Sarah Lin hated Patrick Chevalier. She hated how easy he made everything look, especially when she struggled so much just to get one thing right. She hated how he flirted with all the women and his laid-back and charming attitude, as if nothing ever bothered him. She hated him, because the alternative would end up breaking her heart. Patrick doesn’t hate Sarah; in fact, he’s fascinated by her – the crease in her brow when she’s concentrating, the serious manner she always adopts around him, even the fact that she seems to hate him. Long ago, Patrick learned to hide his true feelings away, to protect himself from ever losing something he cared about. But he can’t resist Sarah – because she just might be worth the risk.
The Chocolate Temptation is the final book in Laura Florand’s Amor et Chocolat series and it definitely rivals the first (The Chocolate Thief) as my favorite. There is so much emotion simmering underneath the surface of both Patrick and Sarah and, as a result, there’s a tension that fills both their relationship and this novel. It’s a bit like the sugar sculptures Patrick creates and Sarah loves – simultaneously fragile and strong, holding on too tight can cause the sculpture to break, but hold on to it just right, and the sugar can become anything you want it to. The result is that this book is a bit of an anxious read. I found myself holding my breath time and again, hoping (sometimes in vain) that Patrick and Sarah wouldn’t do anything to break their relationship.
I confess: there were times towards the beginning of The Chocolate Temptation when I worried that Patrick was getting too close to crossing a line, pushing too far, too fast into Sarah’s quiet life. I was afraid Patrick was going to turn out to be creepy and stalker-ish, but Florand did an excellent job of balancing the outward appearance of his actions with the inner dialogue of both Patrick and Sarah. Yes, Patrick does pursue Sarah quite single-mindedly, but he doesn’t cross that line and he doesn’t make any moves without her consent. Given how much they both hide from the world, it’s almost a good thing Patrick finally decides to act, because otherwise, these two would have missed their chance.
In fact, intentions and perspective are two important themes in The Chocolate Temptation. While Patrick and Sarah’s actions can – and are – viewed by the outside world one way, their true emotions are often quite different. They both have just gotten so used to hiding how they feel, it’s difficult to see past appearances. And yet, they each see more than the surface person when looking at the other. Patrick and Sarah both believe themselves to be inherently flawed, while viewing each other as nothing short of perfection. Their constant misunderstandings are frustrating, not just because they don’t understand each other at first, but because they also cannot see themselves the way others do.
Like any good romance novelist intent on putting her characters through the ringer first, Florand does make Patrick and Sarah work for their happy ending. It’s heartbreaking to watch them struggle so much, but towards the end of the novel, when they finally find the courage and are willing to open themselves up to being vulnerable, well, that’s when the magic happens. And when they both go out of their way to make the others dream come true, it’s so breathtakingly hopeful that you’re almost (*almost*) willing to forgive them for all the angst that proceeded it.
I don’t know if Florand intended this, but The Chocolate Temptation is a great novel for introverts. Patrick and Sarah both keep so much inside, both so conditioned to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. While it may have been born from circumstance for them, as a fairly private, very introverted person, I loved having two main characters I could relate to. It also resulted in a far more intimate tone to the book, more so than any of the previous Amor et Chocolat books. The Chocolate Temptation focuses so intently on Patrick and Sarah and the final novel is, as Sarah muses, “like [a] beautiful fairytale of a dessert constructed out of work and caution and risk and whimsy.”
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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