As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.
It’s a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime – to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.
With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate – and herself – than she ever dreamed. (Goodreads)
My rating: 4/5.
This book was a total impulse-buy on a day when our baby was five days over-due, we’d just seen Guardians of the Galaxy (read my review) and I was craving something comforting, but not dumb, to take my mind off the fact that I’ll be a parent soon (as this publishes I already am, oh, my). So I chose Jenny Colgan, whose Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and The Little Beach Street Bakery (my review) I’d read and loved, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Colgan’s combination of slightly troubled, but very strong women, delectable food and very pretty locations is an all-time winner for me. Here, Anna, a 30-year-old from a small, uninteresting town in England, recuperates from a small but almost-tragical injury and a subsequent illness that nearly killed her. She meets her former French teacher, Claire, in the hospital. Claire is going through her last chemo session and starts teaching Anna French again, more from boredom than anything else, but the two women connect despite the miserable circumstances they’re in.
As Anna no longer has a job at her chocolate factory, Claire proposes she go and work at a chocolate atelier in Paris, owned by Claire’s old acquaintance, Thierry. Anna’s not sure she’s up for it but is sick of being the freak show and main gossip of the town, so she pack her bags and leaves for Paris.
The story moves from Anne’s narration and POV to another storyline set in the early 1970s in Paris, where Claire went as an au-pair for a summer and fell in love for the first time. While Anna’s path of recovery and her adventures in Paris would have made a good novel in itself, it’s actually Claire’s flash-backs that I loved the most. The young, sheltered, overly shy girl whose strict upbringing did a serious number on her is suddenly put into the wonderful, colourful world of Paris, food, and summer. In these sections, I found the most sensual descriptions of chocolate and romance ever (and I can tell you I’ve read a lot of romance lately).
I also loved the descriptions of Paris. I’ve been to Paris twice, once when I was a kid and then later with my husband (then boyfriend). Paris was one of the first trips we made together, before we even started living together, and those vacations were always extra-special because we got to spend entire days in each other’s company. It was spring, the chestnut trees hadn’t even bloomed yet, and it rained quite a lot, but we loved every single bit of it, despite the fact that we had next to no money (we were both students at the time).
We saw the Notre Dame, of course, which is why I was so delighted to read about it in the book. And we saw La Tour Eiffel, where magnolias were in bloom, and made awkward selfies with wind-blown hair.
All in all, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris was a perfect read for me. It wasn’t as fluffy and fuzzy as I’d expected, though, and held a more sombre note as well. I really recommend Jenny Colgan’s books to anyone wishing to read quality chick-lit!
Have you read any good chick-lit lately? I’d love to hear some recommendations.
Do you like books better if you know the setting?