Title: Shadowed Heart (Amour et Chocolat, #5.5)
Author: Laura Florand
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: December 3rd, 2014
Three words, to shake a man’s existence.I've been stalking NetGalley for months, now, just waiting for the next Florand novel to appear. I've read and re-read Florand's novels so often that to re-visit an old favorite doesn't quite give me the same pleasure as cracking open the spine of a new one. Thus, despite the fact that I've read other Florand novels only earlier this year, and re-read a handful of her books recently, picking up Shadowed Heart felt like coming home after a long, long break.
Three words, to call on all a man’s strength, all his courage, all his love, and all his ability to hope and dream…and trust.
Three words, to wake up every fear a man has ever had.
“I’m pregnant, Luc.”
Now how could a man be perfect enough for that?
Now in this sequel to The Chocolate Heart, Florand takes us into the heart of happily ever after with a story full of love, hope, and friendship. Struggling to get their new restaurant off the ground in the south of France, newly married top chef Luc Leroi and his wife Summer must face all their demons at the prospect of becoming parents. Fortunately, Summer's cousins and Luc's rival chefs join forces with the couple to prove that not even a top chef has to handle everything alone and happiness really can last ever after.
While the majority of Florand's titles can be read as stand-alones, this is one novella that simply demands that the reader have read The Chocolate Heart. Even though it's been awhile since I perused the volume myself, Luc and Summer's romance is such a strong, visceral, and truly humbling experience. It's full of heartache and strength, both in such equal magnitude, that it's impossible not to become entirely embroiled in their tale and wish, desperately, for the happiest ending possible. Thus, a follow-up novella is both a welcome surprise and a certain dread. I knew, even before opening the PDF of this, that I was going to become an emotional wreck at some point during the story--that's just the type of writer Florand is. Luc and Summer feel fleshly-real, so much so that their very being intertwines with yours until their slightest pain affects you in a physical manner.
It's a sign of Florand's skill that she's able to encompass such a wide range of emotion into such a slim volume. Shadowed Heart follows Luc and Summer as they discover that Summer is pregnant, all while Luc struggles to open his own restaurant and come to terms with what it means to be a father, support a family, and be the type of husband Summer needs him to be. Many of the themes Florand touches upon in this novella are echoes of what we saw in The Chocolate Heart but they feel just as poignant here, if not more. At a time of so much happiness, for this married couple to fall prey to doubt and most importantly, self-doubt, is a terrifying scene to watch unfold. Yet, I appreciate that Shadowed Heart has glimpses of happiness, moments of comic relief, and just the right amount of sugar. We manage to re-visit old favorites (my sweethearts, Sylvain, Dom, and Patrick *swoon*) and the delight of being back in Luc and Summer's minds doesn't wear off as easily as one would imagine. Their thoughts, so similar and yet so different, their new familiarity with one another, all while maintaining a distance still, is all strangely moving and immensely touching. I love this couple. I rooted for this couple. And I root for them still.
Shadowed Heart is a must-read for fans of Florand's work. It's heart-felt and the depth packed into its short pages is unbelievable. Moreover, who wouldn't kill for a chance to lose themselves among Florand's prose, her descriptions of Southern France, or all the delectable chocolate her leading men can make? (Someone, PLEASE, let me know where I can find a French chef of my own!) Without a doubt, Shadowed Heart is yet another incredible novel from Florand--one of her finest yet.