Friday 24 January 2014

#CBR6 Book 6: "The Chocolate Heart" by Laura Florand

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Disclaimer! I was granted an ARC of this book by Kensington Books via Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.

Summer Corey hates Paris. It's a city where she was frequently abandoned to be raised by ever changing nannies while her parents were globe trotting or negotiating international business deals, and it's where she felt miserable, alone and outcast in boarding school from the age of thirteen. Having been forced back from her self-imposed exile, teaching on a small Pacific island, because her father has bought her a five star hotel as a Christmas present, Summer knows that everyone is only waiting to see what the spoiled and vacuous billionaire heiress will do to end up in the tabloids now.

Of course, mistaking the internationally acclaimed chef of the hotel's restaurant, Luc Leroi, for a hotel bellboy, and propositioning him rather bluntly is not getting her off to a good start. Luc, having worked his way up from begging in the Paris metro with his gypsy father to becoming the media darling and culinary superstar of French pastry, is appalled when Summer literally falls into his arms and proceeds to offer him a yacht, before passing out exhausted as soon as he gets her to her hotel room. He plans to seduce her with the most delectable desserts, only to discover that Summer Corey, through a series of very negative associations with sweet things, never eats them.

Summer needs to stay three rainy winter months in Paris, pretending to manage a hotel, so her father will donate a satellite to the islands she longs to return to, improving their communication with the outside world immensely. Luc is determined to win her over, and proceeds to outdo himself again and again with breathtaking culinary creations that Summer continues to reject. The entire hotel watches in fascination, wondering who will crack first, the stunning heiress or the perfectionist chef.

As I have mentioned in my previous reviews of her books, Florand writes to a formula. These books have extremely temperamental, arrogant and brilliant French chefs, who nonetheless are deeply emotionally vulnerable. They all seem to fall for women who are at least partly American, with emotional issues of their own. The men try to seduce the women using culinary arts, usually involving seemingly unreal creations made of chocolate, and after a lot of back and forth where they battle their insecurities, they find their HEA.

Florand works really hard to make the readers feel sympathy with Summer, and make us realise why she has very legitimate reasons for hating Paris, and having behaved like a spoiled and outrageous brat for much of her life. To say that she has enormous daddy issues is an understatement, and she seems to think that the way to punish her parents is by throwing everything like self respect out the window and use her body to manipulate men as best she can, preferably to provoke her father as much as possible. It doesn't help that he literally blackmails her in an attempt to give up her dreams, and never really seems to compliment her for anything. But the fact remains, she's insanely wealthy and because of her upbringing, quite sheltered to the issues that less obscenely rich people have to go through, and in my opinion, it takes far too long for her to realise that her behaviour towards Luc at the start of the book is wildly inappropriate and offensive to boot.

While I normally really enjoy these romances, there was something about this book that didn't grab me as much. Whether it was the fact that Luc was so intensely controlled and refused to relinquish said control for the longest time, or it was just that it took me more than half the book to warm up to Summer as a truly sympathetic heroine, I'm not sure. All I know is that I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as Florand's earlier works. It's by no means bad, though, but I'm not going to add it to my own library until I find it for sale. The next book features Luc's second in command/foster brother as the hero, and as he is wonderful in this book, I'm looking forward to his story.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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