Tag Archives: L’Amour et Chocolat

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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L’Amour et Chocolate Series: Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand

While it can be read as a standalone novella, Sun-Kissed was, for me at any rate, purchased so I could visit again with my favourite characters from Florand’s fantastic L’Amour et Chocolat series. Each featuring a world-renowned chocolatier/patissier and an American woman, the collection includes one of my favourite romances off all time: The Chocolate Touch. As the pretext for Sun-Kissed is the wedding of that novel’s couple – Dom and Jaime – and I really wanted to read more Florand, I surrendered and launched my money at Amazon while waiting for her to publish her next book.

Mack Corey, father to Jaime and The Chocolate Thief’s Cade, is the president of a large chocolate corporation *cough*Hershey*cough* and hosting his younger daughter’s wedding to Dom Richard at the family’s Hampton estate. His neighbour and frequent social companion, Anne Winter, is a lifestyle maven *cough*Martha Stewart meets Anna Wintour*cough* shepherding the festivities and terrifying the staff. Friends since before his wife passed away, Anne and Mack’s relationship is the subject of speculation amongst their guests, but they have not been romantically entwined despite their close bond. At least not until now when Mack decides to makes his move.

Anne is divorced with one grown son and, here’s the Martha Stewart-y bit, spent time in jail for insider trading. Guarded and intense, fear of her own emotions is what stops her from agreeing with the rightness of Mack’s suggestion that they become more to each other. The two court and spark through the wedding celebration and follow-up events before moving on to their together ever after and becoming an official team.

I’ve read a few romances with older protagonists, such as Mary Balogh’s lovely Only Beloved and Juliana Gray’s The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match which features an actual geezer, and since love is love, there is something very sweet about people who have been through life’s wringer and find a quiet, heartfelt, and passionate bond.

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.

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I don’t know who this is supposed to be. Anne is about fifty.

 

Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

HISTORICAL Romance

  1. Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess  – enjoyable
  2. Dare, Tessa The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright  – fantastic
  3. Dare, Tessa Beauty and the Blacksmith – fun, bring your willing suspension of disbelief
  4. Duran, Meredith Your Wicked Heart  – such fun
  5. Grant, Cecilia A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong – very good
  6. Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess – nice version of a common trope
  7. Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter CLASSIC as a novella and of the genre

CONTEMPORARY Romance

  1. Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date CLASSIC new adult, a perfect novella
  2. Richland, Anna His Road Home – contemporary, wounded soldier coming home

PARANORMAL Romance  – Not my cup of tea, but it could help you determine if it is yours.

  1. Cole, Kresley The Warlord Wants Foreverplenty of THUNDER SEX™!

I also have a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list: So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance.

Links to my 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.

L’Amour et Chocolat Series: All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand

Falling first in her L’Amour et Chocolat Series, this novella was breezy, romantic, and had some excellent smolder. I’m not sure which fairy tale All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate is supposed to be or if, indeed, all of Laura Florand’s works have allusive story lines, but I don’t care, although I kind of do, so I’m going see if I can figure it out. BRB. [muzak intermission]

After a year of planning, Ellie has just moved herself and her art blog to Paris to live her dream of working in The City of Light. Caught trying to take surreptitious photos of Simon Casset’s display window by the chocolatier himself, Ellie makes a quick decision to tell him that she is planning to get married and looking for someone to make a showpiece for her wedding reception. Simon sees through the lie immediately, but given his instant fascination with her, decides to play along. Ellie’s poor imaginary fiance suffers a moped accident en route to their wedding consultation with Simon. Things proceed apace for Ellie and Simon with only the barrier of Ellie’s much-needed confession standing between them and happily ever after.

The condensed timeline matched with the novella length makes for a very tight story. It’s all about the romance and falling in love at first sight. It was a swoony, pleasantly escapist, and enjoyable read. Published in a novella package, it is not available as a standalone book. I was able to borrow it for free on KindleUnlimited and will mourn its loss when I end my free trial and have to return it.

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.

Laura Florand’s Catalogue

Themes: Sincere love gives you the courage and freedom to embrace your true self and someone else’s.

EXCLUSIVELY CONTEMPORARY ROMANCES

L’Amour et Chocolat Series:
All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate – prequel novella, great steam, quick, fun read
The Chocolate Thief – Pretty good, it took me from 99 cents on Kindle to the complete series.
The Chocolate Kiss – A great fairy tale that made me forgive the metaphor.
The Chocolate Rose – Excellent passion, needed just a hint more love story. Very good.
The Chocolate TouchOne of my top 5 of all time, really sweet and intense. LOVE IT.
The Chocolate Heart – The weakest of the group.
The Chocolate Temptation – Steamy, not quite as great, but still enjoyable.
Shadowed Heart – novella follow-up to The Chocolate Heart, meh, but features visits with EVERYONE

Snow-Kissed – Somber novella of a couple finding their way back to each other after loss
Sun Kissed – novella – Main characters in their 50s, which is nice, but I read it for visits with everyone else.

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

Paris Nights Series:
All for You (Joss/Celie) – Florand in fine form PLUS Dom and Jaime appear
Chase Me (Chase/Violette) – enjoyable, fantastic banter
Trust Me (Jake/Lina) – Good, not great

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.