A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand
Series: La Vie en Roses #3
Also in this series: A wish Upon Jasmine
Publication Date: January 24th 2017
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From international bestselling author Laura Florand:
Childhood friends. Tristan Rosier might have asked Malorie Monsard to marry him when he was five years old, but things had only gone downhill from there. She’d spent the rest of their lives ignoring him, abandoning him, and destroying his perfumes. Now she was back, to wreak who knew what havoc on his life.
Lifelong enemies. Tristan might choose to dismiss the generations-long enmity between their two families, but Malorie didn’t have that privilege. Like all the other privileges wealthy, gorgeous Tristan took for granted that she couldn’t. But if she was going to restore her family company to glory, she might just need his help.
Or the perfect match? They’d known each other all their lives. Could these childhood friends and lifelong enemies ever uncross their stars and find happily ever after?
I gobbled up the newest book in Laura Florand’s La Vie en Roses series as soon as I got my hands on it, and once again I’m left in a puddle of mushy, smiling, love-soaked goodness.
I have loved funny, kind-hearted Tristan Rosier from the start of this series. (Quick recap: The Rosiers have been growing flowers and manufacturing perfume in Grasse, France for centuries. The books are about the cousins in the family.) He is the perfumer in the family, a genius artist who can capture most any feeling, memory, or dream in a scent. While it’s never named, it appears he has something like ADHD. He’s learned to cope now, but it made his school years excruciating. One way his teachers tried to rein him in was to sit him next to Malorie Monsard. Malorie was quiet and studious and sitting next to her gave Tristan a tiny dose of calm he badly needed, but she left home after graduating and rarely returned since then. Malorie’s family was once part of the area’s perfume royalty just like the Rosiers, but after they were disgraced in WWII, they were outcasts. Malorie’s grandmother managed to keep the company hanging on by a thread, but now that she’s dead Malorie comes back to Grasse to figure out what to do with her legacy. Can she resurrect her family’s perfume house with Tristan’s help, and does she even want to?
As with all the books in this series, Florand makes the descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings so incredibly vivid that you just get lost in their loveliness. Part of Malorie’s inheritance is her grandmother’s beloved bitter orange orchard, and the scents and sights of that space are Malorie’s home base, so to speak. She goes there when she needs comfort, and she lets no one in. (So of course, when she finally invites Tristan there it totally cracks open your heart.) This book drives home the point that our concept of home can be tied up in our sense memories, and that is especially true for these two families who make their living with their senses.
Tristan could so easily be a big jerk – he’s rich, brilliant, gorgeous, women falling all over themselves to get close to him – but instead he’s wonderfully adorable and big-hearted. He definitely does have some entitlement as Malorie repeatedly points out, but to me it was mostly a positive kind of entitlement that we’d all like to have. He comes from a family that loves and supports him unconditionally, and that gives him strength and a certain confidence that everything will be ok. He isn’t unwilling to accept his privilege; he just needs it pointed out sometimes. He is constantly described as a happy guy. At first I thought that must be a false front, but as the book went on I decided it’s more that he truly believes that happiness exists everywhere, and that’s a direct result of the security that came from his family. He does need to learn during the course of the book that his situation is unique and that his name has helped him, but you can tell he does still genuinely appreciate his family and the life he has.
Malorie, on the other hand, got little love or support from her family. Her father was a shallow, selfish narcissist who gambled away family treasures, tried to buy everyone’s affection with charm and presents, cheated on her mother relentlessly, and then got himself killed while Malorie was still fairly young. Now, her sisters and mother have scattered and don’t have much of a relationship. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her great-grandfather was a Nazi sympathizer who betrayed the local resistance (of which the Rosiers were members), and that got the Monsard family cast out from Grasse society. It’s always a little difficult for those of us in America with our comparatively short history (and even shorter memories) to imagine, but I can see where something like that would cast a very, very long shadow on a family and a town.
So, Malorie has more than a few chips on her shoulders, to say the least. She has some pretty severe trust issues, and when Tristan shows up acting charming and wanting to help her, she simply can’t understand his motivations. Her memories of her dad keep getting in the way of her present despite the fact that she knows intellectually Tristan is not the same, and those feelings of shame and worthlessness that were drilled into her from birth prevent her from fully letting anyone in. For his part, we can see that Tristan is head over heels for Malorie, and all the charm and flirting has always been one of his ways of showing her how he feels. They start the book with a ton of antagonism and bickering, which of course is really just hiding their insecurities and true feelings. As they spend more time together, Tristan is definitely in love with her, but he moves slowly so as not to scare her off. I loved the build up of the sexual tension. It’s kind of a slow circling that goes on longer than I expected, and by the time they finally get together the scene is so emotional and gorgeous that it had me melting.
At first I was going to say these two had a communication problem, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was really more like a comprehension problem. Malorie craves family, craves security, and craves self-reliance, because she didn’t have much of the first two and has had to rely exclusively on the last one her whole life. She appreciates but doesn’t really understand the way Tristan bears his soul to her. She dismisses it not because she wants to hurt Tristan but simply because she doesn’t realize what he’s giving her. Similarly, Tristan makes a serious misstep when he doesn’t tell Malorie about something she really should have known. While I wasn’t thrilled with his omission, I truly believed he did it because to him, security and a sense of family legacy was always a given, and he didn’t anticipate how important something that gave those comforts to Malorie might be. It was like they were simply speaking different languages, and I enjoyed seeing them suddenly “get it” and learn to give the kind of love the other needed.
In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. I loved everything about it and I cannot believe I have to wait to read the next one. (Ooh boy, based on the ending of A Crown of Bitter Oranges, shit is going down in that next book!) This is a book full of lovely imagery, vivid characters, and so much sweetness. Seriously, if you haven’t already, go spend 15 minutes Googling “grasse france” to ogle some painfully beautiful pictures, and then go read this book.
Grade: 5 out of 5