night of emotional connection with Damien (which is not shared in enough detail before they jump to the more adventurous coitus), she panicked and fled. Essentially A Wish Upon Jasmine starts with The Big Misunderstanding that usually takes place much later in (hackneyed) romances and while I really liked the trope twist, the rest of novel didn’t work as well for me. Damien did everything short of setting himself on fire to make his intentions clear and she took forever to get it. Jasmin’s insistent obtuseness got very frustrating.

You can’t win them all and even with some bumps in A Wish Upon Jasmine, Laura Florand is still one of the best writers of contemporary romance publishing today. She is particularly good at portraying the intensity of emotional and sexual attraction, and I never get tired of her emotionally vulnerable heroes. Combined with the uber-romantic settings in Paris and the south of France, it’s a winning combination almost every time.

Addendum December 2015: After, presumably,  reading my mind and those of my fellow readers, Florand added a bonus prequel called Night Wish to the story that describes Damien and Jasmin’s first night together before the events of the novel unfold. It was wonderful and had that deliciously romantic tone that Florand excels at. If it had been included in the longer book, A Wish Upon Jasmine would have been a more successful novel.

Laura Florand’s Catalogue summarizes all of her books and happens to include one of my favourite romances off all time: The Chocolate Touch.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

Paris Nights Series: All for You by Laura Florand

Five years ago, Joss Castel* left Celie and everything he knew behind to join the French Foreign Legion. He wanted to be more for her, better, to lay the foundation of a life together outside the tenements they had grown up in. The only problem is that he did not tell Celie any of this. Joss held himself in a self-made friends-only space until they could start their a life in a new place. He was her closest friend and the person she adored. All Celie knew was that the man she loved abandoned her and didn’t come back for five years. In his quest to be more for Celie, Joss broke her heart. Now 28 years old to Celie’s 23, he’s back to lay his accomplishments at her feet. She still loves him, but that feeling is constantly at war with her need to brain Joss for his surprise departure and sudden return.

All for You showcases once again Laura Florand’s ability to write enjoyable, thoroughly escapist contemporary romance. While her books often feature down-to-earth billionaires, a trope I am not fond of (but which Florand manages to pull off), this outing has two people from the wrong side of the tracks who are determined to build better lives for themselves. Celie took a teenage apprenticeship with a local baker and through her hard work and desire to excel now works for one of Paris’s premiere chocolatiers. It’s into this shop that Joss bursts back into her life. Celie is overwhelmed and angry, but so happy to see him she doesn’t know what to do with herself.

Joss and Celie’s reunion and the timeline of the book is actually quite condensed. From beloved, to “Idiot”!,  back to beloved takes place over a short period, but includes enough flashbacks for context and some excellent, writhing, repressed smolder to keep things moving along. A might fortress is our Joss, so it’s a one-step-forward-two-steps-back romance until everyone comes to their senses and he learns that Celie wants the journey with him more than she wants the destination. Florand is generally very good with couples experiencing communication problems and, while it frustrated me and went on a bit, Joss really is a prisoner of his own reserve, Legion-trained stoicism, and good intentions. Despite this, while he may be a military man to his core now, he is free of the annoying romance writer’s crutch of PTSD.

Blissfully, my favourite couple from Florand’s L’Amour et Chocolat series novel, The Chocolate Touch, are on hand to provide guidance to the couple and doses of their own adorability. Still madly in love, Dom continues to be a giant lug and much fun is had teasing him for referring to Jaime as his “wife” despite lacking the official and legally binding piece of paper indicating this. Incorporating previous characters without letting them dominate is a challenge that many romance writers face and Florand does well with it. I wanted more of Dom and Jaime, of course, but then I always will.

All For You crosses over with the L’Amour et Chocolat series and will be crossing over with the La Vie en Roses series as well.

*Fun Aside: Josselin Castle

A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue, including recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

La Vie en Roses Series: A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand

As mentioned in my other reviews of her books, Laura Florand builds on fairy tales in her works and this one was no exception. Sometimes, I can’t quite tell which story she is referencing, and truth be told it doesn’t matter, but in this case it was Little Red Riding Hood. I know because it is quite explicit and Florand didn’t manage to tone it down as much as she did in other stories. At some point, I am going to have to make a list of what the allusions are, but I think I’ll need to brush up on my mythology first.

The first novella in Florand’s La Vie en Roses series, the reader is introduced to all the heroes yet to come and to the first match among them – Raoul and Allegra. He is the ex-pat son, recently returned to Provence from running the family business in Africa and she is a PhD student in immigration patterns studying the effects of local industry (perfume) on populations. She picks up vulpine Raoul in a bar and, wrapped in her red cloak, brings him to her home where she tells him that she doesn’t want to feel safe. After a toe-curling night together, the morning after falls apart and the two have to fight through their misconceptions to start a proper relationship.

You would think that the fantasy is that a one night stand will turn into a long-term relationship, but that is always possible, to me the true wish-fulfillment element of the book is that taking home a stranger twice as large and stronger than you could be something safe to do. However, everyone takes stupid risks in life and they can pay off just as this one does for Raoul and Allegra.

A Rose in Winter quite simply isn’t up to the same writing standard as the other Florand books I have read, even the one I didn’t like. I read it for free and back list completion purposes, but she has other, better books that I recommend highly for satisfying escapism. A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue can be found here.

Romance novelist godhead Kathleen Woodiwiss also has a book called A Rose in Winter which for many years contained my favourite hero. I suspect there are other similarly titled books between that and this one, perhaps I should make a study.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

La Vie en Roses Series: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Welcome to my autobuy list, Laura Florand. With her newest contemporary romance, she has guaranteed that I will be making ready and willing contributions to her income for the foreseeable future, pages and reviews unseen. In the first novel in her new series, La Vie en Roses, Florand has again mixed lovely escapism with sincere romance and, for the first time, a wonderful dose of humour. Her books were not previously morose, but this one has a conviviality that just adds to the fun, Once Upon a Rose is a delightful and charming read.

Matt Rosiers is one of 5 cousins who are the owners and caretakers of the family business (more potential heroes, yay!) Growing roses for oil extraction into perfume, you can just imagine how lovely the setting must be. Matt’s valley in Provence, he is very definite about it being his, has been in the family for 400 years, so he is a more than a little taken aback when his elderly aunt gives a house and a small piece of the family land to Layla, some kind of distant family connection he was hitherto unaware of. Big, growly, vulnerable Matt gets wrapped around Layla’s little finger, and she his, in very short order. It’s what Florand does best, or I like best, one of those two, maybe both, she writes fantastic protectors is the heart of the matter, and Matt is no exception.

Layla, sweet and open-hearted, is a singer-songwriter transitioning from the success of her first CD to the pressures of matching the accomplishment with her second. Emotionally spent, she has decided to check out the house that has been left to her for reasons she can’t understand, but things go awry when her car breaks down in the hills of Provence. Stranded, she wanders through rose fields to the nearest house to find Matt’s thirtieth birthday party in full swing. Far from sober, Matt decides Layla must be his girlfriend and enthusiastically welcomes her to the fete. Despite this inauspicious beginning, and an embarrassing one for Matt, he and Layla follow the pattern of all of Florand’s protagonists, falling hard and fast with plenty of romance and smolder to keep readers happy.

Once Upon a Rose lived up to the fairy tale enchantment of the title and Florand’s allusive characters, but is not treacly or precious, and a fun way to avoid reality for several hours. She is a very deft writer and I am always amazed by authors who have so clearly found their groove, especially when it fits so neatly in to my reading niche. The settings are so romantic, they are real places, but with an unreality that takes the reader away from its own practicalities (Matt is running a farm after all, no matter how glamourous its harvest) and lets readers be a tourist in a North American’s idealized version of France without annoying the locals.

The Vie en Roses series already includes a book and a novella, the former of which crosses over with Florand’s L’Amour et Chocolat series. A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

L’Amour et Chocolat Series: Shadowed Heart by Laura Florand

Shadowed Heart is a follow up to Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Heart which is in itself the fifth book in the L’Amour et Chocolate contemporary romance series set in France. You could read this as a standalone novella, but I don’t really see the point as the purpose of this book is to check in on characters and have visits with the protagonists of the other books in the series. Without everyone’s backgrounds, not a lot is going to make sense.

Luc Leroi and Summer Corey have been married for a short time and they realise they have rushed in where angels fear to tread. Quickly espoused, they decide to have a child despite a. knowing each other less than a year, b. each having personal issues that seriously hinder communication and c. having recently moved to an entirely new location so that Luc can immerse himself in starting a new restaurant. Luc is frantically trying to use what he sees all he has to offer – his skill as a patissier – to secure his future with Summer and she, in turn, is desperately trying to mask her loneliness and isolation. They still need to do a lot of work on themselves and their relationship, and this book reinforced that notion.

I didn’t really care about seeing Luc and Summer again. Their story, The Chocolate Heart, was the weakest and my least favourite of the series. They are both damaged – which is fine – but I didn’t particularly like either one of them. She is profoundly vulnerable and he is a control freak. I bought Shadowed Heart for the visits with everyone else from the stories and it did not disappoint. I must tell you though that the most exciting part of the book was the excerpt of Florand’s upcoming book, Once a Hero, which promises more time with my favourite couple, Dom and Jaime of The Chocolate Touch.

A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.