Thursday 21 March 2013

#CBR5 Book 29. "The Chocolate Thief" by Laura Florand

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Cade Corey, heir to a multi-billion dollar fortune, whose family makes the mass produced chocolate bars sold in every supermarket in America, wants to establish a gourmet chocolate line, and she wants the name of a top of the line French chocolatier to help her sell the enterprise. As Sylvain Marquis is the most sought after and famous French chocolate artisan, she offers him the chance to make a fortune, and he turns her down flat, outraged at her impudence. Having worked his way up to become the best, he will not sell out to some presumptuous American, whose family makes what can barely be called chocolate.

Not one to give up easily, Cade resolves to put the arrogant, but oh so handsome man out of her mind, convinced that her family's fortunes and the promise to make insane amounts of money will sway one of the chocolatiers of Paris to join in her business venture. Of course, forgetting Sylvain Marquis would be a lot easier if the flat she had rented didn't overlook his shop, and she didn't keep running into him in shops and restaurants in the area. Her father thinks she is foolish to be wasting time in Paris in the first place, her grandfather encourages her to conduct industrial espionage and steal Sylvain's secrets. So when the opportunity arises to do just that, Cade sneaks into Sylvain's labratoire to see what she can find. Her snooping doesn't go undetected, however, and soon the Internet food blogs are abuzz with rumours of a chocolate thief stealing the delectable Marquis chocolates in the dead of night.

I discovered this book thanks to the Dabwaha tournament, an annual March Madness style competition, run by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author. As the book was also fortuitously on sale on Amazon the other week, I jumped at the chance to try it (not just because reading about hot Frenchmen who can do wonders with chocolate is much more fun than doing correction work), and I'm very glad I did. It was a very quick read, and I'm sure that if I'd spent days over it, I could have found more flaws. But I didn't, and I don't want to pick holes in it.

Sylvain Marquis is a wonderful hero, at once both arrogant and self-assured about his professional expertise, yet surprisingly insecure and doubtful about himself and his ability to impress women. He knows he's the best at what he does in terms of chocolate, and he knows he can win practically any woman over with the promise of his sinfully delicious gourmet treats, but never having had any success holding on to women long-term, and having been a gangly teenager who kept getting friend-zoned, he's still terrified that Cade will leave him, like all the other beautiful women have.

Cade has never met anyone who isn't impressed with her family's money and influence, and is baffled when she comes to Paris and everyone seems to find her money vulgar and offensive. Even offering exorbitant sums of money won't get her a carton of milk at a café, and the Corey family name is certainly not something any chocolatier worth his salt in France will want to be associated with. Everyone assumes she's had an easy life because of her money, when in fact, her stay in Paris is the first time in years she's had any time to herself. She's used to people constantly asking for help to fund things, and aware that most men can't see past her vast fortune to see the woman she really is. She's hard working, diligent and very loyal to her family and all the people who depend on her in the business, but in Sylvain's labratoire  she experiences a magical world that she desperately wants to be a part of. That the owner of that world attracts her and infuriates her to no end, makes her livid, but she also finds it refreshing that he seems drawn to her despite her money, not because of it.

Florand clearly loves Paris, and chocolate, and chocolate making makes for a surprisingly sexy setting for a romance. It's probably not surprising that a gorgeous man who creates amazing chocolates makes for an attractive romantic hero, but it's his insecurities, and the fact that he's not actually very good with women that makes Sylvain so likable. He keeps screwing up and saying and doing the wrong things, and then he's not afraid to admit his mistakes and apologise, trying to make amends. While he's appalled by her attempts to buy his name for her company, Sylvain decides he wants to seduce Cade fairly early on, and he works very systematically and cleverly to do so. It takes a strong and stubborn woman to withstand his attentions for as long as Cade did.

There is apparently already another book in the series, which various review assure me is even more enjoyable than this one. So I will definitely be checking out more of Florand's books.

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