Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand

Finally a review!! Go me! LOL. As the Olympics are winding up, I have more free time and it's really time I get back into a blogging routine :) And I'm really happy that my first review back is The Chocolate Thief... and very à propos, given the quest it inspired for my trip LOL. All the details of the special mission are here :) I hope you'll all enjoy the review!

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
published by Kensington in July 2012
Breathtakingly beautiful, the City of Light seduces the senses, its cobbled streets thrumming with possibility. For American Cade Corey, it’s a dream come true, if only she can get one infuriating French chocolatier to sign on the dotted line…

Melting, yielding yet firm, exotic, its secrets are intimately known to Sylvain Marquis. But turn them over to a brash American waving a fistful of dollars? Jamais. Not unless there’s something much more delectable on the table…

Stolen Pleasure
Whether confections taken from a locked shop or kisses in the dark, is there anything sweeter?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: The Parisian Chocolatiers, Book #1

The Story: Cade Corey is the heiress of the American chocolate magnate company, the family-owned Corey Chocolate. She currently finds herself in Paris to realize a dream of hers: learn about the French trade and its secrets, but also develop a high-end chocolate line. While she takes great pride in the Corey bars, Cade also wants to offer more to their customers. To insure success, Cade wants the name of one of Paris' best chocolatiers on the labels... and her first choice is Sylvain Marquis. She is flabbergasted when Sylvain refuses her proposition - without even looking at the contract! - and a little humiliated. And then, she hits a wall as every one of her candidates turn her down. However, the refusal that hurts the most is still Sylvain's and when she has an opportunity to break in his laboratoire, she jumps on it... starting a little game of cat and mouse between the two. However, as attraction grows and deepens between Cade and Sylvain, Cade is aware that if her plan for the high-end chocolate line fails, then she has no reason to stay in Paris... and in fact, her father is growing impatient, asking for her return...

My Opinion: For many reasons, I was very excited to read The Chocolate Thief :) One of them is I really enjoyed All's Fair in Love and Chocolate and I find the setting and theme for this new series refreshing and very original. Seriously, who doesn't like a book set in Paris and where chocolate abounds? LOL. Also, for me, an ARC from the author is always special :) Last, but not least, I really enjoy Ms Florand's writing. So really, The Chocolate Thief had everything going for it and turned out to be a solid and enjoyable read :)

I think that a lot of people will enjoy the chocolate aspect of this book LOL. It was definitively mouth-watering :P In addition, it was interesting to learn more about this art and Ms Florand has really done her research well. I also liked how she incorporated it in the storyline, because at times, it felt like a character of its own, being playful lifting the tone and atmosphere of the book :) However, let's talk about the main characters, Cade and Sylvain :) In the synopsis, I did not mention Sylvain much, because the conflict is more Cade-oriented, but Sylvain was no wallflower in this story - he is the hero and play a big role. In fact, between the two, I liked Sylvain better as he appeared friendlier :) I liked how Sylvain's character was described - the confidence and the touch of arrogance that you associate with people that are at the top of their art, but also with Frenchmen :) But also what you don't expect such as blushes, Sylvain's adolescence when he was a bit nerdy and where girls weren't falling at his feet and his tendency to fall in love quickly. However, at times, it felt like Sylvain had two personalities. Perhaps Ms Florand could have fleshed his character a bit more to blend his professional persona with his private self better. As for Cade, she was not a bad heroine, but at times, she was too stubborn and her avoidance of some reality just lowered her likable factor for me. Still, I very much admire her resilience and the fact she did not give up as her dreams were crumbling every time she got a new refusal. Also, I felt for her for the humiliation she got because of the Corey bars, even though it was not intentional from the other parties. All in all, there is no denying that Cade was a strong and determined woman.

Unfortunately, while both characters were likable, I didn't connect with them as I did with Simon and Ellie and as a result, I didn't get hook in The Chocolate Thief. I think it also affected my enjoyment of the romance :( The sexual tension between Cade and Sylvain was great, smoldering even. I also liked the flirting and the little game - breaking and entering - that they had. And I think they were a nice couple, they matched. However, it's the in-between, the moment it went beyond attraction and into a romantic relationship that didn't work for me. I wished there had been a bit more development - why is Sylvain so attracted to Cade. Also, beside showing up Sylvain, why did she get entangled with him? To me, it wasn't exactly clear. There was missing this little connection... but once they became a couple, they were good together.

What I found most interesting in The Chocolate Thief was the contrast in culture between Cade and Sylvain, the difference in mentality. For example, when it came to chocolate, mass production vs exclusivity/quality. Sylvain takes so much pride in his work and art and is so appalled at Cade's proposition. As for Cade, it's not just about making money, but providing access to good chocolate. What's interesting is I understood both positions and there's really no right and wrong. There were other examples such as the handshakes and the bises. I have to say, the bises took me by surprise too while I was in Paris. Of course, I know that French people greet each other with bises, but I wasn't expecting them from people I just got introduced to! LOL, a few times, I had my hand out and they were the ones surprised. These are only a few examples, but the book was peppered with them. I really liked that aspect of the book because it made the story and the romance more realistic. Also, kudos for Ms Florand for continuing the contrast in culture throughout the book - not forgetting about it like it didn't matter or because she had to focus on different aspects of the book nor having the characters suddenly understand each other completely.

I think the plot of the book was also enjoyable. I liked that there wasn't any secondary romance, that the focus was on Cade and Sylvain. The secondary characters were all fun, but none stole the spotlight and that's how it should be. I loved Cade's grandfather and actually, Cade's family dynamics LOL. It was also nice to see Sylvain's family welcoming Cade... well minus the mother, but she had reasons and it was good that her behavior didn't faze Cade :P I do think the whole "chocolate thief" plot line was a bit over the top, but it was fun and it fit with the theme :) I have to say, the conflicts at the end were unexpected, but legitimate. They weren't added in simply for the sake of being obstacles to the HEA ending - and that's a thumb up to Ms Florand. I was wondering how it would be resolved - and I know I'm not the only one who was - and I'm happy at Cade's decision. It was very brave of her and it was quite a sacrifice. However, what I disliked a bit was Cade's avoidance of the conflicts which was a bit surprising given how strong a woman she is and her final decisions.

Overall, I enjoyed The Chocolate Thief and I think it was a strong read despite a few minor issues. Now, I can't wait for the next book, The Chocolate Kiss, which is coming out in December :) If you enjoy contemporary romance, I definitively recommend The Parisian Chocolatiers series!

My Grade: B.