Review – Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

17832871 Laura Florand is easily one of my favorite authors anymore. Her Amour et Chocolat is wonderful and all of the books and even novellas were 4 or 5 stars. She has a way of writing familial relationships that is really touching and realistic. Those relationships have included a variety of actual families – cousins and parental connections – as well as brotherly love between the chefs in that series. So I was incredibly excited to hear that she was starting a new series.

This series will concentrate on the Rosier family, set in the south of France. Where the descriptions of the chocolate in the previous series would make my mouth water and my stomach growl, the descriptions of the fields of roses and the amazing aroma made me long to be there to take it all in. Florand deftly switched from one to another of the senses. Her descriptions remind me of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy even though the subjects couldn’t be further from each other! They both create vivid pictures of wine, perfume and their settings.

Matt Rosier is one of my favorite type of Florand heroes- adorably growly but sensitive. Matt has inherited the land that came down through his family. While he loves the land and is proud of being responsible for all of it, he also envies his many cousins and their freedom to live their life without such family pressure. Layla DuBois is a famous singer-songwriter who has lost her song writing mojo. She’s just discovered that she’s inherited a house in the Rosier valley – a house that Matt was under the impression was going to be his.

Matt’s first impression he makes on Layla has much to be desired. He is startled by the news and is not happy to meet her, although he feels a strong pull towards her immediately. His cousins are all greatly amused.

“What do you want now?” Matt growled at her, tightening his arms around himself.
“I only need directions!” Layla snapped back at him. “I can’t believe how unhelpful you people are being!”
Matt blinked. He slid the oddest glance toward the other men, almost—vulnerable? “They couldn’t give you directions?”
Tristan shook his head woefully. “Even Damien,” he said sadly, “proved unequal to the task.”
Matt stared at them for a moment. And then his sunburn seemed to get worse than ever, and he rubbed his chest, as if it felt strange to him.

His gruff voice elaborated as he wrote: “A three-story house with blue shutters will be on your left. It has lace curtains. If not, if it’s a house with blue shutters and roses climbing up the walls but no curtains, you’ve taken the wrong exit. There’s a little bar two buildings farther down, with a faded red awning. Be careful, there’s a pale orange tabby cat that likes to lie right in the middle of the road there, and he will not move. You have to stop the car and pick him up and carry him to the garden of the little house with the jasmine climbing up the green gate. That’s where he belongs. Then you—”

This is just one of many interactions that I love. The cousins interaction cracked me up throughout the book. They were attempting to help Matt multiple times in wooing the girl, with mixed results. Those interactions were very realistic to me – funny but with family love in them.

Laura Florand’s prose is simply beautiful. She weaves a spell with her words that transports me wherever she wants me to go. If you haven’t read any of her books you really, really need to start and this is a great one to begin with!

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an impartial review.

4.5 Stars

~Melinda

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My Top 10 of 2014 + Giveaway!

Here is my Top 10 List for the year! All of these books below were released in 2014 and got 5 stars from me. If you’d like a chance to win any one of these books please leave a comment either here or on Facebook and let me know. I will pick one winner this Friday the 26th and gift the kindle version at that time.

10. Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran

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This is just a really great romance book and my first by this author that I’ve read.  I had to read her backlist after this one since I loved it so much. The cover is gorgeous and pulled me in but I stayed and finished it due to the wonderful banter between the hero and heroine. The hero seems to be a rare breed – an alpha male who isn’t too overbearing. Both of the main character were intense as was their romance but the comedy balanced that nicely. I’d highly recommend this one!

 

9. Sun Kissed by Laura Florand

I have to include this book on my top 10 of the year. A) It’s dedicated to me (WOW!) because I had asked the author about these characters and that led her to tell their story. B) The main characters are older and have been friends for 20 years. It’s rare to see romances not in certain demographics and I love when a book isn’t super common. C) The friends-to-lovers trope is one of my favorites. D) Laura Florand writes such beautiful and emotionally intense books that they stay with me for quite a while. If you haven’t read any of hers before and you enjoy romance you NEED to check her books out!

8. Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

This unusual Regency romance came to my attention late in the year but I’m so glad it did.  It had a not often seen setting of politics in that time. The Whigs and Tories have an upcoming election and both sides are desperate for votes. So desperate they are trying to get the heroine to marry someone who will cast their votes for whichever side. An injured Veteran is chosen for the task on the Whig side and eventually romance blooms, but for the wrong people. I enjoyed the banter between the two main characters as well as the unexpected references and quotes from various books – I love book references within books. The hero and heroine are both kind of broken and to see them put each other back together was beautiful.

7. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

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I love, love, love the All Souls trilogy. I wasn’t disappointed in any of the books and this conclusion to the series was wonderful. The suspense of the previous books combined with the love among Matthew and Diana’s pieced together family made for a great book. I got the answers I was looking for and was left wanting more about the secondary characters.

 

6. Blonde Date by Sarina Bowen

I assume novellas must be difficult to write – to get enough of a story to make us care about the characters and still leave room for plot has to be hard. Sarina Bowen nailed it with this one. She has a knack for getting me to care about people I normally wouldn’t – the basketball player and the sorority girl being the case here. Witty yet emotional, this one definitely had everything I want from a novella.

5. Archangel’s Shadow by Nalini Singh

Finally the book with Ashwini and Janvier came out this year! I’ve been highly anticipating seeing their story be told and not surprisingly Nalini Singh delivered. More banter between the sarcastic heroine and the sensitive hero made me fall more in love with this couple even more so before. She is definitely one of my favorite authors so I couldn’t do the list without one of hers.

4. The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan

This one came out of nowhere for me. I got a recommendation from Vi to read it and like always she was right that I would love it. Soon after I saw may people raving about this sweet and sexy New Adult romance. This book had the right mix of sassy heroine and in lust-turned-to-love hero. The dialogue is sharp and hilarious and I loved Anna’s take no crap attitude. Light on the drama compared to many NA books which in my opinion was a good thing. Also has a nice HEA whereas that can be hard to find in this genre as well.

3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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I found this book to be hard to put down. Told in a different kind of way, with snippets of police interviews and knowing the outcome at the beginning, Big Little Lies was able to surprise me. I thought it was going to be a light heart murder mystery but it evolves into something more by the end. All of the characters seemed as if I had met them in real life at one point or another, including the many children in the book.

 

2. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

So I obviously see a pattern emerging here – I fell in love with multiple new to me authors and Sonali Dev was no exception. I loved this book’s integration of Indian traditions into the plot in a way that felt unobtrusive. It opened up a new area for me and made me more interested in learning about the culture and exploring Bollywood films and other books. It seemed to be authentic with the Indian touches and brought a very sweet and complicated romance with it. The chemistry builds between the two main characters slowly and develops beautifully and in a believable way.

1. The King by Tiffany Reisz

I love Tiffany Reisz’s books. They are not for everyone, with their very frank exploration of BDSM but I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys romances. This story tells the early years of Kingsley Edge, a character anyone familiar with the Original Sinners books knows well. But apparently not that well because this explores how King began his club and reveals even more of his relationship with Soren, not to mention new characters to us. I loved every bit of this one from the beginning to the end.

 

I hope you’ve all had a great reading year! Don’t forget to leave a comment with which of these books you’d like to win a kindle version either here or on Facebook.

~Melinda

Book Review: A Shadowed Heart by Laura Florand

23364641 This is a Luc and Summer novella, a kind of sequel to The Chocolate Heart where we were introduced to both characters in Laura Florand’s chef world. The novella picks up with the happy couple after their wedding with them settled in the south of France, with Luc managing his own restaurant and Summer trying to manage both of their lives.

I was excited to have a novella that gives us a chance to peek into the happily ever after a couple gets in a romance book as it can be pretty rare to see the after. These characters weren’t exactly open books to begin with so it was good to see them happy and loving life. In the beginning that is. Once Summer discovers she’s pregnant the worry quickly sets in for both of them for very different reasons. Which triggers their instinct to keep their feelings close to the chest like they did in the beginning of their relationship.

Shadowed Heart is pretty much a perfect title for this book because as things progress it’s extremely clear that neither Luc or Summer are willing to completely reveal what’s in their hearts. On the one hand we have Summer who is pretty damaged from her screwed up childhood and is very excited at the prospect of being a mother but needs Luc to be there for her. On the other hand we have Luc who had an even worse childhood and is terrified at the thought of Summer leaving him.

Both of these characters live very much in their heads which can be frustrating to read as through much of the book I found myself wanting to shake them both and just have them talk to each other. But as that’s true in many real life relationships it didn’t bother me enough to take me outside the book at all. It also reminded me of their actions in the first book as well. Seeing how alone the two were tugged at my heart because they didn’t even realize it.

I loved seeing past characters making an appearance here and not only did they provide some high points in the book for me but also provided the turning point for the novella. Florand did a wonderful job at mixing in the past characters with this new life. I really enjoyed the whole book and it made me hope to see more of this couple in future books as the main characters. I’d love to see the couple further down the line when the baby is born because of the great and sweet way the author has of writing the every day relationship.

ARC provided by the Author in return for an honest review.

5 Stars

~Melinda

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Book Review: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

17832864 Sarah Lin won an internship in Paris working under Luc Leroi, the head chef in the pastry kitchen of Hotel de Leuce. But she really works under Patrick Chevalier. Patrick who manages to make everything seem ridiculously easy and who seems to flirt with every single woman who has a pulse, including her. Watching him create insane desserts with ease and beauty, not breaking a sweat and grinning and winking at her all the while makes her want to break a pan over his pretty little head.

Patrick, meanwhile, cannot understand why Sarah is so determined to not warm up to him, almost to the point of barely speaking. He feels unworthy of her and tries to show her how he feels about her through his actions in the kitchen and being protective of her. Sarah feels unworthy of Patrick at the same time and second guesses her actions in the kitchen. She can’t tell if she made the right decision leaving her previous life behind when she chose to go for it and take on the internship. So with every wink and nudge from Patrick she wonders if she should go back.

I love Laura Florand’s writing and her previous Chocolate books, which are all set in Paris with various chocolatiers. Before this series it never had occurred to me to think about the profession as one of such passion or intensity but Florand had me hooked from the first book. Each of her heroes is equally invested in their professions for different reasons and every story is beautiful in its own way.

This story in particular felt very intense and had my stomach in knots at times wanting to scream at both Sarah and Patrick. Sarah second guessing herself felt very familiar as I think that’s a pretty common thing for women to do. Especially since she essentially picked up her life and is starting all over again with her new profession. She was so protective of herself and her feelings that at times she felt like glass but that is so never a word she would use to describe herself

Patrick’s laissez faire attitude to the world, and towards Sarah was a façade as well. Normally these kinds of hurt feelings and almost misunderstandings can irritate me in romance novels. What’s so great about this book is that these misunderstandings don’t actually happen. While we get the internal monologue of both characters and get the benefits of understanding their motives, we also get actual conversations that occur. Both Sarah and Patrick are guarded and things happen slowly but things actually happen.

The prose is beautiful and the ending was very touching. If you’re a fan of the romance genre at all I would highly recommend reading this series. You will not be disappointed!

4/5 Stars

ARC provided by the author in return for an honest review.

~Melinda

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