Violette Lenoir is twenty-eight and a two-star Michelin chef in her own restaurant. Don’t worry if you don’t remember that, you will be reminded at least five times over the course of the narrative. Of course, she has every right to be proud, having worked her ass off in kitchens since she was fifteen, fighting sexism and discrimination every step of the way to prove herself. When a stranger breaks into her restaurant late at night, as she’s about to leave, she’s not intimidated in the slightest, and doesn’t hesitate to show him that she can take care of herself.
Chase Smith (very much not his real name) is on a black-ops counter-terrorism mission in Paris. They suspect that someone may be planning a ricin attack, using Violette’s restaurant and he needs to investigate how easy it would be for a stranger to get access to the kitchens, as well as distract the stunning blonde who’s throwing knives at him. It’s pretty much love at first sight for Chase, and he feels extremely bad about the fact that to save her life and that of countless others, he and his team will most likely ruin her life, at least short term. Because when Violette shows up to work after taking the fast-talking and very handsome American “security consultant” home for what she planned to be a one night stand, she discovers that someone has shut it down, claiming a salmonella outbreak originated there.
Violette’s reputation, already shaky as a young female chef in a severely male-dominated and cut-throat profession, is possibly destroyed forever, and she KNOWS that the mysterious Chase had something to do with it. So when she meets him again, she punches him, promptly fracturing her hand in the process. Chase feels extremely guilty about his operation shutting down her restaurant (not that it wasn’t absolutely necessary to save lives), and what is worse, he can’t breathe a word about it, having to continue the fiction about being a private security consultant, even though they both know it’s untrue. After a hell of a meet-cute, their fledgling relationship has a hell of a complication to work through on the road to their HEA.
Violette and Chase are both extremely skilled at what they do. Both are completely devoted to their chosen careers, to the point where any romantic relationships they’ve attempted in the past have never made it past the initial first dates. Violette is used to men being put off by her self-confidence, long work hours, her need to be in control and frankly, intimidated by (and possibly jealous of) her success. Chase is a black-ops soldier, used to shipping off for months on end, working on missions he can’t tell even those closest to him about, in areas where people are most likely trying to kill him and his friends. He puts his life on the line to keep people safe and even when he’s on leave, he’s used to living a double life. He’s a very dangerous man, which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want a partner to share his life with at some point, maybe even children.
Chase actually proposes marriage to Violette the first evening they meet, after she’s thrown not one, but two knives towards him. Violette is a passionate woman, who will frequently fling things at Chase when she’s provoked, knowing full well that he can handle it, while he finds it adorable and tries to rile her up as often as possible. Understanding very quickly that Violette enjoys being in a temper, he keeps saying and doing outrageous things just to see how she’ll react. He’s physically so much bigger and stronger than her, but never uses it to dominate or threaten her. Being a soldier, he’s used to compartmentalising his emotions, having to shut certain parts off when he’s on a mission, possibly needing to kill people. Nonetheless, with each new encounter with Violette, he feels the softer sides of his emotions leaking out.
Florand writes excellent banter, and at her best, she writes such entertaining romances. It’s always fun reading about people who are extremely good at what they do. Confidence and skill is attractive and I like that both Violette and Chase are very secure in their own skins and supremely certain that they are bad-asses in their own fields, without becoming overbearing or insufferably arrogant about it. This book was initially meant to be a lot more frothy, but took on a darker note after the various terrorist attacks in Paris and other parts of Europe in the last six months. The counter-terrorism plot was supposed to be more in the background than it is now, but I don’t think the added levels of real-world relevance in any way damages the story.
More often than not, I really enjoy Florand’s books and there is more than enough sequel-bait set up over the course of this story. Florand has promised that Violette’s friend Lena, as well as several of Chase’s army buddies will have stories of their own in future books. So that’s something to look forward to.
Judging a book by its cover: The cover here isn’t particularly remarkable. The Eiffel Tower features in the background, because how else would you possibly know the book was set in Paris? To be fair, there is in fact a scene in the book that involves Vi and Chase looking at the Tower, so it’s not entirely out of place. The woman on the cover is attractive and blond, so fits the description of Violette. Both her boots and jacket are leather, which again fits with the contents of the book. As romance covers go, it’s not particularly exciting, but it’s certainly not as egregiously bad as they sometimes are either.
Crossposted on my blog.