I picked this up when it was free on Amazon. I’d previously read Laura Florand’s Snow-Kissed, which I hadn’t found as marvellous as some others had, so I doubt I would have read The Chocolate Rose if it hadn’t been free. And I’m glad I did, because The Chocolate Rose was a delight to read.
Jolie Manon is a food writer and the daughter of famous chef Pierre Manon, with whom she has co-written a cook book. Her father is still recovering from a stroke, which has plunged him into depression and apathy, when Jolie receives notice that her father’s former chef patissier, Gabriel Delange, is suing them for appropriating twelve of his recipes in the cookbook, including the famous chocolate rose depicted on the cover. Jolie had a teenage crush on Gabriel when he worked for her father but hasn’t seen him in years. Anxious to spare her father from further stress, she hastens from Paris to the Cote d’Azur, where Delange now runs his own world-famous restaurant.
Needless to say, sparks fly when these two characters meet. Gabriel and Jolie argue, flirt, lose their temper, sulk, laugh, make love, fight and make up. The setting of the three-star restaurant and its high pressure kitchen set in an ancient, charming French provincial town is wonderfully depicted in lush detail. Jolie’s torn loyalties between her father and Gabriel are touching and real. I got a real insight into the pressures of running a world-class restaurant, and how it completely dominates a chef’s life. Thank God I’ve never had any inclination in that direction.
The only quibbles I had were the ending, which was a touch saccharine, and the fact that Jolie never truly confronts her father over his plagiarism. I would have liked to have heard his reasons or justifications why he ‘stole’ Gabriel’s recipes, but the story never really goes there satisfactorily. But these were minor niggles and didn’t stop me from enjoying this sweet and satisfying romance.