Saturday, 23 March 2013

#CBR5 Book 31. "The Chocolate Kiss" by Laura Florand

320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Magalie Chaudron lives high in a tower over the tiny tea salon La Maison des Sorcières (the witches' house). In the window there is always a unique chocolate display depicting magical wonders, the walls are decorated with witches' hats and customers can buy divine hot chocolate that Magalie has stirred wishes of happiness and prosperity into. When world renowned pastry chef Philippe Lyonnais decides to open his most recent pastry shop just down the street from their salon, Magalie is convinced this will steal all their customers away and drive the aunts out of business. She goes to warn Philippe to stay away, but only succeeds in making him more determined.

Philippe is enchanted with the fierce woman who comes to his shop and tries to make him move his shop. He tries to placate her with a macaron made from his own hand, and she flatly refuses. In return, he refuses all of Magalie's attempts to try her hot chocolate, not entirely certain the little witch hasn't added poison to it, or whether drinking it will turn him into a toad. No matter how hateful she is to him, he is determined to win her over, becoming obsessed with discovering the perfect creation to make her fall for him, as he has fallen for her.

The Chocolate Kiss is a sequel of sorts to The Chocolate Thief, and feature cameos from Sylvain and Cade briefly, but the reader in no way needs to have read the first to enjoy the second. While The Chocolate Thief was a fluffy, light-hearted romp, there is more angst and a much slower build-up in this one. Magalie is a terribly stubborn and determined, and self-sufficient to the point of idiocy, with massive trust issues and a huge fear of commitment because her parents kept uprooting her throughout her childhood and adolescence, until she never had a proper home or anyone she could rely on.

She creates this perceived image of Philippe as a spoiled, arrogant fairy-tale prince, who will ride in to her fairy-tale existence on the Ilê de St. Louis in Paris, and lay waste to all she holds dear. She's convinced that if her aunt's cafe loses its customers, she will lose her safe haven and have to move yet again, and never stops to listen to her aunts when they tell her that they're quite happy for the tea shop to remain a secret, known only to some, and that they really don't need the revenue from it. As she keeps fighting her attraction to Philippe, her wishes seem to drive every woman who drinks a cup of her chocolate straight towards his pastry shop, until it drives him mad with frustration.

Philippe is not particularly spoiled, and has worked very hard to become as famous as he is. Like Sylvain, he can be seen as arrogant, because he knows he has no rivals in his field. A driven man, he has enormous self control, in all matters that don't concern Magalie. Because of his supportive family and thoroughly functional and happy upbringing, he is also patient and secure enough in his feelings for her that even when she tries her best to drive him away, desperately afraid that she'll get hurt, he endures Magalie's tantrums and insecurities, certain that with time, he can draw the witch out of her ivory tower and they will have their happily ever after.

On quite a few occasions while reading this book, I really did want to shake Magalie and tell her to snap out of it, and kind of thought that Philippe should probably move on and find someone who actually deserved his awesomeness, but at the same time, Florand takes the time to show why she has such a difficult time trusting people and opening herself up to others. It would have been a lot more unsatisfying and unrealistic if she jumped into Philippe's arms, ready for her HEA after one kiss and the slow build from antagonists to lovers was different from what I'd expected when reading The Chocolate Thief, but no less satisfying.

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