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

Novel Gossip: The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand

My good friend Michelle and I had fun doing a discussion type of review for Northlander and The King Commands by Meg Burden last year so we decided to do it again. We also thought it would be a good idea to make it a regular feature, alternating the posts in my blog and hers. Ladies and gentlemen, we now present you with our shiny, new feature called Novel Gossip.

Novel Gossip

The bloggers behind Chachic’s Book Nook and See Michelle Read chatting about books, thousands of miles apart.

We both love Laura Florand’s writing so for our first Novel Gossip discussion, we decided to read The Chocolate Rose together. This conversation happened in the span of a few days and some spoilery bits have been deleted.

The Chocolate RoseChachic: I really enjoyed the first few chapters. I wanted to start reading it right away because I curious but I only meant to read maybe a chapter or two and then for our readalong to continue. I read until chapter 8 and it’s a good thing I was able to stop myself from continuing. I like how we dove right into the story and we got to meet the two main characters right away. I found their first meeting hilarious. It’s funny how Gabriel is pretty clueless about women and has no idea how to react around Jolie. I’m really curious how the issue of Jolie’s father copying recipes will be resolved.

Michelle: So far, so good here as well. I agree, I like how the action immediately starts up and that we get into their ‘drama’ from the get go. I’m interested to see how Ms. Florand will handle Gabriel’s overt response to Jolie. If Ms. Florand pushes that too much, I feel like Gabriel might wind up just as another boring alpha male pounding his chest every time Jolie is near. But honestly, I really can’t see the author not giving him some softer parts (he is the one who created that lovely chocolate rose, you know). She always does such a great job making her male heroes multi-layered. And boy, do I ever WANT TO TRY SOME OF HIS FOOD.

Chachic: Yes, exactly. I love how all of Laura Florand’s male characters have softer sides and that aspect of their personality comes out in their creations. Can’t wait to see Gabriel cook for Jolie. I really don’t think we have to worry about Gabriel being and alpha male with no dimensions, I like that some background about him has already been shown – how he worked his butt off for Jolie’s dad but never get any recognition for all his hard work.

Michelle: I’m not really a fan of Jolie’s family at all. Her sisters seem selfish and her father, he doesn’t seem like a nice man either. I wonder too how she’s going to play out their relationship where the lawsuit is concerned.

Chachic: I’m not a fan of Jolie’s family either. Her dad seems like a jerk who only cares about himself and his work. And her sisters aren’t any better. I hope we get to see them in a better light but we’ll see.

Michelle: The back-n-forth dialog between Gabriel and Jolie is definitely my favorite part so far, especially how they keep mistaking each other’s meanings. The double entendres, they are a-plentiful.

Chachic: As always, I’m enjoying the tension between the two characters. It will be fun to see it all play out. I agree that it’s funny how they keep misunderstanding each other.

Michelle: And gee, can we talk about setting?! I feel like I’m walking along the streets of South France and seeing all those lovely flowers in bloom while the old ladies take their evening walk.

Chachic: The setting is lovely too! I love how the town (or city?) has been described so far, with its fountains and flowers. Seems like such a good place to take a vacation and relax. I think it’s great that Laura is highlighting various places in France for her novels. If I can’t go to France, at least I can read about it.

Michelle: I know! One of my favorite parts so far is actually from Chapter One where it is describing the different stages of love.

“In the fresh hope of new lovers clinging to each other, in the easy comfort of lovers of longer standing who lounged in chairs by each other reading, in the old, worn happiness of a white-haired couple walking hand in hand, whose love for each other had been used and worked like fifty-year-old shoes into something so exactly fitted to them that those bright new lovers wouldn’t recognize it in their high-heeled love. But oh, how they would be grateful for it, fifty years on, if they reached that perfect fit, too.”

Michelle: Let’s just say I gave a major le sigh after I read that chapter. I just love her way with words, don’t you?

Chachic: Haha we are such good friends, I highlighted that exact same passage in my Kindle because it stood out for me. I wanted to hug that section of the book. I hope we get more sections like it!

Michelle: I love it that you highlighted it too! I read that and thought “Man, THAT is the type of love I want after 50 years.” She just gets love and relationships and I really like her storytelling abilities.

Chachic: I want that kind of love too! She really just has a way with words. I’m so glad we discovered a new author to love. And that we feel the same way about her writing.

The Chocolate Rose ebook

Chachic: Let’s talk about Jolie’s work, I’m glad we’re reading about a character who writes cookbooks for a living. I’ve always seen cookbooks featuring celebrity chefs in bookstores but never realized that a product like that involves collaboration between a chef and a writer. If I was any good at writing recipes, that would be an amazing job. As always, I love how passionate Laura’s characters are about what they do. I find passionate people fascinating, even more so when they’ve found their calling in life.

Michelle: I could totally see you as a cookbook writer! You are always posting great meals and treats you’ve gotten. I too like that Jolie wants to keep that part of her life separate and just for herself because she truly loves it. I find that most of the women in Ms. Florand’s books are quite driven and I appreciate it that they don’t totally freeze their lives for a relationship. Although they do eventually learn to make sacrifices when it counts.

Chachic: Aww seriously, you think I can be a cookbook writer? But I think you have to be a good cook in order to do that, because you’d have to have an idea of how easy or difficult the recipes would be. I’m hopeless in the kitchen. I like that Jolie is independent enough and secure in herself that she can spend time on her own, it fits in perfectly with Gabriel’s busy schedule. Although you’re right, both of them make sacrifices to make things work.

Michelle: I honestly didn’t even think that being a cookbook writer was a ‘thing’ until reading this book and you saying that it would be a cool job. Goes to show how clueless I am! I guess I figured the chefs just wrote down their recipes and that was it but it makes sense that food bloggers/writers would do a great job of making them more accessible to the general public. As for me, I love to cook – especially bake. I’m still waiting for Ms. Florand to write a book about a bakery and all that delicious bread cause that is my weakness. In fact, in between writing you tonight I made four loaves of French bread (this is my kryptonite and why I will never diet)!

Michelle's bread

Chachic: I found this passage really sweet:

“She might have to revisit her conviction that all the best textures and tastes and scents in the world were in food. His textures – the hard resilience of muscle, the soft cotton of his T-shirt, the smoothness of his skin, the silk of his hair, the whisper of roughness of a jaw shaved that morning – were incredible.”

Michelle: I remember the quote you mentioned and really liked it too. Here are a few I found.

“Maybe no one rose to greatness of any kind without being a narcissist. And no one rose to become a great chef without knowing how to make other people hungry. For more of them.”

Michelle: I think Ms. Florand really gets what it takes for someone to dedicate themselves so totally to something that it completely overshadows the rest of their life. And then conversely, the letdown that occurs when that talent or career is over and the depression that follows. It’s got to be awful. Which leads into this other section I liked, it’s really the only bit of sympathy I feel for her dad.

“Jolie tried to hide the profound sadness that winced through her whenever someone refereed to her father in the past tense, as if he was either no longer alive at all or, at best, he no longer deserved to call himself by his own name. No wonder her father believed the same thing.”

Chachic: I highlighted that quote as well – it’s a good one. I think you’re right, Laura does know what it’s like for a job or career or passion to take up so much space in a person’s life to the point where everything else – including family and friends – get pushed back. I admire people who are passionate but there really is a balance to it.

(TRANSITION)

Michelle: I just finished it — but it’s late here so the only thing I can say before I go crash is — she made a The Lord of the Rings joke!! I knew I loved this woman’s books!! Ha!

Chachic: Loved the LOTR reference as well. I knew you would notice that! That’s the beauty of doing a read along, there’s someone else who will be able to relate to details that you notice.

Michelle: I was a bit curious about the name choice of Jolie — which in French means ‘pretty or attractive’. Most of her books have been pretty accurate but I wonder if that is a common name in France cause it just seemed a funny choice to me — even though I liked it.

Chachic: Really? I had no idea that’s what Jolie meant. What were the meanings of the names of her other heroines? Have you noticed that all of her heroines so far have partly come from the States? I think that’s so the books won’t be too French, if that makes sense.

Michelle: As for the names: Malagie (from The Chocolate Kiss) is pretty French but Cade Corey (The Chocolate Thief) is obviously a play on the Hershey chocolate family (there is an actual town called Hershey, Pennsylvania where that family lives and has their factory), so I think hers is pretty Americanized and even a bit of a joke. Honestly, I’m glad all of Ms. Florand’s females have a bit American in them because the French really are so very different (especially at relationships) so I think it helps people relate to the characters more than when they are so completely foreign. Although it would be a nice change of pace to have the hero American and the heroine French.

Chachic: I figured that Corey was a play on Hershey. I knew there was a place in the US named after the family. Oh really? I had no idea that French dating would be very different compared to American ways. So maybe that’s why Laura makes her female characters grow up in the States. I would love to see a French female and American male as well, that would be a nice change.

Michelle: I don’t know if I ever told you but I studied French all through college and even spent a few weeks there on a study abroad (Paris, Nice and Dijon) so I absolutely love reading about all the varying touristy sites I went to. One place I never got to was Provence so I would love to one day go there as well. Although I do have a confession to make: I’ve never tried a French macaron and I am *dying* to! This book made me think of it again when Jolie talks about using Phillipe’s macaron recipe for her cookbook. I don’t know why I didn’t try one in France (I was prolly too busy eating all the chocolate and bread I could) but I so want to go back just for that almost. I know you like macarons – I should find a good bakery in LA that serves them sometime 🙂

Chachic: I never knew that about you! That must have been so cool, studying French and then going abroad to soak up the culture for a couple of weeks. I would have loved to do that. So does that mean you have a special place in your heart for French-themed books? I like reading about them because I’ve always wanted to visit Paris. I can’t believe you’ve never tried a macaron! I love macarons. Several restaurants here in Singapore sell them but not all of them are good. I hope you get to try one soon. Pretty sure macarons are available in LA.

TWG macarons

Michelle: One thing that bugged me about this one was the formatting! Did you have issues with the fact that there were no spaces or marks to indicate that it was a new narrator? Sometimes I had to go back just to figure out who was speaking. It’s totally minor but I wish they would have done something to mark the flow for readers so it wasn’t always such an abrupt change. But maybe that’s just me 🙂

Chachic: Yes, the formatting bugged me as well! I ignored it the first time it happened and then I kept noticing that there aren’t any breaks in between sections, even when the POV changes. It got a bit confusing. I think it’s just a formatting issue – the extra spaces probably aren’t showing up in the Kindle edition.

Michelle: I’m glad I wasn’t the only one bugged with the formatting. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the fact that it was self-published that there were quirks that would normally have been ironed out by the publisher or what.

Michelle: So did you read the first chapter of The Chocolate Touch at the end of The Chocolate Rose? I’m all aflutter.

Chachic: I’ve read the first chapter of The Chocolate Touch when Laura posted it on her website. I really can’t wait to read it. I hope it goes up in NetGalley soon!

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There you have it, folks, our first Novel Gossip post! In conclusion, it’s pretty obvious that we enjoyed reading The Chocolate Rose, which isn’t surprising since we both loved the other novels in the Amour Et Chocolat series. Can’t wait to read more of Laura Florand’s writing. Stand by for more Novel Gossip discussions, the next one will be posted over at Michelle’s blog. Feel free to let us know what you think of this new feature.

with Michelle of See Michelle Read

Chachic and Michelle, March 2013 in Los Angeles

Reading order of the Amour et Chocolat books:
All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Kiss
The Chocolate Rose

All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand

Kiss the BrideAll’s Fair in Love and Chocolate is a novella from the Kiss the Bride anthology. I read this after reading the two Amour Et Chocolat novels: The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Kiss. All three stories are loosely tied together in the sense that they’re about the top chocolatiers/dessert-makers of Paris but each book is about a different couple. I couldn’t get enough of Laura Florand’s writing so I gobbled up these novels (and one novella) one right after the other.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Going undercover as a bride-to-be, food blogger Eloise Layne is determined to learn charismatic French chocolatier Simon Casset’s famously guarded secrets. But somehow her man of mystery is succeeding in uncovering her every desire, one smoldering kiss at a time.

Ellie is a food blogger, a girl after my own heart! There was a time when I was considering creating a food blog because I enjoy eating good food. You would know this if you follow me on Instagram because I mostly post pictures of food and books over there. At that time, I thought it would be fun to feature the restaurants that I tried in Manila (and now Singapore) but since I already had a book blog, I didn’t think I could maintain another blog. Isn’t it awesome that Laura Florand has a main character who is a blogger? I can definitely relate to Ellie because of that.

“It helped her, the blog, made her feel that when she flung herself out there to the world, well – the world liked her.”

I admire Ellie for her actions because blogging and pursuing your passion is something that I would love to do as well. She takes the huge risk in moving to Paris because she’s always dreamed of living there, knowing that it’s filled with places that would be a joy to discover for a food blogger like her. She’s the type of person who pours all of herself in everything that she does. Very enthusiastic and full of life, she draws the attention of Simon Casset, one of the top chocolatiers of Paris. It’s like a dream come true for her to meet him, discuss his work and get a peek inside his laboratoire. I like how Simon thinks of himself as a nerdy and anal chocolate-maker while Ellie sees him as an artist who creates whimsical works of art. It was so much fun reading about these two characters and watching their love story unfold. Here’s a sample of some of the beautiful words from this novella:

“A longing to taste what she had heard so much about, and what was physically so beautiful. She gestured helplessly toward the half-finished structure, so magical, as if something as earthbound as food could be transmorphed into an airy grace that touched the sky. He made her feel like she could fly. Like it was all worth it. Eating. Life. This was the kind of thing you lived for. Right?”

Yep, that is the kind of thing you lived for. Short and sweet, All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate is a perfect sample for anyone who wants a bite of Laura Florand’s delicious writing. I still prefer the two full-length Amour Et Chocolat novels over this one just because the romance has more depth. Read this if you’d like to give Laura Florand a try but you’re not sure if you’re willing to commit to reading a novel. This is a good novella for a relaxing afternoon or evening, paired with a chocolate dessert.

Renga chocolate cake

Also, just a heads up to fellow Laura Florand fans out there, The Chocolate Rose has just been released in Kindle format! If you’ve been waiting to devour another book from Laura, then hurry and grab a copy of this one. I’m planning to read it as soon as I can.

The Chocolate Rose