Friday, June 07, 2013

Review: The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand

Friday?! How did we get to be Friday already?! LOL. Initially, I was going to be smart and start this review during the week-end so I could post it earlier in the week - say Monday... but I got side-track by a certain Star Trek into the Darkness movie. No problem, Wednesday sounded good too... but there was the release of a certain Heart of Obsidian book that got in the way. But alas, I did it! My review of The Chocolate Rose! Enjoy!

The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand
self-published in April 2013
Her father’s worst enemy...

Top chef Gabriel Delange never forgave his old nemesis Pierre Manon for all the other chef had cost him.

One stolen rose...

And he most certainly couldn’t stand the sight of his own most famous dessert, the legendary Rose, claimed as Pierre’s own on the cover of his new cookbook.

A substitute victim...

But even Gabriel could hardly go through with a lawsuit when he learned the older chef had just had a stroke. Especially not when Pierre had one very cute daughter willing to be Gabriel’s victim instead.

Jolie Manon...

As a child, Jo had seen her family torn apart by her top chef father’s obsession with his work. She had given years of her own adult life to trying to pull him out of depression, after he lost a star. Now a food writer, she might be fascinated with a chef’s work, but she knew how to guard her heart. She would never allow another chef into her life.

Unless he blackmailed her into it...

Welcome to the heat and sun of Provence, where jasmine and roses climb up old colored walls, where fountains play in ancient stone villages, and where even a beast can prove he is a prince at heart…
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: La Vie en Rose, Book #1/Amour et Chocolat (Paris Chocolatiers), Book #2.5

The Story: This being a self-published book, of course the blurb is accurate. However, it sounds a lot more mysterious and dramatic than the story really is. So here is my version of the blurb.

Our hero is Gabriel Delange, a chef pâtissier. In his youth, he was recruited by Pierre Manon to work at the Luxe so the restaurant could obtain a third Michelin star. Gabriel poured all his energy and worked tirelessly, creating fantastic desserts which gained the restaurant the coveted star. However, soon afterward, Pierre and Gabriel's relationship soured when Pierre failed to acknowledge Gabriel's contribution and Gabriel was fired. He returned to Provence where he opened his own restaurant and became the first chef pâtissier to win three stars on his own merits. And when Pierre Manon's cookbook was published using one of Gabriel's most prized creations - the chocolate Rose, Gabriel did what he had warned Pierre he'd do if the latter ever  appropriate Gabriel's work as his own again: he sued.

Our heroine is Jolie Manon, half-French/half-American and the daughter of Pierre Manon. After her parents' divorce, Jolie got to spend the summer with her father and often spent them in his restaurant's office. She always loved food and the bustle of the kitchen. Since she couldn't become a chef, she did the next best thing she could: she wrote about food. She's the one who wrote her father's cookbook, coaxing him out of his depression after he lost his star. Everything is poised for the promotion of the cookbook, but unfortunately, just before the release, Pierre suffered a stroke. Because her father is already in a precarious mood since he lost some of his dexterity due to the stroke, Jolie decides to handle the lawsuit by herself and the first step is to meet Gabriel.

At their first meeting, Gabriel is attracted to Jolie even before knowing her identity. After learning about Pierre's stroke and knowing that 1) he's actually suing Jolie and not Pierre and 2) there's no chance for him to win this case because a recipe cannot be patented, Gabriel agrees to drop the lawsuit. In exchange, he wants Jolie to write his cookbook which means that Jolie will be spending half the week in his company in Provence where he'll have the time to woo her.

Soon, Jolie finds herself shuttling between Paris and Nice, stuck in the middle of two men in her life... will she have the courage to follow her heart?

My Opinion: It's not a secret that I'm a huge fan of Ms Florand and has been ever since her first book, Blame it on Paris. As such, I was really excited when I found out about The Chocolate Rose, especially since the book was kind of unexpected :) In situations like this, self-published books by your favorite authors are really the best surprises LOL. However, as happy as I was about its release and as much as I love Ms Florand's books, I admit I do have mixed feelings about The Chocolate Rose...

In general, I did enjoy The Chocolate Rose. I love Ms Florand's writing style and The Chocolate Rose did not change that. In the past couple of years, cooking shows have become more popular and there seems to be this new awareness about chefs and cuisines... at least in North America. I myself have become a fan of Masterchef Australia and have learned more about international chefs. As such, I've been wanting to read more about chefs characters in romance books, but I found that few authors can pull it out and Ms Florand is one of them. When it comes to the intensity of the culinary world environment, nobody writes it like Ms Florand. The passion, work, dedication, sacrifice and competition are palpable. In Ms Florand's books, you're not simply reading it, you really can feel it how much hard work and how tough being a chef is, but the pride and joy it brings... and The Chocolate Rose is no exception. Also, when it comes to the romance, I feel that Ms Florand has really hit her stride at writing the sexual tension between the H/H. As a result, the romance is always very intense and it works for me :) So on the writing front, I'm happy as a clam LOL.

Where I had issues with The Chocolate Rose was mainly with the characters. As a whole, I actually quite liked Gabriel's character. I felt for him about not getting recognition after all that hard work and admired him for proving his worth to the world. I liked his expressiveness LOL. He definitively wasn't shy to express his opinions and he was also very honest :) Also, I thought his desire to have a girlfriend, to be in a relationship was funny. It was cute that he was jealous of Daniel for having found the woman of his life so young LOL. However at times, this desire of Gabriel to have a girlfriend seemed a bit too exaggerated, felt a bit too juvenile and is actually connected to my issue with Gabriel. So when Gabriel and Jolie first met, he wasn't aware that she was Pierre Manon's daughter. Instead, he thought she was his new employee and immediately put her to work. And then, after the lunch service, he fired her and right away, asked her out on a date. I know he fired her because she was not good enough to work in his kitchen, but the situation still made me quite uncomfortable. The scene was written in a way that it was supposed to be lighthearted and funny; however, it just bothered me. Had she been competent, would he still have fired her and asked her out? And then later, the whole bargain of dropping the lawsuit and her writing his cookbook so they could spend time together so he could convince her to go on a date with him. The whole thing just felt a bit too forced and didn't work for me. I also had some issues with Jolie. Unfortunately, I did not like her as much as I liked Gabriel mainly because of her personality. Oh, she wasn't a bad or anything. Actually, if you think about it, her character was quite realistic and believable. However, I just didn't connect with her. Jolie wasn't weak per se, but she was a bit too conciliatory, trying to please everyone and as a result, didn't seem to have a lot of self-confidence. And as much as I admired her for being there for her father, I really disliked the way she coddled him. Yes, he just recovered from a stroke, but her father is someone with very strong personality. What he needed to get out of his funk was tough love, not someone who would give in his every whim. I would have liked to see her stand up to him more, especially since at times, it was clear he was emotionally manipulating her. Another thing that bothered me as well was the mixed signals she kept sending to Gabriel. She was obviously attracted to him, but whenever Gabriel would ask her out or say/do something, she would get offended. I know she misunderstood his behavior a time or two, thinking he was treating her a bit too casually, but seriously, I didn't see where she got that impressions and as a result, I felt she was a tad too susceptible ^_^; Overall, it feels like Jolie didn't understand the two men in her life... Finally, my last issue with The Chocolate Rose was the timeline. I feel everything happened too quickly, that the timeline of the book was too short for Gabriel and Jolie to really get to know each other, especially with Gabriel who kept pushing for a relationship. I think the romance in The Chocolate Rose would have been better if Jolie had been a bit more self-assured and if the romance had more time to develop.

All in all, as I said, I did enjoy The Chocolate Rose, even if it was flawed :) In addition to everything I've written above, I also enjoyed the cameo appearance of Daniel and Léa Laurier, the H/H of Turning Up the Heat, although I can't help but wish they had a meatier role :P I also liked the change of setting, moving from Paris to Nice. Ms Florand didn't expand as much as she usually does on the setting, but already, you can see the difference as it seems cozier and more serene :) And I fully expect we will discover Nice and Provence more in the future books! Speaking of future books, if I'm not wrong, The Chocolate Rose is supposed to gap Ms Florand's Amour et Chocolat (which I named Paris Chocolatiers series) and La Vie en Rose series and I think it fulfill its role perfectly :) I hope we get to read Raphaël and Matt's books in the future! For now, I know that The Chocolate Touch is coming out in July and I can't wait! I read the excerpt that was at the end of The Chocolate Rose and already, I know we're in for another sweet and intense treat :) Ahhhh, so happy that Ms Florand is back writing romance books!

My Grade: C+.