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 no 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 as noted in her catalogue listing on my blog.