Tag Archives: love and chocolate

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.

 

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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 – a somber novella about a couple finding their way back to each other
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 – lacks subtlety, she can and has done better
The Chocolate Rose (Gabriel/Jolie) – prequel novel I *really* like
Once Upon a Rose (Matt/Layla)  – fun, light escapism
A Wish Upon Jasmine (Damien/Jess) – not her strongest
A Crown of Bitter Orange (Tristan/Malorie) – not memorable, he’s charming
A Kiss in Lavender (Lucien/Elena) – good, recommended

Paris Hearts 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.

L’Amour et Chocolat Series: The Chocolate Heart by Laura Florand

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):

  1. The Chocolate ThiefPretty good, it took me from 99 cents on Kindle to the complete series. (5)
  2. The Chocolate KissA very good fairy tale that made me forgive the metaphor. (2)
  3. The Chocolate RoseExcellent passion, it needed just a little more love story. (3)
  4. The Chocolate TouchMy favourite of the group, it was really sweet and intense. (1)
  5. The Chocolate Heart – The weakest of the group. (6)
  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.

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

L’Amour et Chocolat Series: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Look! I found Laura Florand’s romance mission statement:

FlorandThe Chocolate Temptation is book six in Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. I reviewed the first four books in a previous effort. I will review the fifth, The Chocolate Heart, when I can get my hands on it at my local library, as it is priced out of my willing-to-pay range*. 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 Temptation also happens to be particularly steamy.

Patrick Chevalier is the second in a three Michelin star restaurant. Part of his role is to guide and train the patissier team and apprentices. Sarah Lin is working for a tiny stipend and is just 36 days shy of completing her six month internship. She hates Patrick. She hates him for his loose-limbed, charming calm, his seemingly effortless professional perfection, and for the gallant way he treats her which she thinks is just being “French”.  Sarah is incredibly focused and ambitious, but unable to show herself any mercy when she fails to live up to the impossible standards she sets for herself and she sees being met by the more experienced professionals around her. Patrick has been madly in love with Sarah for months and trying to surreptitiously show her without crossing any professional lines. When she tells him, “I hate you,” after a particularly bad day, he takes it as his cue to see if that intense emotion could be hiding passion instead. They are protagonists with major walls around themselves, ones that lead to a great deal of miscommunication as they struggle to come together. Sarah is a mass of insecurities, vulnerable and over-sensitive. Patrick has carefully created the illusion of nonchalance, having learned to hide his feelings after a painful childhood.

After earlier uncertainty, The Chocolate Temptation confirmed for me that Florand is indeed using fairy tale allusions in her books and this one is Cinderella with a twist. I found the denouement rushed and twee, but consistent with the overall romanticism of Florand’s work. Patrick and Sarah were both too closed off to move quickly to an emotionally healthy relationship. Why not give them time to settle in before stampeding towards marriage? The setting is modern, couldn’t they just live together for a while?

I have enjoyed all of the novels in the Amour et Chocolate series. Florand manages to repeat her framing device without quite making the characters repetitious as well. The men all show far more emotional vulnerability than I am accustomed to in romance and it is a welcome change.

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

*If Amazon is listening, I will pay $2.99 for almost any well-reviewed romance; up to about $5.99 for a book I know to be a keeper; and full price for any author on my autobuy list, which can be found on my Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful. I also have a complete reading list of books sorted by author.