Saturday, 25 January 2014
#CBR6 Book 7: "The Chocolate Temptation" by Laura Florand
Rating: 4 stars
Sarah Lin hates Patrick Chevalier. She hates his golden good looks, his charming manner, the way he seems to be able to create magic with his bare hands and does absolutely everything flawlessly, without seeming to expend even the slightest bit of effort. She hates him because every time he brushes past her, or winks at her, or jokingly flirts with her, her heart beats faster and she has trouble breathing. He is her boss, and he is godlike, and he would never even look twice at a lowly little intern who never seems to be able to do anything right.
Patrick Chevalier is madly in love with Sarah Lin, the intern in the world-famous French restaurant where they work. He is the second in command in the kitchen, he is her boss, and he knows that it is grossly inappropriate for him to even consider seducing her while she's under his tutelage. But she claims that she's going to go back to California once her internship is over in little over a month, and he might go insane if he doesn't get a chance to show her how she feels. His entire life, he has learned to keep his true hopes and dream deeply hidden, so they can't be snatched away from him. He's come to the conclusion that he has to use his wit and charm and skill to manipulate those around him to reach his goals. When Sarah in an unguarded moment lets it slip that she hates him, he's determined to turn that hate to love, just as he can turn sugar and chocolate into edible treasures.
Sarah's mother fled from North Korea and found a new life in the USA because she got pregnant and Sarah was born there. Becoming an engineer at Caltech to make her mother proud, Sarah feels as if she's let her entire family down when she gave up her high paying job as an engineer to pursue her dream to study as a pastry chef in Paris. Five months into her internship, she's wondering if she made a huge mistake. She can barely afford to pay the rent, she works until she drops, and all around her, the others in the kitchen create marvels while she feels she's a constant failure. The only woman in the whole kitchen, she struggles to keep up with the intense work, and spending so much time around a gorgeous man she's convinced could have any woman he turned his attention to, she's decided that the only way to guard her heart is by hating him intensely.
Patrick may be incredibly successful for his young age, although he never really wanted to become a chef, but an engineer. His messed-up mother made sure to crush any dream he ever had, and when he was apprenticed to up and coming Luc Leroi, one of his foster brothers, he made the best of it, using his inventiveness and intellect to excel in the kitchen. Even though no one understands why he's still content being Luc's second, when he could go off and get a brilliant career in a restaurant of his own, he knows that he is needed, and can't bring himself to leave. He also knows that he mustn't harass his pretty intern, but can't help from watching over her, trying to shield her from the hardest jobs in the kitchen, surreptitiously feeding her and making sure that he is the one who most often teaches her new techniques. He knows that she is clever and driven and just as perfectionistic as Luc, but he can't resist his protective urges. He believes himself to be sneaky, devious and ruthless and the way in which he tricks Sarah into inviting him in after a night out after work is certainly not entirely chivalrous, but while he has decided alpha male qualities (as do all of Florand's heroes), he never forces Sarah to do anything she doesn't really very much want to do.
Sarah needs to decide whether she actually wants to follow her dream to be a pastry chef and accept that she may not be a failure just because she can't keep up with insanely driven craftsmen who are at the top of their field. She comes to realise that while her birth gave her mother and sister a safe home in America, she doesn't have to live her entire life to fulfil some sort of imagined standard of perfection to prove herself worthy to them. Patrick has clearly been burned so many times growing up, and has turned the very bitter lemons of his cruddy upbringing into some fairly awesome lemonade. Yet he's desperately worried about losing Sarah once he gets his chance with her, and of all the dreams he has ever dared nurture, a relationship with her is the one that he daren't even hope he might achieve.
Compared to some of the deep emotional issues of Florand's earlier couples, Sarah and Patrick's troubles seemed a bit more low key, and it was a relief after the last two, with some very messed up protagonists and drama to work through. Parts of this book overlaps with Florand's previous book in the series, The Chocolate Heart, but I suspect it works fine on its own as well. Florand has played around with fairy tale and mythology elements in previous novels, with influences from Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast and the myth of Hades and Persephone. In this book, there are hints of Cinderella, but while Patrick may be a prince (his surname is even Chevalier - knight), Sarah is much more than the girl who loses her shoe and heart at the ball. The author's note at the end of the book and her blog suggests that this may be the last in her Amour et Chocolat series (apparently Luc's book was supposed to be the final one, but Patrick kept stealing scenes so she had to write his story too), but she has more books planned, set in the south of France, so I suspect I will still have her delectable writing to look forward to for a while yet.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.