Chachic's Book Nook


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Blogger Meet Up: Liyana of Liyaland

Liyana Meet Up

Liyana of LiyanaLand is a Singaporean book blogger. I met her online when I moved to Singapore about two years ago. We’ve been trying to set up a face to face meeting for a while but our schedules don’t always align. Last Thursday, we finally got to meet when she set up an impromptu dinner. Turns out we both like this Aussie accessories store called Lovisa so we spent some time browsing there before heading off for dinner. We both ended up buying stuff because they were on sale! We decided to have dinner at Fish and Co. and ordered mussels with garlic butter sauce, fried calamari and the New York fish and chips (with parmesan stuffed inside).

Liyana meet up - Fish and Co

The food was yummy and we talked about so many things! Such as reading, book blogging, bookstores, authors jobs, Singaporean culture, the literary scene in Singapore vs. Manila, travel, food, hamsters (Liyana has 30 of them), etc. Really anything and everything that popped into our minds. It was a lot of fun to hang out with Liyana because I feel like we have a lot of things in common so we didn’t run out of things to talk about. I’m sorry that I’m not able to provide a detailed recap of all the topics we discussed. We spent several hours together – from browsing in Lovisa, dinner at Fish and Co. and then lining up for frozen yogurt at Llao Llao. It was a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening and we’ve already promised each other that we would do it again soon. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another two years to see each other again!

Liyana meet up - Llao Llao

Previous meet ups with other bloggers:
Alexa of Alexa Loves Books
Steph and Tarie
Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous
Michelle of See Michelle Read


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Amour et Florand: A Strong Sense of Place

Amour et Florand

Thank you to everyone who participated in Amour et Florand, through guest posts, posts in your own blogs or comments. Merci beaucoup! The past few days have been pretty hectic for me so I still need to catch up on replying to comments. I know the blog event is finished but I had this post in mind and I couldn’t let it go, I hope the rest of you don’t mind that I’m posting it a few days late.

There are many reasons to love Laura Florand’s novels. Some of them have been discussed in detail in the other Amour et Florand guest posts. You can’t really go wrong with the combination of France, chocolate and hot guys, right? For this post, I want to focus on the strong sense of place in her writing. In her guest post for last year’s EWein Special Ops, Elizabeth Wein talked about how she loves books that have a strong sense of place. Here’s a snippet of what she said:

The world almost becomes a character in the novel itself. Setting shouldn’t just be there as a backdrop; a good sense of place will make a setting, fictionally speaking, into a living, breathing organism like our own planet, and the author’s love for and familiarity with the world of his or her creation guides us through the unfamiliar landscape like a virtual map.

EWein was actually talking about fantasy worlds when she wrote that bit but I think it’s applicable to the settings in Laura’s books: Paris for her Amour et Chocolat novels and Grasse for her La Vie en Roses series. Laura vividly describes these places to the point where you feel like you had a mini-vacation in France after reading her books. The sights, the scents and the sounds – all of these just pop out of the page to make the reader feel like you’re right there with the characters. I love how she describes the cobblestone streets, the old buildings and the bridges of Paris as well as the fountains and plazas or public squares in Provence. I know that she travels to France on a regular basis but even just by reading her books, I could tell that she’s done her research. In fact, she knows her stuff so well that you can use her books as guides when you travel to France. I knew France was famous for its pastries and desserts but I don’t think I would have known that chocolate was such a big deal there if I hadn’t read the Amour et Florand books. I was also not aware that Grasse is the perfume capital of the world until it was described as such in Laura’s writing. For someone who loves both chocolate and perfumes, I feel like I know a little more about these because of Laura’s novels.

One of my favorite quotes from The Chocolate Touch is this:

“Paris was a good place to fight your demons. The streets were so tempting to explore, the gritty realism of their dirt and crowds tempered by that element of fairytale inherent to the city.”

Because I like how Laura describes Paris and Grasse as places that are beautiful and charming, sometimes even magical, but she balances that with realism. We see it in the way her heroines feel intimidated by the city, and in how they become homesick or lonely but are too scared to go out and explore unknown places by themselves. Cade feels like this and is also annoyed with how sleazy men keep trying to hit on her because she’s a woman walking around by herself. Magalie feels smaller and less like herself the farther she ventures out of her island, even though she armors herself with fashionable clothes. Allegra falls in love with Grasse when she first encounters it but then becomes miserable as winter sets in and she doesn’t have the warmth of her family to wrap herself in. Summer hates Paris, especially the Eiffel Tower, and wouldn’t even visit the city if she wasn’t being forced by her parents. I feel like these descriptions and situations make the setting feel even more authentic because even the most beautiful place will still have its imperfections.

I’m very grateful that I got to go to France last April (first ever trip to Europe!) and I hope everyone who has ever dreamed of going there will get the chance to visit. I have shared pictures from my recent trip in my Snapshot From a Book posts here and here but to wrap up Amour et Florand, I want to share more shots that made me think of Laura’s books.

In my first few hours in Paris, I was able to visit a chocolatier:
Chachic in front of Paris chocolatier chocolatier in Paris

Laduree has branches in Singapore but not in Manila so we still dropped by their Paris store:
Laduree in Paris

I saw the Meilleur Ouvrier de France sign and told my friends we should go in because according to the Amour et Chocolat books, this shop will have excellent products. I thought their macarons were better than Laduree’s:
Georges Larnicol Georges Larnicol macarons

Not quite like Magalie’s but this a chocolat chaud that I ordered from one of the restaurants in Paris (no, I didn’t feel any different after drinking it):
chocolat chaud

The Eiffel Tower, of course:
Paris - Eiffel1 Paris - Eiffel2

Cobblestone streets of Montmartre:
Lomo - Montmartre

Gare de Lyon, the train station where Magalie meets her mother, who is traveling from Ithaca, New York back to Provence:
Gare de Lyon lomo

We visited Aix-en-Provence in the South of France and we really wanted to visit Grasse from there but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do so. The way Laura describes Grasse in her La Vie en Roses books reminded me a bit of Aix so I thought I would share some of my Aix pictures.

Fountains in Aix:
Lomo Aix Rotonde
Aix-en-Provence - four dolphins fountain Aix-en-Provence - fountain at night

Santons, terracotta nativity scene figurines, which were mentioned in A Rose in Winter:
Aix-en-Provence - santons

Lavender and roses:
Aix-en-Provence - lavender Aix-en-Provence - roses

Artisan perfumes made in Grasse:
Aix - perfumes from Grasse

Hope you all have fun browsing through these pictures!

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Links to Amour et Florand posts:
How did you discover Laura’s books?
Guest post from Michelle of See Michelle Read: Super Scholarly Thesis on The Addictive Properties of The Amour et Chocolat Series
Guest post from Holly of Book Harbinger: The Chocolat Awards
Guest post from Rachel Neumeier: Making Great Characterization Look Easy
Guest post from Angie of Angieville
Guest post from Laura Florand
Guest post from Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile: My Gateway to Contemporary Romance
Guest post from Maureen of By Singing Light
Guest post from Mandi of Smexy Books
Guest post from Nalini Singh: My first Laura Florand book (or how Laura Florand ate my weekend)

Amour et Florand posts in other blogs:
Genre Hopping: Five Things I love About Laura Florand’s Books
Pakwanstripes: Laura and the Five Senses
Pakwanstripes: Learning from Turning Up The Heat
Girl meets Books: 10 Things I Love About Laura Florand’s Books


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Amour et Florand: My first Laura Florand book (or how Laura Florand ate my weekend)

Nalini Singh is a bestselling author of numerous paranormal romance novels. Can I just say how awesome it was that Nalini agreed to do a guest post for Amour et Florand? I was ecstatic when I received her reply.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Nalini to Amour et Florand!

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My first Laura Florand book (or how Laura Florand ate my weekend) by Nalini Singh

NaliniSinghI’m not sure who first mentioned Laura’s books to me—I just know that I received multiple recommendations all at once. Twitter peeps started saying I needed to read Laura’s books, then I went to brunch with my writing buds and one of them basically ordered me to read the books.

I usually don’t read too much while I’m deep into writing a story. Instead, I keep a running list of what I want to read, and then once I hand in my manuscript, I have a “reading vacation” for two or three days, in which I happily inhale books.

Generally, my auto-buy authors top the list, as I catch up on their newest releases. New-to-me authors tend to be lower down on the list. But that day, I decided to pick up a Laura Florand book – mostly so I could tell my friend I’d read it!

Three hours and many contorted body positions on my couch later, I turned the final page and immediately fired up my e-reader to buy the next. And so it continued. Two and a half days later, I’d read everything Laura had written to that point (and it was a fair few books, since I only discovered her last year), and was haunting her website trying to find the release date of my next fix. (I also bought all the books in print, because one copy wasn’t enough ;-)).

What do I love about Laura’s books? Everything.

I love that these are unashamed love stories, raw with emotion and hot with passion. I love that the characters are imperfect and yet perfect for one another. I love that we get to see Paris and other parts of France through their eyes.

And of course, I love the chocolate… and the macarons… and the roses.

I visited Paris for the first time earlier this year, and though it was an unfamiliar city, it felt familiar to me because of Laura’s books. Late on our first night in Paris, I suddenly dragged my sister out to the balcony and into the freezing wind. She thought I’d lost it… but that room had a view of the Eiffel Tower, and a minute after I dragged her out, it ticked over to eleven at night and the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle in a shower of light.

I knew it would because of Laura’s books, and now that moment on that windy balcony is one of my favorite memories of Paris.

Not long after that first visit to Paris, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Laura. Her warmth and sweetness just put the final seal on my love for her work. (And she brought chocolate!!)

I can’t wait to read the next Laura Florand story and the next and the next. So write like the wind, Laura!

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Merci, Nalini! I visited Paris for the first time this year too and I kept talking about Laura’s books while I was there.

Amour et Florand


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Amour et Florand: Guest Post from Mandi

Since I consider Mandi of Smexy Books an expert when it comes to the romance genre, I love getting recommendations from her. I’m delighted that she’s also a fan of Laura Florand’s writing.

Amour et Florand participants, please give it up for Mandi!

SmexyBooks
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There are so many aspects of Laura Florand’s writing that appeals to me. The way she sets the books in romantic Paris, in busy kitchens or in quaint chocolate shops. The detail she uses not only in describing the setting, but the food that is created in these kitchens is terrific. It’s so easy to immerse yourself in the world she has created. Inside of this world she gives us such rich characters that leads to a full romance. My favorite thing about her books though, is what she does with her heroes. Her typical hero is a big guy who is extremely passionate about cooking, creating pastries or amazing chocolate. He is extremely intense, usually grumpy, and has 100% of his focus on his career. Until he meets his heroine. All of a sudden, that extreme focus, is parted. All of that intense passion has a new target. And instead of that heroine melting like a piece of chocolate in his hand, she resists. She might ignore. She doesn’t look his way. So instead of getting what he wants immediately (as he is used to) he has to work for it. His feathers are ruffled, and he has to find a way to prove to the heroine, he is worthy of her. This big strong man, is being brought down, and I love every second of it.

Dom in the Chocolate Touch knows he is overbearing and aggressive and wants to be a better man for Jamie.

Merde, but this stuff was complicated. He kept trying to pretend she was chocolate because at least he understood that you could never rush chocolate, but since she persistently resembled a woman instead, it was hard for him to treat her like something he could stir with a spoon.

Unfortunately.

Or when Gabriel is brought to his knees by Jolie in The Chocolate Rose…

“You’re beautiful,” she said involuntarily.

His smile grew wider, a boyish delight. “You mean, this.” He gestured to the marble counter, indicating her dessert and everything that had come before or been served to others.

“I said what I meant.”

His hand froze in the middle of the sweeping gesture. It turned, pressing flat against the marble, and his head bent. She couldn’t read his expression, as he stared down at his hand, so still. It was almost as if he was badly shaken, as if something was rising out of the shaking, warring inside him.

Or poor Philippe from The Chocolate Kiss (my personal favorite) who would make macaron after macaron for his beloved Magalie, and could never understand why she rejected them each time.

He couldn’t believe she had rejected one of his macarons. He had offered it to her fresh from his own hand. Not just his recipe, but made personally by him. And she had refused it.

His Desir. Apricot kissed by pistachio, with the secret little square of pistachio praline hidden inside, like a G-spot. Well, he didn’t call it le point Gin his marketing brochures, but whenever he created, he knew what he was doing: every pastry had to have its orgasm, its culmination of bliss that hit like a complete surprise. That made the eyes of those who bit into it shiver closed with delight.

But don’t fret. Not only do we get fulfilling and satisfying happy ever afters, but all that intense passion, and torment these heroes live with – pays off well in the bedroom too. I can’t recommend this author enough.

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Merci, Mandi! I do love how these big, super confident guys turn into marshmallows when it comes to their leading ladies. :)

Amour et Florand


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Amour et Florand: Guest Post from Maureen

So, so, so. Like Brandy from today’s earlier post, Maureen of By Singing Light is also one of my trusted bloggers. I think it’s awesome that while she’s not a big romance reader, she loves Laura’s books.

Welcome, Maureen, to Amour et Florand!

By Singing Light
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I’m not a huge romance reader, mostly because I tend to like my romance as the subplot of a story rather than the main event (think Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane). I do enjoy some romance novels on occasion, and yet I don’t normally absolutely love them. But there are a few exceptions to this: Georgette Heyer, Cecilia Grant, and Laura Florand.

Chachic was the one who first recommended Laura Florand’s books, but even knowing how much she loved them I hesitated a bit until The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Kiss were returned to the library where I work. I do love a good heist story, and the covers looked fun, and I did want something light to read… So I checked them out and read them. I liked The Chocolate Thief, although it wasn’t quite what I had expected, but I loved The Chocolate Kiss. I loved Magalie, and the aunts, and the Maison de Sorcieres, and the way it was almost a fairy tale retelling, but not quite.

Since then I believe I’ve read everything Laura has published, and loved them all. There are a few reasons for why I connect so well with her books, despite (again) not being a big romance reader. Some are more shallow, some are deeper. On the shallow end, I am a huge sucker for fairy tale retellings, and there’s a bit of a fairy tale woven into almost all of the stories. I won’t spoil them for you, because they’re quite subtle and part of the fun of reading a new one is keeping your eye out for clues.

I also love the way the settings are important. The way the characters interact with where they live makes the French-ness so much more than just a gimmick. And I always love when the place a story is set seems almost like another character. These stories are really good at that. For instance, here’s Magalie’s island in The Chocolate Kiss:

“On the island, all the freshly discovered hustle and bustle of Paris seemed to fade away. Stone buildings centuries old rose around her, never taller than eight stories, including the slanted one, under slate roofs. The rare car passed discreetly, inching its way through the people who walked easily in the middle of the street, looking up at old carvings on the walls, into storefronts filled with strange specialities. Time lay over the island like a cloak: the idea that you always had time, that it had been here for awhile and wasn’t going anywhere soon.”

As you might be able to tell from that, Laura Florand writes really, really good prose. I pulled a couple of examples from The Chocolate Kiss, because it was the one I remembered to bookmark. Here’s the very first line:

“It was a good day for princesses. The rain drove them indoors, an amused little rain with long, cool fingers that heralded the winter to come and made people fear the drafts in their castles.”

It’s a perfect beginning for this book, and a great example of the way this subtle imagery is woven through the prose, always tying back into the characters and often the fairy tale that’s being referenced.

Here’s another example, because I can’t resist:

“Aunt Aja took that tray out and, just as she left the kitchen, the silver bell over the front door rang with a chime so sharp and true that it pierced Magalie straight through the heart.”

Again, this is just perfect for this book – slightly heightened, slightly fairy-tale-esque. It sounds, perhaps, a little melodramatic out of context, and yet in context it fits perfectly into this almost magical world that Magalie inhabits. I love that I can trust these books to be not only competently but beautifully written.

One of the other things I love about these books is the way they’re open to all kinds of relationships, not just the romantic one that is of course at the heart of the story. But family and friends, coworkers – they’re all important too, as they are in real life. I often find that romance books tend to have a kind of tunnel vision when it comes to the main characters’ other relationships. They might exist, but they’re never as important, never as realized as the romance. But here, partly because Florand is really good at sketching characters in a few sentences, they seem just as real, just as important as the main characters.

For instance, here’s Magalie’s Aunt Aja:

“Aunt Aja was soft-voiced and supple as a slender shaft of tempered steel. Her dimpled fingers could press the nastiest kink out of a back. Wrong-mindedness had no quarter around her. Her gentle strength seemed to squeeze it out of existence, not by specifically seeking to crush it but by expanding until foolishness had no room left.”

(Relatedly: I WANT TO BE AUNT AJA.)

But perhaps most importantly, I love the characters. I love that they’re not perfect, even the ones who at first look like they are, and yet they try really hard to get things right, both personally and professionally. I really like the fact that they care about things beyond themselves, about tea shops and cookbooks and getting chocolate just exactly, perfectly right. And because I’m so invested in them as a reader, even situations that otherwise might seem melodramatic work for me. There’s a sense of careful craft about these books, in the way they use the conventions of the genre sometimes and other times fall away from them entirely.

In the end, though, I think the real reason I love these books so much is that they’re about more than just a romantic relationship. I mean, don’t get me wrong! That’s definitely there! At the heart of the story, though, the journey of the main characters is not only towards each other but toward a greater understanding of themselves. It’s the way this interacts with the romance that makes me care so much about these characters as they find the courage to walk together through the dark forest.

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Merci, Maureen! I love how strongly you feel about Aunt Aja. LOL.

Amour et Florand


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Amour et Florand: My Gateway to Contemporary Romance

Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile is one of my trusted bloggers because we share similar tastes in young adult fantasy and contemporary (as evidenced by past guest posts that she’s done for EWein Special Ops and Marchetta Madness). I also think of her as an expert on middle grade fiction. I love what she has to say about Laura Florand’s books.

Here’s Brandy for Amour et Florand!

Random Musings of a Bibliophile2

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My Gateway to Contemporary Romance by Brandy

I began reading romance novels when I was in high school. They were an easy quick distraction from the heavier (often duller) required school reading. I was actually sort of known for it because they were the books I chose to bring to school with me every day for whenever I had a free moment to read-they were easy to slip in and out of-and it was quickly noticed that I had a different one every day. I read fast. I read A LOT of romances over those years. Most of them I don’t even remember, but they were all historical. For some reason I have always had a mental block when it comes to reading contemporary books. As a teacher I read plenty of them aimed for the elementary school set, but I never ventured into that genre in any other area. Melina Marchetta changed that in regards to YA literature. Laura Florand unlocked the world of adult contemporary romance for me.

What mainly attracted me to Florand’s books was Chachic talking about them constantly on Twitter. I know I can trust her. We have VERY similar taste in books. That in itself wouldn’t have been enough though. These books are about Paris. These books are about CHOCOLATE. And I love romance, but actually hadn’t tried a new author in quite some time. All those things worked together to make me want to read The Chocolate Thief. And then I really wanted to kick myself because what had I been missing out on? If THIS is what the world of contemporary romance was like, then I had been lacking some seriously good entertainment for years. It had been so long since found a new-to-me author I liked enough to want to binge read everything they had ever written, and boy did it feel good. At the time that was a total of three books, but I had found a new author to love and pre-order all the things she would write in the future. (Or buy as soon as she lets us know that’s possible.)

What is it about Florand’s books that captured me so fully? It is the way she combines all of my favorite elements into each and every one. Her characters are complex people. The have flaws and hard edges, weaknesses that are completely realistic. I love how she shows how difficult it can be to fit two strong people with all their baggage and life expectations together into a partnership that works for both of them. And she does it with it humor. There is excellent dialogue in her books. The banter is top-notch, and I truly adore it when the heroes of the previous novels are around to mock the newest one. (Sylvain is particularly good at this.) I love how she writes about married couples too, and shows how difficult marriage can be, but also how rewarding. Then there are the fairy tales she slips into the stories like special little presents you just give someone because you love it. All of that together is impossible for me to resist. And yes, they are sexy. Exactly the kind of sexy I like.

Thanks to Laura’s books I was willing to explore a whole new genre. And most of the exploring I’ve done has come at her recommendation. She is an excellent book pusher. She caused my book bingeing one other author too, and I can’t stress again how long it had been since I had wanted to binge books. It’s been a great feeling. It had also been quite some time since I had found books that I wanted to reread so much. Books that when I had a stressful day, were the perfect solution. I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I’ve reread all of these. For that, for all the new authors she’s introduced me to, and for giving me an excellent gateway into this genre, Laura Florand’s books will always have a special place in my heart. As I have explored this genre more too, I can also say she is my favorite author of contemporary romance and I don’t see that changing.

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Merci, Brandy! I also get romance recommendations from Laura. :) Melina Marchetta was also my gateway to YA contemporary.

Amour et Florand


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Amour et Florand: Guest Post from Laura Florand

Bonjour! Today, we have a very special guest post for Amour et Florand as Laura Florand herself shares some thoughts about her writing.

Yay, Laura! *claps enthusiastically*

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Exploring the streets of the towns around Grasse leads here, in Cagnes (Haut de Cagnes), France.

Exploring the streets of the towns around Grasse leads here, in Cagnes (Haut de Cagnes), France. This street, with its thick vine, will become the inspiration for the street on which Colette Delatour’s house is found, in the Vie en Roses series.

I think anyone who reads my work can tell that I am deeply compelled by the powerful sensuality of setting. The sound of bees buzzing densely around you as you crouch amid lavender, the way the sprigs of it gently scratch their scent against your skin. The silk of petals as you press your thumb into a rose to harvest it, and the prick of a thorn if you’re careless. The scent of sun against stone and jasmine, and the subtle chatter of dried leaves over cobblestones in the streets of some old Provençal town, as if the wind is gossiping about you as you climb toward some chapel or castle set on the heights.

These are the settings of the Vie en Roses series, a setting that defiantly eludes capture. All words fail here. How do you describe the harvest of a valley full of roses? Rose petals are actually softer than silk, their scent sweeter and fresher than sweetness, and in any case, all words like “silk”, “sweet” have been worn weak with overuse. So what is a writer to do? This is the challenge and joy of writing about such vivid worlds: that eternal, Sisyphian effort to do justice to their vividness on the printed page.

The books in La Vie en Roses focus around a family in Grasse in the south of France, a family whose role in the fragrance industry of that region dates back to the Renaissance. In the Amour et Chocolat series, on the other hand, I have been fascinated by another profession obsessed with the senses: the top chocolatiers and pastry chefs of Paris. These amazing, incredibly hard-working, passionate, perfectionist chefs who devote their whole being to creating that most perfect, magical dessert or chocolate that will melt in someone else’s mouth, give someone else pleasure.

Laura with chocolatier Michael Chaudun

Laura with chocolatier Michael Chaudun

Maybe I am so fascinated by them because they do so well something I, with words, would like to do: capture the power of the senses. One small, perfect chocolate is, in itself, the quintessence of sensuality. And here, too, the setting helps compel me: that rich setting of chocolate, pastry, intense work, and, of course, one step outside the laboratoire, the streets of Paris. If you cannot walk down the Seine at night and be utterly enraptured by the fact that you are alive to experience this, then you are immune to all magic.

People often ask me why I write about France. Sometimes I say, tongue in cheek, that the culture appropriated me. As a student planning her dissertation in Francophone literature, with a focus on French Polynesia, I came to Paris with some reticence, as a graduate assistant with my university’s study abroad program. I initially was underwhelmed by Paris — compared to warm and energetic Madrid, in which I had spent the semester before, or Tahiti, where I had spent a year on a Fulbright Grant. In Paris that first year, it rained all the time and the very bad bet of an ex-boyfriend I had left behind found my number and kept calling me at three in the morning, and it was all just very miserable.

But Paris caught me. France caught me. I met my husband there. He took me out inline skating on the Seine night after night and taught me to fall in love with his city, in all its fascination and frustration. And his huge, effervescent family wrapped us up in their embrace, welcoming and fun but very much taking over my whole life as I had known it, until there came a point that so little of my original self was left in me that I would struggle to recapture the English language by sitting down to write, forcing my way through the awkward syntax French kept imposing on my thoughts, until I could express myself again in my native language.

Patriarch Joseph Mul with in his fields of roses, near Grasse, France. Joseph Mul grows the roses and jasmine used in Chanel’s perfumes, including the famous N. 5.

Patriarch Joseph Mul with in his fields of roses, near Grasse, France. Joseph Mul grows the roses and jasmine used in Chanel’s perfumes, including the famous N. 5.

So writing became a way of possessing my own experience, if you will — of everything that was so powerful and magical and, yes, difficult about that experience. I had always written — I’ve been writing every day since I was nine years old, determined to “be a writer”—but once when I was a teenager, my grandfather told me to “go live my life first and then write about it”. And I guess I had finally done that.

I still teach, and one thing I try to give my students is the same thing I try go give my readers: the world is a huge, rich place, and I hope you’ll go after it with everything in you. Sink into experiences. (And no, these don’t have to be expensive experiences, although I do love travel and believe strongly in its value and in the value of learning at least one other language. But you can take a walk in your nearest woods and sink into experiences, just by remembering to touch the bark on the trees sometimes. You can eat a clementine and sink into the experience, just by squeezing the peel to release the oils.)

Enrobeuse at Jacques Genin

Enrobeuse at Jacques Genin

I once in a while receive emails from a rare reader who is angry — really, virulently angry — that I might write about something outside small town America. I grew up in a small town myself, and small towns can be as rich in experience as anywhere else (Sarah Addison Allen, for example, vividly evokes small towns at an all-five-senses level). But that someone should think you should close off all other options makes me really, really sad.

But what makes me really happy is when I hear from readers who have, after reading these books, decided to take that trip to France they’ve been dreaming of, or try that basil-infused gourmet chocolate, or just take whatever action expands your life and experience.

You encourage me to expand my life and experience. To brave anticipated rejection from one of the world’s best chocolatiers and maneuver myself into his laboratoire, to chat with people in the streets of Grasse as I hunt down access to rose growers and perfumers, to explore new places and tastes and textures, new sources of story.

So thank you, all of you, for that. For keeping me reminded not to shrink-wrap my own life, but to keep all that space open to stretch out my arms, take deep breaths of lavender, go taste some chocolate… and I hope write about it in a way that encourages you to do so, too.

Thanks so much for reading. And thank you, Chachic, for doing me the wonderful honor of this week, and to all of you who have participated in it. I am very, very honored and thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

A fountain entirely surrounded by jasmine becomes the setting for a kiss, in The Chocolate Rose. While the village of Sainte-Mère is a deliberately fictional invention which blurs elements of several small towns in this area, in real life, this fountain is in Mougins, France.

A fountain entirely surrounded by jasmine becomes the setting for a kiss, in The Chocolate Rose. While the village of Sainte-Mère is a deliberately fictional invention which blurs elements of several small towns in this area, in real life, this fountain is in Mougins, France.

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Merci, Laura! This is a beautiful. It has been my pleasure to organize Amour et Florand to celebrate your work. I really think your writing captures the power of the senses and yes, it also encourages readers to sink into experiences. Just look at how many readers had to run and buy chocolates while reading your books. :)

Amour et Florand

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