Magalie Chaudron has devoted years to La Maison des Sorcieres, a tiny salon de thé on the Île Saint-Louis, in the heart of Paris. In the quaint little shop owned by her extravagant aunts, this bi-cultural young woman, “packed up like a suitcase to be hauled back and forth between the lavender fields of Provence and Ithaca, New York,” has found a place she can call home. Her life is finally coming together: she is nicely settled in a charming one-person-size apartment in a perfect little neighborhood, her days spent spellbinding the tea house customers with delicious chocolat chaud. Everything runs as sweetly and smoothly as a luscious stream of hot and spiced chocolate until an outrageously handsome chef pâtissier, Philippe Lyonnais, disrupts her cozy world and uneventful life with his famous macarons and the most exquisite spice of all: love. When the renowned pastry chef decides to open one of his shops right down the street from her tea house, Magalie fears that his “heavenly sandwiches of air and lusciousness” will draw all her customers away. While teaching the boastful chef a lesson in humility, our self-reliant but fragile heroine will also learn to trust in happiness again.
I savored this enchanting romance novel one blissful morsel at a time. The narrative flow is always fluid and emotionally intense, but while the previous book in the Chocolate series (The Chocolate Thief) featured comedic elements, lighthearted tones and a more lean pace, The Chocolate Kiss seems to belong to a more introspective breed of romantic fiction. In her new novel, Laura Florand doesn’t simply spin a love tale around the alluring power of chocolate, “symbol of cozy warmth and epitome of pure temptation,” she explores the complexity and fragility of a woman’s heart torn between different heritages and languages, interrupted friendships and lack of roots, individualism and loneliness. The course of true love never runs smooth, and despite the fairy tale quality of the novel, Laura Florand brings some deeper issues to the table (the importance of “blooming” where we were born, self-esteem and confidence in our ability to make other people love us, mutual trust between partners) that will prevent Magalie from opening her heart to Philippe right away with joy and confidence.
The Verdict: The book is made remarkable by Florand’s descriptive narrative, strong sense of space and vivid depiction of the Parisian setting, which is particularly charming during the winter season. I loved the spectacular visuals of the cobblestone sidewalks of the Île-Saint-Louis carpeted with snow, Magalie’s cozy apartment on the seventh floor of a 17th century building, a blurred view of the Eiffel Tower and the yellow-pink of a lazy dawn. I found myself traveling back to my beloved Europe on the pages of a book. Superb!
Release Date: December 24, 2012
Publisher: Kensington Books
Author: Laura Florand