Tasha/heidenkind encouraged me to read a Laura Florand book so I dedicate that review to her, as a kind of a ‘thank-you’ gift for all those lovely recommendations of romantic fiction (pun intended 😉 ). Do visit her blog, Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books to find more reviews of Laura Florand books!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
She hated him.
Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.
But he didn’t hate her.
Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.
Paris. Chocolate. Spun sugar. High cuisine. La Tour Eiffel. La vie en rose. Love at first sight. A dashing French chef and a lowly (but lovely) American stagiare of Asian descent – both hard-working and single. What can go wrong? As usual in my case, plenty. Let me present one short example: Sarah and Patrick are trying to straighten up one of their tiffs. Sarah thinks Patrick threw her out of his flat because he wants just to have sex with her whereas Patrick was simply dead tired and completely out of his mind so he talked rubbish.
“You said, ‘Then why are you still here?’”Her voice went low, choked, reluctant, and he got his hands through her buttons at last to stroke her breastbone, right where that choked feeling would lodge. “When I said I wasn’t there for sex.”
Fuck, he’d been so tired. Was this all because his clumsy brain had connected with his tongue in some way that made his thoughts sound all wrong? Merde, she was just like his mother.”
This one quote sums the novel up for me quite nicely. Sarah and Patrick are infatuated with each other (so yes, the first part of the blurb is completely WRONG) but they cannot understand each other’s demands and requirements. Small wonder – they met just five months ago and then continued their acquaintance mainly as co-workers in an insanely busy, very hot and messy restaurant kitchen. With him as her direct supervisor. Which, as you can guess, created a lot of ethical issues. And therein lies the main friction point of the plot – the two protagonists fancy each other A LOT but they cannot understand even the simplest facts concerning a mature relationship. Like the need to talk to each other the moment something goes wrong, not days or weeks later, or the requirement that you put your ideas across so the other part understands what you actually mean. Of course they go to bed at one point because they simply cannot keep their hands off each other but their misunderstandings don’t get any better. In fact they even get worse.
In other words it was a contemporary Cinderella’s story with both Cindy and her French Prince Charmant carrying a lot of baggage into their ménage; so much that in fact it very swiftly became a kind of ménage-a-trois. How did it work for me? The first part was better, with some great scenes depicting the hectic work in a three-Michelin-stars kitchen catering to the most discerning customers; they reminded me a bit of Ratatouille, a cartoon movie I adore. The second was so-so, with too many sex scenes peppering the narration and too many maudlin dialogues; still the novel was saved by the interactions between Patrick and Luc Leroi, his boss and foster brother. Apart from that some scenes featuring Patrick and Sarah too often seemed very close to stalking and harassment. Still I suppose I would like to read Luc’s part as next (so yes, Tasha, you were completely right, I should have started with that one). What’s more?
It is one of these books which glorify Paris and French culture to an insane and completely artificial level, right from a dream of a starry-eyed tourist. Paris is heaven on Earth. There’s never smog, there’s just nice fog. There are no traffic jams, no rude passers-by, no con artists or pickpockets, no dirt, no banlieues and their ugly problems. Everything glitters and shines, even the dirty Seine; a lowly stagiare can shop at Dior and even if she chooses stillettos a tad too tight she never gets blisters because hey, it’s Paris. Well, a fairy tale is nice to read about but you must know that it hardly ever represents the reality.
Not a bad contemporary romance but also one I found a bit lacking. The story was still compelling enough to make me try another book in the series, especially that I have it on a good authority that it is actually better.