Thursday, August 08, 2013

Review: The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand

Disclaimer: I've received The Chocolate Touch as an eARC from Netgalley
(but have bought my own copy since then :P)

The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
published by Kensington in July 2013
Dominique Richard's reputation says it all--wild past, wilder flavors, black leather and smoldering heat. Jaime Corey is hardly the first woman to be drawn to all that dark, delicious danger. Sitting in Dom's opulent chocolaterie in Paris day after day, she lets his decadent creations restore her weary body and spirit, understanding that the man himself is entirely beyond her grasp.

Until he touches her...

Chocolate, Dominique understands--from the biting tang of lime-caramel to the most complex infusions of jasmine, lemon-thyme, and cayenne. But this shy, freckled American who sits alone in his salon, quietly sampling his exquisite confections as if she can't get enough of them--enough of him--is something else. She has secrets too, he can tell. Of course if she really knew him, she would run.

Yet once you have spotted your heart's true craving, simply looking is no longer enough...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Amour et Chocolat, Book #3

The Story: The Chocolate Touch starts with Jaime Corey catching Dominique Richard's attention. For a week, this thin, almost frail woman has come in Dominique's chocolate salon twice a day and has taken her time to savor his confections - soaking, absorbing Dominique it seems. When the two finally meet face to face, the magnetic pull is undeniable and is such that it can only lead to one thing...

However, both Jaime and Dominique somewhat lack self-confidence despite their successes. Jaime has spent the last few years of her life militating for fair trade chocolate, improving the practices and ethics as well as increasing its awareness. But all her hard work didn't negate the fact that she's an American heiress and as such, she never knew if the men she dated were attracted to her or her family's money and name. To make matter worse, Jaime always took pride in her work but with the recent event that occurred in Côte d'Ivoire, she is not sure she can find the courage to go back and continue... and therefore finds herself at loose ends. As for Dominique, he has demons of his own. Dominique believes in his worth when it comes to chocolate, but even the bleu, blanc, et rouge collar, proof that he is un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, cannot make him forget his origins. Dominique grew up in a rough neighborhood with a drunk as a father who sent him to work in a slaughterhouse at age twelve. All his successes cannot change the fact that he is a big man with rough edges who prefers dark leather to sophistication. As a result, each wonders if they are worthy of the other, if they could come to mean more to the other than just an affair.

Add in meddling family members, some cultural differences and communication difficulties and the road to a happy ending seems to be full of obstacles... but it is also paved with passion and chocolates :)

My Opinion: All right, I'm going to spare you the whole introduction on how big a fan I am of Ms Florand, LOL. Just know that Ms Florand won me over with her debut novel, Blame it on Paris, and the rest, as they say, was history :) I find that Ms Florand has a particular writing style; it doesn't agree with everyone as shown in Alex' review, but it sure does for me :)

At the end of The Chocolate Kiss, I did something that I rarely do: I read the excerpt for the next book, The Chocolate Touch. I knew the book would feature Dominique as the hero and I just want an inkling of what to expect... Oh boy! That excerpt sure got me hooked! As a result, as soon as I could, I requested the eARC on Netgalley LOL. And guess what? Ms Florand once again delivered :) I really, really enjoyed The Chocolate Touch. There was just something about it, about the writing that got to me. If you ask me to pinpoint it, I'd say it was the intensity of Dominique, of the romance and it totally made the book for me :) It added this oomph that as a reader, I am so often looking for. I loved how The Chocolate Touch was all about Dominique, Jaime and their romance. I loved how Jaime first caught Dominique's attention and seriously, to see such a big, rough man pining after a stranger, having a crush on her, it's just adorable LOL. And then, how Dominique tried to catch her attention, you could see how smitten it was... and it was really cute and meaningful because you know it was the first time for Dominique. The first time he fell head over heels for a woman... And I enjoyed seeing Dominique and Jaime fumbled, trying to figure their relationship out, which is something already not easy to do, but add in cultural differences and language barrier... It only makes it even sweeter that they managed it :)

I have to say, I really liked Dominique's character. I would love to meet someone like him because being in the same room, he'd be impossible to ignore. He seems to emanate a dark aura, but at the same time, he's marshmallow inside LOL. You can see it in the way he interacts with his employees, how they all walk over him :) And I really felt for him about his insecurities. I also admire him because he sought out for help to be sure he would treat his employees well and again, when he started his relationship with Jaime. Dominique will never be as sophisticated as Sylvain, but I feel he is more charismatic :) Jaime was a nice character... I didn't connect with her as much as I did with Dominique. I think that any character standing next to Dominique will pale because of the intensity factor I keep talking about and that's what happens with Jaime. Also the fact that she's at loose ends, searching for herself again doesn't help. She also had some self-esteem issues and I think they were more annoying, not as endearing as Dominique, because their backgrounds were so different. She had a privileged upbringing with a loving family, she had everything on her side while Dominique didn't... and so I think it's harder to understand why she feels the way she does. Nevertheless, I think Ms Florand did a great job with the characters development and the internalization.

I also very much enjoyed seeing the Corey family again :) The grandfather is just so funny, especially with his obsession with spinach chocolate. It was nice to see Magalie and Philippe as well. It'd be fun to get a peek of Eloise and Simon as well eventually. Another thing to love about The Chocolate Touch was Ms Florand's descriptions of chocolates, caramels and Paris. These are important elements because they are the foundation of the setting, the atmosphere that Ms Florand is creating for the series. It was actually doubly fun for me this time around because Ms Florand's inspiration for Dominique's chocolate salon and work was Jacques Genin's and I had the chance to see it all for myself last year during my trip to Paris :) For those who are curious, Ms Florand really has it spot on and those caramels... they are divine! Love them :)

Of course, The Chocolate Touch is not without flaws. My biggest issue with the book is the storyline. The book really focuses on the couple and the romance which I really liked and I personally didn't mind the lack of intrigue... However, it does feel like The Chocolate Touch lacks a bit of direction. There's mention of the Chocolate Expo at the beginning, but it doesn't occur during the storyline which I would actually have loved to see. There's also Jaime's professional future that still feels up in the air. This was an aspect that I would have liked more closure about because it's a big part of Jaime's character development. So when you combine these two missing elements, it feels like The Chocolate Touch is a bit unfinished for me.

My Grade: B+. The Chocolate Touch had some notable flaws, but it also had that oomph factor that I'm always looking for in books. It along with the intensity made up for the flaws and hence the grade :) Ms Florand seems to really have hit her stride with this series and I hope it continues on with The Chocolate Heart which comes out at the end of the year. Can't wait!