Summer Corey hates Paris. She may be the only person who does, but that doesn’t stop her from hating it. The cold, wet winter. The Eiffel Tower with its looming presence. Even the Mona Lisa and her smug little smile. But a devil’s bargain with her father brought her back to the one place she swore she’d never return to. Now she has to deal with Paris and Luc Leroi, the devastatingly handsome and impossibly controlled pâtissier at the hotel she now owns. Luc has no time for spoiled, bratty heiresses – especially ones who don’t eat sweets – but he can’t seem to stay away from Summer. But with both unwilling to open up to the other, it’s going to take more than a well-crafted dessert to get these two together.
The Chocolate Heart is the fifth book in Laura Florand’s Amor et Chocolat series and it’s just as rich and sensual as the others, with an almost obsessive devotion to accurately depicting the world of the pâtisserie, in mouth-watering detail. The series as a whole has gotten a bit less lighthearted as the novels have progressed and so Summer and Luc’s story definitely turns up the angst and heartbreak. Their tenuous relationship is filled with miscommunication and misunderstanding, as they are both frightened to truly let go and be vulnerable. And yet, at the same time, they both yearn for what the other has to offer: a desperate chance to find the kind of love long absent in their lives.
While most of the reviews I’ve read for The Chocolate Heart have been positive, many are divided on Summer; some disliked her, others pitied her. Personally, my heart went out to Summer almost immediately. Yes, she’s often frustrating and difficult, doing her best to live up to the spoiled brat reputation others want to stick to her. But behind that false facade, she’s a young woman trying so hard to be valued and loved for herself, and not the person everyone else wants her to be (especially her neglectful, dismissive parents – who I would have gladly punched if given the opportunity). Even when Luc struggled to understand her, as a reader, I could see how fearful she was of opening herself to someone else, when she had been denied affection time and again. It actually hurt, as a reader, to see how little she valued herself.
For his part, Luc definitely continues Florand’s pattern of impossibly arrogant men, who think they know best. And yet even with all his similarities to Sylvain and Dominique, Luc was entirely his own person and character. I was fascinated by Florand’s description of his legendary self-control and found myself actively rooting for Summer as she tried to get him to just let go. For all the emotion and angst in The Chocolate Heart, there was also a lot of fun in watching Summer tempt Luc, as if just waiting for a coiled spring to burst from the box and start bouncing all over the place.
In fact, Luc’s famous control became my favorite part about him – because it gave him the patience to try with Summer – again and again and again, even after multiple rejections. I loved that Luc didn’t give up easily, that he was willing to try to meet Summer on her terms. I especially loved that he didn’t give up on her when so many others had. And when I thought he had to let her go – god, there isn’t enough chocolate in the world to keep that part from hurting.
While The Chocolate Heart was predominately Summer and Luc’s story, Florand does weave in a few glimpses of the Corey sisters, Cade and Jaime, and their respective French chocolatiers. I liked that their inclusion in the story was organic; while Cade, Jaime and Summer were distant relatives, Luc already had a professional relationship with Sylvain and Dom, so it felt natural to mention them from time to time. I also liked the contrast between the Corey sisters and Summer. All three women had tremendous opportunities growing up, but while Cade and Jaime had happy childhood memories, Summer had ones she was trying to run from. It’s an interesting way to seeing how money can absolutely not buy happiness and how all the money in the world can’t make up for love and attention from your parents.
Laura Florand is now on my “auto-buy” list because her books are just so darn good! She really writes well-developed characters who end up surprising you, and relationships that end up giving you hope. And if that wasn’t enough, she sets it all in the French pastry world, with such precise details that you can kitchen the rush of the kitchens, feel the heat from the stoves and ovens and taste the incredible desserts Luc creates. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – don’t try to read this book without some kind of confection waiting for you. You will be hungry and you will want chocolate. Eat the chocolate, read the book. You won’t regret either.
[Photo Credit: Goodreads]