Sunday, 3 May 2015

#CBR7 Book 53: "All for You" by Laura Florand

Page count: 297 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Growing up in the very rough suburbs to Paris, Célie was always determined to make something of herself, unlike her drug-dealing low-life of an older brother. Apprenticing herself to a baker, the brightest part of her day was always when her brother's friend Joss came to walk her home. Pretty much at the moment Célie had worked up the courage to confess her massive crush on him, Joss broke her heart into a million pieces by going off to join the French foreign legion.

Five years later, trying to tell herself that she's completely over Josselin Castel, Célie is the right-hand woman and head chocolatier to Dominique Richard. She has a creative and demanding job that she adores, she has friends and a great boss who has taken the place her biological brother was wholly undeserving of. Then Joss walks back into her life, tall and tan and larger than life and she falls completely to pieces for a little while. Having moved on and up in the world, forcing herself to forget him, Célie is not ready to just forgive the heartache he caused her and welcome him back with open arms.

Fully aware of the crush Célie had on him, Joss was determined to change his life, to make himself worthy of her. Having lost his job as mechanic because of his association with Célie's criminal brother, Joss didn't really see that they had any future unless he made himself into something better and more capable. He wanted to be able to offer Célie something real. Of course, leaving her without a hint of what he was planning, without a word to even let her know that he was alive or dead, might not have been the best idea either. Having survived not only the initial, excruciating training for the foreign legion, but going on to become the best of the elite soldiers, a paratrooper, Joss, never a man of many words, believed that it was better if he not try to explain himself to Célie. After five years as a super soldier, he's done with the Foreign Legion, back in Paris and ready to lay all his accomplishments at the feet of the woman he loves. That she's become an accomplished and successful woman with a life with no place for him never crossed his mind. Winning the girl of his dreams over may be a bigger challenge than he had expected, but for a man who survived years in the Foreign Legion, what's another obstacle or two to win his true love?

I was actually lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this from Laura Florand, but by the time I had time to settle down and read it, the book was out in wider release, and as I had already pre-ordered the book ages ago, my review has in no way been influenced by the free copy. This is the first book in a new series, spinning off from her Amour et Chocolat books, and possibly connecting with her series set in the south of France, La Vie en Roses. With the exception of The Chocolate Heart, where the main couple are simply too angsty for me to fully enjoy the story, I either really like or absolutely adore Ms. Florand's novels. One of the things I loved in this book was that I got to see the protagonists from one of my favourites, The Chocolate Touch, as supporting characters in this. Dom and Jamie, still not married, and constantly teased by Dom's employees, are very worried when Joss' return makes the normally so cheerful Célie break down in tears and Dom would like nothing but to beat the snot out of the man whose hurt his chief chocolatier. 

Célie actually spends a worrying amount of time crying over the course of the book, but the fact that it seems to be excessive is addressed as part of the plot, which makes it fine in my book. When she's not crying, she's quite possibly fiercely yelling at Joss because of he has trouble getting things into his thick head, so it's not like she's a complete cry-baby. While I understand and sympathise with her upset, I'm also glad that while it takes her some time to properly forgive Joss, she doesn't deny her attraction to him (so much stronger when he returns as a muscular and super fit 26-year-old than when he was a gangly 21-year-old) or her feelings for him.

 Joss is extremely goal-orientated and now that he's achieved the first part of his plan to make himself the mate that Célie deserves, he was hoping to sweep her off her feet and take her off to some exotic location with him. Since she seems to be really very happy with her career and new found family in Paris, he sets out to get her the perfect home there instead. Frustratingly for both the reader and Célie, he doesn't consult her on her wishes, just proceeds with what he assumes she wants, because clearly presenting her with the perfect end result must be better than letting her be part of the decision-making process, right?

There is normally a strong fairy-tale aspect to Florand's contemporary romances, more overt in some than others. In this, she's not gently twisted one specific fairytale, but there are enough aspects there, with Joss imagining Célie as the princess on the glass mountain that he needs to scale and rescue, the brave knight who has quested to be worthy of her. He's certainly more than capable at scaling, at one point climbing up the wall of her building to arrive on her balcony (on the sixth floor, I believe) and another time into the lab of the chocolate shop (on the second floor) where Célie works (after a scene involving such egregious waste of expensive chocolate that I literally squeaked). As also often the case in Florand novels, it takes the protagonists most of the novel before they are able to clearly communicate their thoughts and wishes to one another, but the despite the occasional frustrations along the way, most of the book is frothy and delightful and had me laughing out loud more than once. The cross-over with previous Amour et Chocolat books was fun, and I also really liked the connection to her other new series, the Vie en Roses books, where Joss' commander from the Foreign Legion is clearly going to turn up in a future novel (I'm going to guess the final one, as he is clearly the darkest and most messed-up of the cousins). Florand has long since earned herself a spot among my auto-buy authors, and this book just confirms that she deserves to stay there. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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