Look! I found Laura Florand’s romance mission statement.
The 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.
*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 The (Shameful) Tally 2014 and my tiny little blog.