The most enchanting books amongst the recent smorgasbord of foodie romances must certainly be those written by Laura Florand. The first novel in her Chocolate series, The Chocolate Thief, about an American chocolate heiress hoping to expand her mass-market company's reach by drawing on the talents of a world-renowned French chocolatier, was published to deserved acclaim last summer. Her follow-up, The Chocolate Kiss, proves an equally enticing treat—frothing with humor, taut with sexual tension, bubbling over with sophistication and charm. And, best of all, this bonbon of a book has a delicious core of feminist sensibility at its heart.
But it's Magalie's worst nightmare, not her most wonderful dream, when Phillipe Lyonnais, Paris's Prince des Pâtissieres, decides to open a branch of his world-renowned pastry shop just down the street from La Maison des Sorcières. Despite her aunt's matchmaking schemes, Magalie is certain that "in the whole history of the known world, there had been no mention of a romantic attachment between a prince and a witch. Lots of battles, yes, lots of arrogant royals reduced to toads, but not much love lost." The fame of Lyonnais is certain to put her aunts' tiny tea-shop out of business, and Magalie, plagued by a perpetually peripatetic childhood, yet again out of a place to call her own.
In his turn, Phillipe refuses Magalie's offering of a cup of her chocolat chaud during the grand opening of his new shop, and the battle lines are drawn. Phillipe devises ever more delectable combinations of macaron ingredients, hoping to overwhelm Magalie's palate; Magalie adds wishes to her patrons' chocolat chaud, all of which, infuriatingly, seem to send them scurrying to the new Lyonnais shop down the street. Who will give in first? Magalie, who knows that a susceptibility to princes has led to many a fine woman's downfall, and refuses to accept the role of helpless princess? Philippe, whose "superiority complex" is so great that he chooses the site of his new shop as "a polite gesture," so "he could make it easier for weekend tourists and not force them to choose between himself and Notre-Dame"?
Asking, not demanding; choosing, not being forced; trusting, not just the one you love, but above all yourself: these are the ingredients for a lasting, and feminist, love, Florand's novel argues, a love that doesn't diminish, but makes you ten times bigger, ten times more powerful. And one that satisfies the deepest hungers we'll ever know.
• Chocolat chaud: My French Country Home
• Macarons: Ladurée
• "She filled her home...": Bethany Barton, The Honesty Revolution
ARC courtesy of netgalley
Laura Florand, The Chocolate Kiss. Kensington, December 2012.
Next time on RNFF:
Talking about sex in romance