Monday 23 October 2017

#CBR9 Book 92: "A Kiss in Lavender" by Laura Florand

Page count: 321 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Lucien Rosier grew up in a very tight knit group of cousins, with a strong sense of family. So when at eighteen, he discovered that he was in fact illegitimate, and not actually a Rosier, he ran away and joined the French Foreign Legion, where he crafted himself a new identity and support network of fellow soldiers. Fifteen years later, a determined woman has managed to locate him and figure out who he once used to be. His great-aunt wants to give him a legacy and his cousin is getting married. Can Lucien return to his childhood home or is the past lost forever?

Elena Lyon always looked up to Lucien Rosier growing up. He once saved her from bullies, and growing up in a long line of foster homes, few of them very good, she saw her fair share of unsavoury and untrustworthy men. One of the exceptions is Antoine Vallier, who was in the foster care system with her. They did their best to protect one another. Now Antoine seems determined to protect her from Lucien - who he believes will break Elena's heart worse than any of her former foster experiences did.

All Elena ever wanted was a stable family to love her. She needs Lucien to see that no matter what his DNA might say, all the Rosiers, who he grew up among, are his true family and he'd be absolutely mad to give them up a second time. There was no rescue for Elena growing up, so she wants it for Lucien instead. Yet he seems determined not to give up his life in the Foreign Legion. Of course she can't help but fall even harder for Lucien than when she was a teen, but can she give up the home and stability she has painstakingly built for herself to be a soldier's wife?

Family is a central concept in this novel. Lucien, the hero, fled into the Foreign Legion and created a new kind of family for himself when he discovered that the man he believed to be his father was in fact not. His loss has been strongly felt among the remaining Rosiers in the south of France, and while they may not technically be his family by blood, he is clearly the only one who seems to have a problem accepting this. When he finally does return for a family wedding, his grandfather and cousins embrace him with open arms and do their best to try to figure out ways in which he can return to the fold once more.

Elena Lyon had a troubled childhood. Her grandmother was one of several Jewish children rescued from the Nazis by the patriarch of the Rosier family, along with his step-sister. She had a daughter, Elena's mother, but committed suicide, which in turn negatively impacted on Elena's mother's life. When Elena was young, she would end up in foster care when her mother was too strung out on drugs to take care of her. She would return intermittently to her mother, but never for very long. Some of the foster families were good, some were dreadful. Elena has suffered a lot of abuse, mostly emotional, but occasionally also physical. She loves her mother, but their relationship is strained. She sees Antoine Vallier as the closest thing she has to a brother, but it's not entirely clear if he views her with less than fraternal feelings. He's got some kind of complicated history with the Rosiers, and seems especially jealous of Lucien.

Her entire life, Elena has tried to be the most agreeable and lovable, so she would find a permanent home, only to find herself abandoned again and again. She tried to get a degree studying her Jewish ancestry, only to find it to emotionally wrenching. Now she works as a curator at one of the perfume museums in Grasse, when she's doesn't work on special assignments to locate missing heirs for the Rosier's great-aunt. Having already tracked down several young ladies (who each ended up with handsome Rosier cousins in earlier books), her last job involves tracking down Lucien and trying to lure him home.

There is an instant attraction between Lucien and Elena. In Elena's case, it's not all that surprising, since she had a crush on him as a teenager and idolised him after he rescued her from some bullies. While they have sizzling chemistry, their differing backgrounds make a relationship difficult. Even after Lucien begins to realise that the family he thought he lost was there all along, just waiting for him to return, he has a strong sense of honour and loyalty to his men in the Foreign Legion and can't really picture himself in any other life than that of a soldier. Elena has carefully constructed a cozy and comfortable life for herself in Grasse. She has a job she loves and quite a few friends, and has already spent a lifetime desperately trying to find love and security, trying her best to change to adapt to what she thought others wanted of her. Her future dreams and plans just don't seem compatible with those of Lucien, and one of them will have to change their hopes and expectations if they are to find happiness together.

This is the fourth in Florand's La Vie en Roses series, set in the flowering valleys of the south of France. Early in the book, Damien and Jess from A Wish Upon Jasmine get married, and there are also appearances by the other male cousins who have already found their happy endings. They are all ridiculously happy to have Lucien back in their midst, and frankly rather baffled that he felt the need to run away and disappear so completely for so long. While I suspect the book works fine as a stand alone, long time readers of Florand's books will probably enjoy it even more, as it builds on themes set up earlier in the series.

While Elena and Lucien's romance is obviously central, Antoine Vallier plays an important supporting role, and not really as the third in a love triangle. He has appeared in all the earlier books in his role as the eccentric Rosier great-aunt, Colette Delatour's attorney and it's clear that there is something complicated in his relationship to the Rosiers. In this book, that comes more to the fore front, and it's strongly implied that he is a long lost relation of some sort. If I am not mistaken, one of the future books in the series will be about him and will no doubt reveal his connection to the rest of the perfume producing family.

In August, about a month before this book was released, Laura Florand declared on her blog that she would be taking an extended break from writing and publishing, because since her career took off in 2012 with The Chocolate Thief, she's been publishing about two books a year without any breaks and she is understandably quite in need of some rest and relaxation. I know her brand of romantic escapism doesn't work for every romance reader, but I find her books (with very few exceptions) to be delightful and always look forward to her new releases. So it makes me sad that I have to wait for new books by her, yet it's not like I haven't waited for more than six years for some authors to produce new books (Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin, I'm looking at you). So I hope Ms. Florand enjoys her well-earned writing break and will just have to comfort myself by re-reading some of my favourites of her books until she's ready to give us more hunky French men and the women who love them.

Judging a book by its cover: There seems to be little to no cover continuity when it comes to the books in this series. Since Once Upon a Rose came out in early 2015, there have been at least three different styles of covers, none of which match up all that well. The previous book in the series, A Crown of Bitter Orange, was published in early January, and at least these two books seem to match each other (not that I'm wildly enthused about either cover). The couple kissing in the top half of the picture just seem so incredibly staged. At least here the lavender is actually appropriate to the plot (as opposed to on the last cover, where they really should have incorporated orange blossoms instead).

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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