Friday 23 August 2013

#CBR5 Book 106. "The Chocolate Touch" by Laura Florand

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Dominique Richard worked in an abattoir in his early teens, but is now one of the chief chocolatiers in Paris. His chocolate, like his reputation, is darker and his flavour combinations are much more unorthodox and edgier than those of his rivals. Yet for all that Dominique is known for his volatile temper, his employees all adore him, and treat him more like an older brother than a boss. They all want him to find lasting happiness, not just indulge in meaningless one night stands.

Jaime Corey is recovering from a terrible ordeal. She used to travel the world, trying to develop sustainable farming and fair trade practices among the suppliers to her family's chocolate empire. Now she's a mere shadow of herself, slowly recuperating in Paris, resenting the cloying concern of family. Every day, she spends some time at Dominique Richard's shop, watching him from afar, never dreaming that he's taking just as much notice of her. Why would the darkly charming and brilliant creative genius have a scarred little nobody like her, when sophisticated Paris ladies keep throwing themselves at him?

Laura Florand really has found a formula that works for her. The naturally romantic setting of Paris, gourmet chocolate, and large, temperamental, arrogant men who are also deeply emotionally vulnerable, and just need the right woman to bring them happiness. The woman in this book is Jaime Corey, younger sister of Cade, the heroine of The Chocolate Thief (I still miss the brightly coloured and cartoony covers of the first two books). The Corey sisters are heirs to the massive Corey Chocolate fortune (read Hershey) and the arrogant chocolatiers of Paris, with their gourmet creations, scorn their mass produced candy bars.

Dominique has no idea that the waif he's fallen so deeply for is a Corey, however, because Jaime doesn't reveal her surname. In her experience, guys are a lot more interested in the family fortune than they are in her. For all that Jaime has travelled the world, doing good deeds, she has massive self esteem issues, especially after being physically and emotionally scarred while on the job. She's always compared herself unfavourably to her older sister, and doesn't really believe that she can measure up toe the same standards.

Dominique, for all that he is tall, dark and brilliant, has huge emotional issues. His mother was an alcoholic, who left him and his violent father when Dominique was a young teen. Dominique worked in an abattoir until he was 19, and then managed to apprentice to a top chef and turn himself into the man he is now. He has terrible anger issues, and worries that he will turn abusive, like his Dad. He has massive abandonment issues, and because he dropped out of school when his home life became too complicated, believes himself to be a coarse, uneducated brute, not really fit for anything but short term, meaningless sexual encounters.

Jaime and Dominque are both so very messed up, and in previous Florand book, it's tended to be one or the other who needs "saving". Jaime believes she's not worth loving, and Dominique is convinced anyone he gets really close to, will leave him. The two have to save each other. For anyone who's read Florand's other books (and you should, they're delightful), there are appearances from most of the major characters in both The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Kiss. This book works perfectly well as a stand alone, though, as do all of her romances.

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