Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand

The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand
published by Kensington in December 2012
The Heart of Paris

Welcome to La Maison des Sorcieres. Where the window display is an enchanted forest of sweets, a collection of conical hats delights the eye and the habitues nibble chocolate witches from fanciful mismatched china. While in their tiny blue kitchen, Magalie Chaudron and her two aunts stir wishes into bubbling pots of heavenly chocolat chaud.

But no amount of wishing will rid them of interloper Philippe Lyonnais, who has the gall to open one of his world famous pastry shops right down the street. Philippe’s creations seem to hold a magic of their own, drawing crowds of beautiful women to their little isle amidst the Seine, and tempting even Magalie to venture out of her ivory tower and take a chance, a taste... a kiss.

Parisian princesses, chocolate witches, patissier princes and sweet wishes—an enchanting tale of amour et chocolat.

Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: The Parisian Chocolatiers, Book #2

The Story: Magalie Chaudron works for her two aunts who own La Maison des Sorcieres, an eccentric and charming shop on Ile Saint-Louis that serves chocolate sweets. For Magalie who is half-French and half-American and who shuttled between the two countries throughout her childhood and adolescence, La Maison des Sorcieres is the first real home she ever had, the first place where she really belongs. However, with the  arrival of world famous pastry chef Philippe Lyonnais and his shop on the island, Magalie sees her home threatened as she fears the customers will desert them. One thing for sure though, she won't go down without a fight and thus, Magalie confronts Philippe, trying to warn him off her island. Unfortunately for Magalie, the effect is completely opposite to what she hoped to accomplish because she refused the macaron Philippe offered, one personally made by him. Philippe who was already charmed by La Maison des Sorcieres is now intrigued by Magalie... He's also determine to make her succumb to temptation and thus, a battle of will starts between Magalie and Philippe. Who will surrender first?

My Opinion: It's no secret that I'm a fan of Ms Florand's writing and books. From her debut novel - actually a memoir - Blame it on Paris, Ms Florand has conquered me with her humor, her unique style and her passions: France and food, most specifically sweets :) And Ms Florand has continued on this path with her newest series, The Parisian Chocolatiers :) Needless to say, I was really looking forward to The Chocolate Kiss, especially since Ms Florand thought I'd enjoy it more given that she felt like she hit with it... and she was absolutely right!

I really enjoyed The Chocolate Kiss and a lot of it had to do with Magalie and Philippe's chemistry and the sexual tension that emanated from them :) It was simply explosive and it really set the tone for the book. Combined with the whimsical setting and what you get is something quite unique and refreshing. I also really enjoyed their battle of will, to see them top each other :P And while it all started off due to a misunderstanding - she thinks he will run them out of business so she confronts him and he doesn't understand her fear because he finds their shop charming - I liked that it quickly evolved into something more and that both were so involved in it, that it wasn't just one-sided. My absolute favorite part though was when Magalie finally yielded and she and Philippe became a couple. I wished there would have more scenes of the two together and as such, I do feel like Ms Florand had dragged the battle on a bit too long. Oh and I loved the ending, that was very sweet :)

Another reason why I enjoyed The Chocolate Kiss more than The Chocolate Thief is that I think the characters were better developed, especially Magalie. Ms Florand gave her an interesting background, one that really explained her insecurities and the reason why she is so worried about La Maison des Sorcieres and why she would go confront Philippe the way she did. It was good to understand Magalie and know why La Maison des Sorcieres was so important to her, because that was the source of the conflict. That's what was missing in The Chocolate Thief in my opinion. As for Philippe, his character was more straightforward... A lot was about his pride and his confidence as a world renown pastry chef and as I result, I feet like we got to know his professional side more. I understand that it's a big part of who Philippe is and perhaps it's inseparable from his more personal side, but to me, pride and confidence are a given to world famous chefs, so we didn't really get to know Philippe more. I have to say though, Ms Florand has really done a great job at writing the professional personas of her heroes. She nailed the pride and the confidence without rubbing the readers the wrong way and overall, it just lends a sexy edge to her heroes :) In this case, Ms Florand was also lucky that once Philippe and Magalie become a couple, she did include some scenes where the readers get a few glimpses of Philippe as a man and not a chef. Those did satisfy me, but I'm hoping for more balance for her next heroes, especially if they are to be distinguishable from Philippe, Simon and Sylvain.

As for the rest of the book, it was good and worked out well. There was an interesting cast of secondary characters and what I liked best about them is that they were there to support our H/H :) Paris continues to be a gorgeous back-drop for the series and the descriptions of the sweets, oh my... In a way, these two elements are like secondary characters and Ms Florand worked them in a way that they don't steal the spotlights from our H/H, as it should. In that sense, I'm also happy with her decision not to add any sequel bait for her next book :) The Chocolate Kiss is really about Magalie and Philippe and it was nice.

My Grade: B+.