Chasing Mindy Guest Post: Paris Travel Diary

Last week, author Carla de Guzman shared her romanceclass origins and today, she’s here on the blog to share the location inspiration for her latest title Chasing Mindy. Paris is a city that’s close to my own heart and I love that Carla chose to set her book there. Check out what she has to say about this glorious city in relation to her book!

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Paris Travel Diary by Carla de Guzman

One of my favorite things about writing Chasing Mindy was being able to re-write my experience of Paris. It’s one of those places that you never, ever, ever think you’ll be able to visit. You dream about it and hear about it, but you can’t really picture yourself there until you’re actually there. Mindy’s awe over the things she saw was very much my own.

Honestly guys, this city though. It’s so pretty you want to hug it.

For my little stint here on Chachic’s Book Nook, I’m sharing my photos and a little travel diary of the places Mindy and Javier visited!

Chasing Mindy - Rue de Depart

Rue de Depart
Mindy’s first scene ever in Paris is here–on a street corner, looking at the golden light and cursing the city for being just so gosh darn perfect. And how could she not, if she was looking at this? This is the corner not too far from our hotel in Montparnasse. It’s my phone’s wallpaper!

Chasing Mindy - Metro

Paris Metro
Call me a nerd, but I like the Paris Metro stations–they’re all so different, and how fancy is it that the ads have a pretty sienna tile surrounding it? It even has Napoleon’s crest on top of each one.

Chasing Mindy - Shakespeare and Co

Shakespeare and Co.
You see this a lot in pictures, and I never realized it was just across the Notre Dame until someone pointed it out like, oh no big deal, there it is! The inside is crammed with books to browse, and there was a bunch of lavender growing in front of the store so it smelled so nice. I realized later on that there are lots of Shakespeare and Co. bookstores in Europe, but there’s just something special about that green awning!

Chasing Mindy - Square Rene Vivani

Square Rene Vivani
Javi makes Mindy frog march over to the park next to Shakespeare and Co where they sit and have their coffee. Look at that view of the Notre Dame! With the rose arch and everything. There were quite a few painters taking a rest there, and couples falling asleep on the benches–which is totally normal. This place had to appear in the book, just because of the roses!

Chasing Mindy - Saint Chapelle

Saint Chapelle
This church! You don’t run out of churches in Paris, but this one is lovely! I experienced it exactly the same way Mindy did, where she runs up the smallest staircase, thinking that this was a scam, (and we had to line up for an hour!) only to find this gorgeous illusion of light on top. I believe I used the words ‘HOLY CRAP’ in my travel diary at the time.

Chasing Mindy - Giverny

Giverny
When I visited Paris for the first time, I became a little obsessed with the Impressionists. I looked up their works and read up on their history, which is why I knew that the next time we went to Paris, I had to make sure we went to Monet’s home in Giverny. Imagine a garden of flowers and multiply it by like, a thousand. I could barely breathe I was so happy.

Chasing Mindy - Olympia

Olympia by Manet
Sorry for the sudden nudity, but this girl is my goddess, okay. Manet painted one of his favorite muses totally naked. I could go into detail of why he painted it and why this painting was one of the most controversial of his time (someone stop me!), but I settled for putting it in the book, for now.

Chasing Mindy - Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower
An excerpt from my travel diary, ‘Damn it, Eiffel Tower, I thought I was over you!’ The perfect last thing to do in Paris is to buy some food, sit in the Trocadero Garden and wait for the tower to light up. You half-expect there to be music. Look at it. So pretty.

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Chasing MindyBook Description:
Mindy and Javier are not friends, okay.

Despite their mothers’ matchmaking, they’ve managed to stay out of each other’s way. Until Mindy goes to Paris for a week, and her mother insists she meet up with Javier. He’s in Paris to study, really looking forward to see you, she says. Watch over each other.

No thanks. Javier is taciturn and boring, Mindy is dramatic and has a tendency to yell at things when her eight siblings are brought up. It’s not a great combination.

But things start to look a little different under the Paris lights, and what felt like hate feels a lot closer to love.

Cover Reveal: A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you would know that I’m a huge Laura Florand fangirl. She’s an auto-read author for me ever since I discovered and fell in love with The Chocolate Thief back in 2013. I’m a (slightly) bigger fan of her La vie en Roses series set in Provence and featuring a family that has been in the perfume business for generations. Two of the earlier books in the series, Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine, were included in my best of 2015 list so I’m pretty excited to read the next installment. I’m also itching to reread a novella in the series, A Rose in Winter, because it’s such a charming story set during Christmastime in the South of France. The next book in the series will be released early next year, and the cover and premise have been shared just this week:

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A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand
Book 3 – La Vie en Roses – on sale February 2016

Laura Florand, bestselling author of The Chocolate Kiss, combines lush description, smart dialogue, provocative sensuality, and the perfume of love itself in A Crown of Bitter Orange, an irresistibly lush novel that is an ode to the scents and pleasures of the south of France and the beauty of falling in love.

A Crown of Bitter Orange

Childhood friends. Tristan Rosier might have asked Malorie Monsard to marry him when he was five years old, but things had only gone downhill from there. She’d spent the rest of their lives ignoring him, abandoning him, and destroying his perfumes. Now she was back, to wreak who knew what havoc on his life.

Lifelong enemies. Tristan might choose to dismiss the generations-long enmity between their two families, but Malorie didn’t have that privilege. Like all the other privileges wealthy, gorgeous Tristan took for granted that she couldn’t. But if she was going to restore her family company to glory, she might just need his help.

Or the perfect match? They’d known each other all their lives. Could these childhood friends and lifelong enemies ever uncross their stars and find happily ever after?

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Laura FlorandABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Florand burst on the contemporary romance scene in 2012 with her award-winning Amour et Chocolat series. Her international bestselling books have appeared in ten languages, been named among the Best Books of the Year by Romantic Times and Barnes & Noble, received the RT Seal of Excellence and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, and been recommended by NPR, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

After a Fulbright year in Tahiti and backpacking everywhere from New Zealand to Greece, and several years living in Madrid and Paris, Laura now teaches Romance Studies at Duke University. Contrary to popular opinion, this means she primarily teaches French language and culture and does a great deal of research on French gastronomy, particularly chocolate. For more information, please see her website: http://www.lauraflorand.com.

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I can’t wait to read this book! I had initially thought that the next book would have a title like Love in Lavender or something like that, but I’m not picky. It would be interesting to find out what the significance of bitter orange in the story is. I think the cover is beautiful and I’m loving the redesign of the earlier books to match this one. Behold the prettiness:

Once Upon a Rose redesign A Wish Upon Jasmine redesign

What do you think of these new covers? Do you like them as much as I do? If you haven’t read any of Laura Florand’s books, you should definitely get started on them as soon as you can.

A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

Laura Florand is one of my favorite romance authors and I’ve been a fan of her books ever since I discovered them in 2013. Her La vie en Roses series features the fictional Rosiers, one of the most prominent families in the perfume industry. I was charmed by the Christmas novella A Rose in Winter and was delighted by the first full-length novel, Once Upon a Rose. I was thrilled when I found out that the second book, A Wish Upon Jasmine, will also be released this year! I’m seriously amazed at how prolific a writer Laura Florand is. I didn’t think we’d get another book in the series until next year, and I thought it would be about Tristan. Looks like Damien shouldered his way in and stole the limelight.

Here’s the book summary:
A Wish Upon JasmineRuthless.
That was what they said about Damien Rosier. Handsome. Wealthy. Powerful. Merciless. No one messed with his family, because to do so they would have to get through him. No one thought he had a heart. Not even the woman he gave his to.

Cynical.
That was what they said about Jasmin Bianchi. A top perfumer of her generation, Jess had achieved commercial success by growing a protective shell over a tender heart. The one time she cracked it open to let Damien in, he crushed it—after a night of unbelievable passion.

Lovers.
That one magical night couldn’t survive the harsh light of dawn. When Jess woke up to discover the man in bed beside her had stolen her company, she fled.

Enemies.
Now she’s come to the south of France with a threat to his family heritage. If he wants to reclaim both it and the woman who walked away from him, he’s going to have to fight as dirty as only Damien can.

But Jess knows how to fight dirty, too. And these days, she has nothing left to lose.

Certainly not her heart.

As much as I loved Laura Florand’s Amour et Florand series, I think I’m starting to love her Provence series just a little bit more. The South of France setting is such a delight to read. I also love the dynamics of the Rosier family, and how difficult it is to grow up with highly competitive and assertive cousins. I think the Rosier men coped by finding a role for themselves within the family structure, and then deciding to stick with those roles. They do their damnedest to live up to what they believe is expected of them. It’s not that they don’t love the roles that they play, it’s just that each role comes with its own set of problems. In Damien’s case, he’s the one who grants people’s wishes. He’s the business guy, in charge of making money for the company so the rest of the family can pursue their dreams. So his cousin Matt can run the Rosier valley, so Tristan can make perfumes, and Raoul and Lucien can travel the world. In order to work in the business world, Damien had to toughen up and be ruthless. But anyone who has such deep roots and family values can never be truly heartless. No one outside his family really sees his vulnerable side, but he lets his guard down the night he and Jess meet.

Jess is a top perfumer known for her commercially successful Spoiled Brat creation. Which is funny because she made that popular perfume as a joke, she never expected it to rise to fame. And now she couldn’t shake the image that she has in the perfume world and everyone expects her to make perfumes that go against what she wants to do. Damien and Jess didn’t even know each other’s last names when they meet so they also had no inkling of the other person’s reputation. That allowed them to be a truer version of themselves than what the rest of the world usually sees. Things go downhill once Jess realizes who Damien really is, and that he’s acquired the fledgling artisan perfume company that she wanted to pour her heart into. Add to that the terrible fact that her father is seriously ill and is about to pass away. It’s understandable that she wasn’t willing to listen to reason when Damien wanted to give an explanation. A passage that resonated with me:

“It would have been like believing in magic, to believe in you,” she said suddenly.

“Yes.” His breath released roughly. “I know exactly what you mean.”

“In the morning. At night, it’s easier to believe in dreams.”

Six months after Damien and Jess spend the night together, they find themselves in Grasse, in a historical perfume shop that has been in Damien’s family for generations and was, surprisingly, inherited by Jess. Can I just say that I love how the Rosier boys’ great aunt Colette meddles in their affairs? I really think she’s pretending to have a less than friendly relationship with the Rosier patriarch but they’re secretly working together to get the guys to settle down. Matchmaking grandparents! Damien is supposed to get the perfume shop back for the family and he also aims to work things out with Jess. As expected, there’s a lot of tension between these two especially since their attraction for each other has been well-established by their one night together. Both of them are flawed characters and it takes a while for them to truly understand the other person but I think it was a beautiful journey. They kept butting heads but I wasn’t worried because I knew they never really mean to hurt the other person.

I loved Damien’s character, how he layers a protective shell over his vulnerability in order to accomplish the things that he has to do for the family. I really liked that Jess is a perfumer because this series is about the perfume industry. I’m glad that we got to see her point of view, ahead of what Tristan’s will be. I could also relate to Jess and her insecurities and doubts, how it’s so difficult for her to accept the possibility of a relationship with Damien because she thinks he’s way out of her league. It highlights how loving and believing in someone takes an enormous leap of faith and a whole lot of trust. Not just that, but also that she had to believe in herself first before she can even be ready to believe in someone else. Jess was the kind of character I wanted to hug and say, “everything will be all right.” So it’s really a good thing that Damien is more than willing to do that, and that he’s backed by a chaotic and wonderful family. I’ve noticed that these Rosier men tend to find women who don’t have big and supportive families like they do, and it’s just lovely to see how they react to being welcomed into the fold.

I was also tickled by the fairy tale theme than ran throughout the story, it was so much fun to pick up the references that peppered the story. A Wish Upon Jasmine is a beautiful read that stayed with me days, even weeks, after I finished reading it. It has a more bittersweet feel to it compared to Once Upon a Rose, which was kind of cute and cuddly, but I enjoyed it just as much. I’m itching to reread Matt and Raoul’s stories now. As always, I can’t wait for the next book.

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Other reviews:
Girl Meets Books
Ivy Book Bindings

Instagram shot of my copies: Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine.

Other books in the La vie en Roses series (click on the thumbnails for my reviews):
The Chocolate Rose - new cover No Place Like Home Once Upon a Rose

Books in the Amour et Chocolat series (click on the thumbnails for my reviews):
Kiss the Bride The Chocolate Thief The Chocolate Kiss The Chocolate Touch The Chocolate Heart The Chocolate Temptation

Back in Singapore

I’m baaack! I arrived in Singapore last Sunday afternoon and went straight back to work on Monday. Thank you for all your lovely messages in my previous post, I wasn’t able to reply to them because I was already on my way to Europe when that post was published. We had a bit of a rocky start when we missed our connecting flight and our baggage was delayed by a day but overall, it was an amazing trip. The places we visited were beautiful and I was lucky enough to meet one of my online bookish friends, Estara, in person! Will try to do a write up of that day in another post.

Europe 2015 - Kindle

I took advantage of the flights and train travel to read and picked up the following titles:

Love in a Small Town by Zoe York (recommended by Michelle)
Fall Hard by Zoe York
Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy
Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr (recommended by Estara, still reading)

Movies watched (on the plane):
Guardians of the Galaxy
Jupiter Ascending

That’s definitely an improvement compared to last year’s trip when I was only able to read one book. When we missed our flight and we were stuck for several hours in the airport in Paris, we had an Amour et Chocolat moment by hanging out at Laduree, where I also kept myself busy by writing postcards to friends. The second picture can reference another Laura Florand series, La Vie en Roses, because we spent some time choosing fragrances in the French artisan perfume store Fragonard.

Europe 2015 - CDG Laduree Europe 2015 - CDG Fragonard

See how we try to relate most things to books? That’s just how book nerds roll. I’m planning to do a write up of each of the cities we visited, just like I did last year but I still need to find time to do all of that. It’s always difficult to get back in the swing of things when your brain is still on vacation mode. I’ve kept my Instagram account fairly updated in case you guys want to see what I was up to. That’s all for now, will check back in again soon.

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

I think if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Laura Florand’s writing. I discovered the first two books in her Amour et Chocolat series in March 2013 and I’ve been devouring her books since then. Last year, I even organized a blog event called Amour et Florand to celebrate her books. Once Upon a Rose is one of my highly anticipated releases for 2015 especially since I loved A Rose in Winter, a novella that introduced me to the Rosier family. I loved reading about the Rosiers and their home in Grasse so when Laura offered a review copy of Once Upon a Rose, I jumped at the chance to read it as soon as I can. This happened a few months ago and I just haven’t been able to work on a review for it until now. I’m so behind on reviews!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Once Upon a RoseShe stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

While I was in the middle of Once Upon a Rose, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to read it slowly so I can savor the words or to gulp it all down in one go because it was just so good. Laura Florand is amazing at making the scenes leapt out of the page. So much so that you feel like you’ve traveled to Paris or Grasse just by reading her books. I’m always delighted by books that have such a strong sense of place because they let me travel just by reading. I also love how she focuses on the senses – with tastes and textures in her Amour et Chocolat series, and with scents and sounds in Once Upon a Rose. With Matt as the heir apparent for the Rosier perfume business, he knows everything there is to know about the fragrance industry. Layla, a musician struggling with creative burnout, finds solace in the Rosier valley when she unexpectedly inherits a house there. I enjoyed reading about the sweet and tentative romance that blossomed between Matt and Layla, from their hilarious first meeting until the beautiful ending of the book. I loved how careful they are of each other, showing a wariness that developed from past romantic mistakes. Matt is a big marshmallow who tries to hide his soft side by being all growly and grumpy but Layla was able to see through him right away. A snippet that I loved:

“You always do that,” he murmured. “It’s as if you take everything I know, wrap it up in wonder, and hand it back to me like this bright, shiny new present. It’s like my whole life is Christmas when you’re looking at it.”

I loved how present Matt’s cousins are in this story. It’s so much fun to see them tease and annoy the hell out of each other but at the end of the day, they’re always there whenever one of them needs help. I also thought it was endearing how vulnerable Matt is when it comes to his family – how he tries to hide his weaknesses to let them see that he’s a strong leader. And yet his cousins are actually aware of what he’s really like. I just think it’s great that the Rosier guys were involved in Matt and Layla’s romance. While Layla’s family isn’t as big as Matt’s, she does have a strong connection with her mom. It’s always nice when the romance isn’t the sole focus of a book (even if it is a romance novel). It’s much more realistic to see the relationships that MCs have with their families or friends instead of having one person as their entire world. I also really liked the contrast between Matt’s rootedness in the valley vs. Layla’s life as a traveling musician. Matt knows that his rightful place is at the stronghold of their family’s business while Layla has never had a permanent home of her own. It was interesting to see how their different experiences shaped who they are now. Once Upon a Rose is a strong start to the La Vie en Roses series and I can’t wait to read the next book featuring a Rosier hero. It would be so much fun to dive back into this Provencal world filled with the sweet scent of roses. I know this wouldn’t come as a surprise but I’m happy to announce that Once Upon a Rose is now firmly placed in my best of 2015 shelf.

My Instagram shot of my copy: Once Upon a Rose

Other reviews:
By Singing Light
From Cover to Cover
Girl Meets Books
Smexy Books

Isla and the Happily Ever by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After was one of my highly anticipated releases for this year since I really enjoyed reading both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Those titles are quite a mouthful, aren’t they? I kept seeing other bloggers post pictures of their review copies of Isla and this just made me want to read the book more. Also, I’m still bummed that Stephanie Perkins visited Manila and I wasn’t able to attend the event (so many authors have visited the Philippines since I moved to Singapore). I was so excited when I finally got a copy of Isla so of course, I read it as soon as I could.

Isla and the Happily Ever AfterHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

I really enjoyed reading Isla and the Happily Ever After and I think I like it just as much or maybe even a bit more than Anna and the French Kiss. Isla and Josh are both great characters. I liked how there’s so much more to them that what was previously shown in the first book. I found it interesting that Isla is named after an island because “isla” is the Filipino word for island (pronounced is-lah instead of eye-lah though). I always think it’s awesome when of the characters in the book I’m reading is a reader herself. I could understand Isla’s thirst for adventure and how she satisfies that thirst by reading books. Also, how cute is it that Isla and Josh bonded over Joann Sfar? They made me want to read his graphic novels even though I’m not much of a graphic novel reader. I could really relate to Isla and her insecurities about not having a clue about what she wants to do in terms of her career – heck, I’m a decade older than her and I’m still figuring things out. I could also understand how she’s so forgiving of others but so hard on herself, to the point where she questions whether she’s worthy of being loved. I loved her friendship with Kurt and how she had to learn how to balance having a guy best friend with having a boyfriend. On a counterpoint to Isla’s ambiguity, Josh is very passionate about his art and he knows that he wants to pursue a degree that would enable him to focus on this field. My artistic talent is limited to stick figures so I’m always in awe of artists. I enjoyed reading about Josh and his art and would have loved to see samples of them if that was possible.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is partially set in New York, Paris and Barcelona. I’ve never been to New York so I can’t really say anything about the scenes set there. But having read Laura Florand’s vivid and detailed descriptions of Paris, I feel like Stephanie Perkins’ imagery pales in comparison. Isla mentions that she’s comfortable enough in Paris for it to feel like home but I don’t think she was able to portray that in a believable way. I did love the Barcelona scenes since they were from the perspective of tourists, with both Josh and Isla visiting the city for the first time. It reminded me of my own trip there earlier this year because we visited the same tourist spots, mostly the sites of Gaudi’s work.

I think Stephanie Perkins excels in portraying realistic teenage romance. She gets how awkward it is to have a serious crush on someone. And how tentative things are at the start when the two parties realize that what they feel might be mutual and there’s just all this tension between Isla and Josh. Then it transforms into a new-found relationship that makes both of them giddy with happiness. Even the issues that they they had to deal with felt authentic. I was really rooting for them and the way they changed and matured throughout the course of the novel was satisfying. I had so much fun reading this book and would recommend it to any fan of YA contemporary.

Here are some pictures from my Barcelona trip that are related to the book. Casa Batllo is probably my favorite Gaudi-designed house:
Barcelona - Casa Batllo Barcelona - Casa Batllo (2)

The awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia:
Barcelona - Sagrada Familia1 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

On top of the world a.k.a. the view of Barcelona from Parc Guell:
Barcelona 2014 - view from Parc Guell

Snapshot From a Book: The Chocolate Touch

Paris is such a photogenic city. I’m so glad I decided to take a lomo camera with me because some of the results are just lovely. I feel like I keep going on and on and Paris and Laura Florand’s novels but I can’t help it – her writing vividly describes the city. The pictures just go perfectly with her words.

Snippets from The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand:

Lomo - Paris Seine

“He didn’t talk, but a man who had Paris in the springtime didn’t need to talk. Better not. Better just to concentrate on the cool breeze off the river, stirring his shaggy black hair, the bridges that stretched away through the centuries, that fresh young green on the trees along the quays. Evening was falling later and later. The sun was only starting to set now, easy blurred shades of pink and gold and gray through low strips of clouds. The sky above them was blue, clear, but blurring toward gray. Half the world looked in love, couples strolling hand in hand along the Seine. At the edge of that sunset, in the west, far away along the river that simmered with pink and gold, the Eiffel Tower rose, gentled by the low haze.”

Lomo - Paris bridge

Lomo - Paris bridge sunset

“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.”

Lomo - Paris crowds

Lomo - Paris flare

All over Paris
April 2014
Camera: Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim
Film: Fuji Velvia, Kodak Elitechrome, Lomo Redscale

Snapshot From a Book: The Chocolate Thief

You know how sometimes you take a picture that perfectly describes a snippet from a book that you’ve read? I love it when that happens. While I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to match the shots that I take with the books that I read, I wanted to share these moments on the blog. When I went to Europe last month, I brought along my Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim film camera with me and was able to go through a couple of rolls. I received the results last Friday. I think some of them turned out great while some left me wondering what the hell was I trying to achieve while taking those pictures. One can never really predict the results when shooting lomo. I guess it’s not surprising that some of these pictures made me think of Laura Florand’s books.

From The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand:

“She liked to just walk all over the city. She really never saw a cobblestone street or an old building she didn’t like.”

Lomo - Montmartre

Lomo - Montmartre

Montmartre, Paris
April 2014
Camera: Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim
Film: Fuji Velvia

I think it’s fitting that both of these pictures have couples in them, perfect for a Laura Florand romance. 🙂

A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand

No Place Like HomeA Rose in Winter by Laura Florand is a novella in the No Place Like Home anthology. It’s set during Christmastime in Grasse, in the south of France. I read and loved it last December but wasn’t able to review it. I recently reread it on my flight back to Singapore because I wanted to be reminded of Aix-en-Provence and this is the closest that I could get because I haven’t read any novels set in Aix. At least Aix and Grasse are in the same region!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Allegra Caldron knew the rule never to talk to strangers. But on a cold winter night in Provence, she breaks that rule – and more – with an irresistible man. Raoul Rosier seems thrillingly dangerous, yet why does Allegra feel so safe with him – even when she believes he’s a thief?

If Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series is all about chocolate then her La Vie en Roses series is all about perfume. Each of the La Vie en Roses books feature a Rosier cousin. The Rosier clan own and control a significant portion of the world’s perfume business through their company. A Rose in Winter is Raoul’s story. Raoul has spent several years in Africa, establishing his family’s foothold in that region, and is itching to settle back home in Provence where the familiar scents of lavender, rose and jasmine will calm his restless soul. Laura’s writing style paints a vivid picture of the settings of her stories. She makes Grasse seem like such a charming and beautiful place. It’s not surprising that Allegra fell in love with it and decided to stay a while. Given that A Rose in Winter is a novella instead of a full-length novel, the romance gets developed pretty quickly. After all, Allegra’s mom said it best:

Quote from A Rose in Winter

What was Allegra supposed to do when she meets someone she can’t resist? I still felt that there was enough character development in the short span of time that Allegra and Raoul got to know each other. It wasn’t just their attraction that was the focus of the story but also their insecurities and how those affect their budding romance. I loved the Christmas setting of the story and how we get an idea of what a traditional Provencal Christmas is like. I liked how santons, terracotta nativity scene figurines that are only available in Provence, play an important role in the story. I also enjoyed seeing a little bit of the Rosier clan during their Christmas dinner. A Rose in Winter is a delightful installment in the La Vie en Roses series. I really can’t wait to read the next books and find out more about the other members of the Rosier family. Similar to Laura’s other books, there are hints of a particular fairy tale included within the story. Part of the fun in reading Laura’s books is trying to determine what fairy tale is being alluded to so I’ll let the rest of you discover that for yourselves. Prior to reading this, I wasn’t aware that Grasse is the perfume capital of the world. Now I want to visit the place and immerse myself in the world of artisan perfumeries. I ended A Rose in Winter on a happy sigh, dreaming of flying back to France to visit Grasse this time. I would probably end up buying several bottles of perfume if that ever happens.

Aix-en-Provence - santons

Santons in Aix-en-Provence

Europe 2014: Aix-en-Provence Update

Bonjour again! We started our trip in Paris then traveled by train to Barcelona and then back again to France for a few days in Aix-en-Provence, a city in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. I loved Aix-en-Provence and it’s probably my favorite city out of the four that we visited mainly because I felt like I could live there. I like the small city charm of the place and how everything is within walking distance, although some places take a bit of a walk. It’s also only 30 minutes away from a big city, Marseille (which sadly, we didn’t get to explore). I liked that we were able to stumble upon quaint shops just by walking all over Aix. Plus, there were some pretty good restaurants which served good food at more affordable prices compared to Paris. It was expected that Musee Granet would have paintings of Cezanne since he lived in Aix but we were surprised that they also had paintings by Ingres, Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso.

I don’t think there are that many books specifically set in Aix-en-Provence so I’m broadening the scope to the whole region of Provence. Would love to read more books set in the south of France.

Books I’ve read set in Provence:
La Vie en Roses series by Laura Florand – Turning Up the Heat, The Chocolate Rose, A Rose in Winter

Books set in Provence that are in my TBR pile:
Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Aix has been referred to as the city of a thousand fountains and yes, we came across a lot of them:
Aix-en-Provence - La Rotonde Aix-en-Provence - mossy fountain Aix-en-Provence - four dolphins fountain Aix-en-Provence - modern fountain Aix-en-Provence - fountain at night Aix-en-Provence - more fountains

Cours Mirabeau is the main road of Aix, framed by plane-trees on both sides. There are cafes, pastry shops, souvenir stores and old houses along this road.

Aix-en-Provence - Cours Mirabeau Aix-en-Provence - Cours Mirabeau2

I found a picture posted on Tumblr of the facade of Bibliothèque Méjanes so we decided to look it up while we were there because we were curious about the giant books in front of the library.

Aix-en-Provence - Bibliothèque Méjanes Aix-en-Provence - Bibliothèque Méjanes2

Some of the shops we loved:
Aix-en-Provence - Expressions Aix-en-Provence - Place aux Huiles Aix-en-Provence - real chocolate Aix-en-Provence - more chocolates

We discovered Le Bistro Latin on our first night, just by wandering and checking out menus of the restaurants. We loved the food so much that we decided to return on our last night, and get bigger courses.

Aix-en-Provence - Le Bistro Latin Aix-en-Provence - Le Bistro Latin2 Aix-en-Provence - first dinner Aix-en-Provence - last dinner

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

We were planning to travel to Grasse, the perfume capital of France (and the world?) but it’s too far away from Aix for a day trip. Good thing artisan soaps and perfumes made from Grasse are available in Aix.

Aix - perfumes from Grasse

I feel like Aix is a hidden gem of a city because it’s not as well-known as other cities in the south of France. I’m so glad we included Aix in our itinerary. Have you been to Aix? Know of any novels set in Aix or the Provence region that you think I might enjoy?