Friday, July 25, 2014

Rainy Day Re-Reads (#1): Amour et Chocolat by Laura Florand

I've had the idea to begin "Rainy Day Re-Reads" around the same time I decided to start "Just Another...Book Crush!" but it somehow took a longer amount of time to fully actualize in my mind than the latter did. "Rainy Day Re-Reads" is essentially a feature I created for myself and other bloggers in order to stave off re-reading guilt. I re-read a lot and I like re-reading books. But, I also want to keep up on blog content and oftentimes, it's difficult to write a brand-new review for a book if it's the second or third time you're reading it. Thus, you just feel guilty for having re-read a favorite instead of tackling a new ARC and...it's a vicious cycle.

"Rainy Day Re-Reads" is a feature where I will be highlighting a few of my absolute favorite novels, the ones I really do sit down to re-read from cover to cover. It's going to be a sporadic, disorganized feature; one I'll use so that during months like this one where I haven't fallen in love with any new titles to invite authors on board for "Just Another...Book Crush!", I still have creative content to fall back on. 

I've been working on this post about my unique love for Laura Florand's romances for awhile, now, and seeing as Chachic is hosting her "Amour et Florand" week over on her blog, I figured this would be the perfect time to publish this live. (In case you don't know, "Amour et Florand" is a week celebrating Florand's work, so if you're even remotely interested in this series I'd highly suggest you check it out--it's amazing!) 

I began my review of Florand's The Chocolate Heart with the following paragraph:
Usually, after the initial honeymoon period wears off – generally around the third or fourth book in a series – I begin to become wary. Whether it be Kate Daniels or Mercy Thompson, there always comes a time when my stomach churns, my mind imagines all the worst case scenarios, and I settle down to read a book with crossed fingers, toes, and hair strands. When it comes to Laura Florand, however, whose Amour et Chocolat series is made up of companion novels, my trust is never shaken. It’s a comfort to know that even if – by some strange chance of fate – I don’t fall head-over-heels for the love stories Florand writes, I always walk away besotted and impressed by her languid, graceful prose. Of course the setting of Paris, the chocolate-making heroes, and deeply complex heroines draw me in – but Florand’s writing always, always, clinches the deal.
For readers who have yet to pick up a Florand novel, it may be difficult to imagine an author whose writing is poignant, beautiful, and evocative enough to carry forward an entire story, plot and characters be damned. Florand could publish her grocery lists, though, and they'd likely earn 5 Stars from me. Nevertheless, I don't re-read Florand's books solely for her prose. Granted, I inhale this series knowing I'll be transported to France in a matter of minutes, my senses overflowing with chocolate and a not-so-healthy dose of swoon--for that is the magic of Florand's words. But I find myself drawn to her books time and time again, not merely for the comfort of her languid phrases enveloping themselves around me or the steamy scenes I'm sure to melt at, but rather for the love stories she weaves. 

Oddly enough, I find myself talking of Florand's heart-stopping prose, delectable chocolate concoctions, or vivid Parisian setting far more than I discuss her actual romances. Florand writes love stories but they are of such an intense, gripping variety that to pull them apart and dissect them is to leave them a little less magical. Yet, the strength of her romances lie in their equality. It is a balance that many other contemporary romance authors manage to achieve, not just Florand, but Florand's brand of it is far more realistic than most. Usually, when faced with a love interest who is at the top of his field we find ourselves with heroines who are just as successful in their careers. Julie James repeatedly pulls this off with her FBI/U.S. Attorney Series and Jill Shalvis achieves the same results with her Lucky Harbor Series, only her characters have less glamorous professions. Florand, too, pairs characters--such as Cade Corey and Sylvain Marquis--who both share confidence, arrogance, and ego when it comes to their respective careers.

Yet, Florand strips her characters--whether it be Cade and Sylvain or Jaime and Dominique--of the labels they hide behind. And then, when left with just Cade Corey, heir to an American chocolate industry who dreams of living in Paris, and just Sylvain Marquis, an insecure young man who seeks love, their love story becomes both achingly simply and enchantingly complex in the space of a heartbeat. Florand does this with every single one of her novels. With her decadent prose she effortlessly introduces us to these seemingly simple characters, allowing our mouths to salivate with her descriptions of chocolate and our hearts to pound outrageously as the sexual tension is slowly, slooowly turned up but then--then she pulls the drape off of her leads, exposes their raw insecurities, and makes both them (and us!) fall in love.

It isn't easy. It isn't simple. And I don't know how she does it, time and time again. None of her characters, deep down, are the same. Sylvain and Dominique may both be master chocolatiers, but there is a reason Sylvain is perfectly suited for Cade as Dominique is for Jaime, despite any similarity their labels may share. Underneath, these two egotistical, highly motivated men are utterly changed individuals and it is only in the hands of their lovers that they reach their full potential. Somehow, Florand takes men who strive for perfection and enables them, with the strength of their love, to achieve that perfection even more effortlessly. It isn't an enigma reserved only for her heroes, though. Florand's heroines--emotionally strong, incredibly inspirational, and downright gorgeous--are kick-ass women even without man-candy on their arms. Yet, they truly bloom in the face of love. It is, perhaps, most evident in The Chocolate Touch and The Chocolate Heart, the two most grueling installments for the heartache they spread. In writing her love stories, however, Florand never loses sight of what it is to be human. Within the swirls of chocolate and spoonfuls of sugar, there is an incredibly raw amount of humanity too. 

It is for this, and this alone, that I find myself returning to Florand's novels not just when a new release is around the corner. For me, cracking open the spine of a Florand novel means discovering minute intricacies, delicate details, and subtle references I failed to catch the first, second, or third time I devoured her work. It is not only to fall even deeper in love with her romances, but also to understand even better the nature of true love. And perhaps, after all, it is for that simple reason why I hold--and will hold--these novels so close to my heart. Always.

You can use the following links to read my reviews of each individual novel in this series:

The Chocolate Thief (Amour et Chocolat, #1) by Laura Florand
The Chocolate Kiss (Amour et Chocolat, #2) by Laura Florand
The Chocolate Touch (Amour et Chocolat, #4) by Laura Florand
Just Another...Book Crush (#6): The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
The Chocolate Heart (Amour et Chocolat, #5) by Laura Florand
The Chocolate Temptation (Amour et Chocolat, #6) by Laura Florand
Snow-Kissed (Snow Queen, #1) by Laura Florand
Sun-Kissed (Amour et Chocolat, #7; Snow Queen, #2)

(Psst! If it isn't already obvious, feel free to join this feature whenever you happen to re-read a favorite and don't hesitate to grab the button!) 

16 comments:

  1. I love this idea and you are so right, I feel guilty re-reading books now that I blog and write reviews because I honestly just don't have time to even though I really want to.

    I haven't heard of these but I am so going to look further into them now. Thanks for putting them on my radar!

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  2. Oh such an amazing feature. I'm sure that it'll make you happy that I've got the first one in this series. I saw it on Amazon and well why not. You know how to make me wanna read something. But whenever you say that you'd give 5 stars to the author's grocery list it tells a lot. Great post, Keertana :)

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  3. Um..I LOVE THIS FEATURE SO MUCH. And I think sporadic is perfect for it, or regular. Whatever you desire! I definitely want to know what you're re-reading, and I'm so behind on my romance reads, so I'm going to be eating up these suggestions. I read The Chocolate Thief and completely understand your love for this author based on that book. It is sensual and everything you said about a strong heroine who "blooms" when she meets her man. LOVE that paragraph. It reminds me of something Robin LaFevers said about believing a relationship should make each individual stronger/better versions of themselves, and providing them a sense of freedom to better pursue their passions. Instead of a chaining down that is sometimes talked about in relationships. In any case, I need to read more of these books. Is it terrible that I might skip around in this series? I want to read the one about Cade's sister.

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  4. I love rereads. Love them. It's so nice to be back in that world again and to visit with old friends. Fabulous idea for a feature -- would it be alright if I joined you every once in a while? And I've read just one of this Chocolate series but it was so good. The imagery is so soul-piercingly strong, it's almost difficult to read!

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  5. I re-read a lot too Keertana! In between review books I'm always re-reading old favorites, it just makes me happy:) I've heard such great things about this series from you and Rachel at The Reader's Den, so it's definitely on my list. CANNOT WAIT!!

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  6. Wow, Keertana, you have such a way with words. Truly, this post is so beautifully written, and you have convinced me, who usually steers away from romance novels anymore, to pick up one of Florand's books. There was a time when I devoured adult romances with relish, but lately, I have been returning to YA. So I guess I had it somewhat backwards...lol. But now, you have me craving an adult romance, and these sound absolutely wonderful! I just downloaded The Chocolate Rose because how could I resist a free book?! Yes, it's free on Amazon for the Kindle edition. Amanda pointed that out to me. So if you don't already have that one, I thought I'd give you a heads up. I hope to read this one soon, and if I love it, I'll be sure to read more by her in the future.

    Absolutely lovely post, Keertana! I've been meaning to start a reread feature as well, as, like you said, I often feel guilty when rereading instead of reading ARCs or newer releases. This is a great idea, and I just might have to start one or grab your button! :D

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  7. Very nice feature! I tend to re-read books as well, and I love Florand's writing, so I may join in at some point.

    Thanks for sharing, Keertana!

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  8. What a fun feature; I'll have to do this sometime. I do like to re-read books when I can!! This sounds like a lovely series - I find I like companion novels more these days than straight out series. And ooh France as a setting? I do love that!

    -Lauren

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  9. What a great feature. Oh and I do think you put this author on my must read list.

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  10. What a wonderful feature, Keertana! I rarely re-read books, but I find myself wanting to re-read a few more and more these days. I haven't heard of any of these, but they sound so good!

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  11. What a great feature! (Just discovered your blog.) I think it's a great thing you've created and understand the guilt some people have to re-read instead of readings ARC. As for myself, I rarely re-read because of that and feel...wrong, like I'm supposed to read something else instead of books I already know everything about. Although, what you're doing is good and I'm glad you feel better about re-reading. The point is...keep doing what you love! :D (So cliché but I'm sticking with it. ^^) As for the book, I am very interested so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    Lola @ Hit or Miss Books

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  12. Wow.. This is a wonderful feature Keertana!! I've been re-reading my favorite books this month where actually I should be dealing with ARCs.
    It was because of your rave review, I read the first book( The chocolate Thief) in Amour et Florand series. I absolutely loved it. I'm working my way through the rest series now. (:

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  13. I've only read a novella (Snow-Kissed) by the author but I fell head over heels in love. It's why I've been curious about this series but the reason why I haven't dived in... is admittedly pretty weak so I am not even going to mention it. One of the books in this series was a freebie so I think that's as good of a reason as any to give her series a shot.

    You have me totally convinced that I need this series in my life.

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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  14. This is a great idea for a feature. I may grab join in sometime! I loved that you featured the Amour et Chocolat series, one of my all-time favorite series' discovered thanks to you, Keertana! Such beautiful writing but as you said, it's more than that. She conveys the heart and emotions so very well, and all her stories speak to me on a deeper level. Wonderful post! :)

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  15. I love this feature idea, Keertana! And I love that you timed it with Chachic's event. Between the two of you, I will definitely have to give another one of Florand's books a go. :)

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