Tag: Laura Florand

Guest Review: A Crown of Bitter Oranges by Laura Florand

Posted February 1, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 9 Comments

Guest Review: A Crown of Bitter Oranges by Laura FlorandReviewer: Jen
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
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
five-stars

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

five-stars


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Guest Review: A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

Posted January 25, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura FlorandReviewer: Jen
A wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand
Series: La Vie en Roses #2
Also in this series: A Crown of Bitter Orange

Publication Date: August 1, 2015
Pages: 323
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

From Reviewers’ Choice Book of the Year nominee and bestselling author Laura Florand:

Ruthless. That was what they said about Damien Rosier. Handsome. Wealthy. Powerful. Merciless. No one messed with his family, because to do so they would have to get through him. No one thought he had a heart. Not even the woman he gave his to.

Cynical. That was what they said about Jasmin Bianchi. A top perfumer of her generation, Jess had achieved commercial success by growing a protective shell over a tender heart. The one time she cracked it open to let Damien in, he crushed it—after a night of unbelievable passion.

Lovers. That one magical night couldn’t survive the harsh light of dawn. When Jess woke up to discover the man in bed beside her had stolen her company, she fled.

Enemies. Now she’s come to the south of France with a threat to his family heritage. If he wants to reclaim both it and the woman who walked away from him, he’s going to have to fight as dirty as only Damien can.

But Jess knows how to fight dirty, too. And these days, she has nothing left to lose.

Certainly not her heart.

Come explore the south of France, a world of heat and fragrance and tales as old as time, through the stories of the five powerful Rosier cousins and the women who win their hearts. A Wish Upon Jasmine, book two in Florand’s addictive new series, La Vie en Roses. “Explosive, sensual, and utterly sweet” (Eloisa James).

Why didn’t any of you tell me that book 2 in this series was out?!? I missed out on 5 solid months where I could have been drooling about a trip to France and sighing over hot af Damien. Hmpf.

This book is the romance of Damien, another cousin in the perfume-dynasty Rosier family. Everyone sees him as the cold, ruthless businessman of the bunch, and while that’s certainly part of who he is, it turns out there’s a lot more in him than just ruthlessness. When perfume designer Jasmin (Jess) Bianchi inherits an old perfume shop belonging to the Rosier family and the two meet again, we find out that they had a one night fling in New York previously. The experience was extremely important to both of them, but because of a series of misunderstandings, bad timing, and insecurities on both their ends, they were driven apart and now see the other as an adversary. There is still a strong pull there, but can they both put aside their own vulnerabilities and have the courage to let someone else see the real them?

I adored Damien and Jess together. Jess has had a fairly lonely life. While she was close to her father, she had no other family, and when her dad died she was entirely alone. She has learned to protect her real self under a sarcastic, disdainful exterior. Damien too hides a lot from the world. He truly has a sweet, caring, and idealistic element to him, but he’s not just playacting the ruthless businessman role either. He genuinely loves making money and gaining the power that comes from it. I really enjoyed his complexity and felt like it added a depth that we don’t always see in heroes. His love for Jess doesn’t “reform” him and show him that money and business isn’t important; instead, his love shows him that he is more than just making money and that hardness and softness can co-exist within him. It was lovely.

That’s the love, but let’s talk about the sex, because I am a little conflicted. The sex in this book is hot and definitely spicier than the other Florand books I’ve read. Damien is complex both in and out of the bedroom. He seems to like to dominate during sex, and while he has tender moments too, he does enjoying being the boss, likes things just a teeny bit rough, and likes a little dirty talk. I felt like that absolutely fit with his personality and made 100% sense. I suspect some people will have some issues with him, though. First, there is a scene when Damien and Jess are still antagonizing each other, where he describes what is essentially a fantasy rape. He doesn’t exactly describe Jess as unwilling in the fantasy, but neither does he describe consent. He’s doing it intentionally to hurt Jess’s feelings (though the joke’s on him because they both get turned on, and I never once got the sense that he would ever actually want non-consent), but it’s kind of icky nonetheless. Then, there is their mutual, consenting sexytimes where Damien does his dirty-talking, dominating thing. Jess is absolutely on board and thinks it’s hot, so that is not the issue. I guess I just had a little trouble jumping right into it without any conversation about it. Is this something Damien always enjoys in sex, or is this something Jess brought out in him? Plus, Damien seems sort of angry when he’s commanding Jess to do dirty things and bossing her around. He even says he’s still hurt about her behavior after their one night stand. That planted a tiny seed of doubt in my mind–was he just into mildly “dirty” sex because he liked it (cool), or was he actually angry and punishing her with sex (maybe not-as-cool)? In the end, I decided that Damien had done so much to show his true character in the book, and all the stuff outside the bedroom pointed to a caring, good-hearted guy with a bit of a hard edge, so I chose to assume that was who he was in the bedroom too. Plus, Jess was not the slightest bit troubled by it, and in fact she realizes that she craves that hard edge during sex, too. I fully recognize others may have a different takeaway.

It’s been a long time since I read a book that made me so desperate to jump on a plane. Florand’s descriptions of the French countryside are evocative and utterly gorgeous. As I was reading, I was reminded of another one of my favorite writers, Sarah Addison Allen. Even though Florand doesn’t use actual magic in the books, the way she describes smells and textures so vividly and the dream-like quality to some of her scenes is very reminiscent of Allen’s magical realism.

I can’t wait to keep reading about these cousins and dreaming about fields of jasmine, cobblestone lanes, and lovely scents in the air.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Reading Order:

Once Upon a Rose
A Wish Upon Jasmine
Untitled #3

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Posted February 19, 2015 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Once Upon a Rose by Laura FlorandJen’s review of Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses #1) by Laura Florand

She stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla–“Belle”–Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But–his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

And that might be just the start.

I love food, I love books set outside the US, and I love sexy contemporaries, yet I somewhat inexplicably never read any of Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. When I saw she was starting a new series, I decided to jump in at the beginning this time.

This new series introduces the Rosiers, a family that owns a rose farm in Provence. (One of their cousins is Gabe, a hero from a previous book, so there is some subtle overlap.) Matthieu Rosier is the heir to the empire, and since he was little his grandfather has impressed upon him that the business, the family, and indeed the entire valley where it’s located are his responsibility. When American Layla Dubois shows up saying that she inherited a house and piece of land in the middle of that valley, Matthieu feels threatened, as though he’s already failing to protect his own. Layla is a musician and just wants some place to lay low and try to regain her songwriting mojo, and an old house in the French countryside seems like the perfect place to do that. Despite their divergent goals, Matthieu and Layla are drawn together and wonder if their previous goals were the right ones.

By a wide margin the thing that I loved most about this book was Matthieu. Holy hell, did I love Matthieu! He is one of my favorite kind of heroes: the reluctant leader, the one who never runs away from responsibility even though he sometimes wants to. He is the fixer, the guy who gets it done without fanfare or complaint. While others in his family may leave, may take a break from the responsibility, he doesn’t because to do so would just be unthinkable for him. Even when Layla first arrives and he’s angry and hurt that she is taking a part of “his” valley, he can’t stop himself from watching out for her because she’s in his valley and is vulnerable and if he doesn’t care for her, who will? He is huge and very growly, but underneath he is one of the most sensitive, softest-hearted heroes I’ve ever read. (I couldn’t help comparing him to the Beast from the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. He looks and acts kind of intimidating, but it’s just a defense to hide his own fears and insecurities.) Seriously, he blushes. When’s the last time you read about a hero who blushes constantly? The big, handsome guy also acts like a dork in front of Layla because she flusters him, and it had me laughing out loud repeatedly, such as the time he encounters Layla just as he’s taken off his shirt while working.

Oh, shit. He jerked the T-shirt back over his head, tangling himself in the bundle of it as the holes proved impossible to find, and then he stuck his arm through the neck hole and his head didn’t fit and he wrenched it around and tried to get himself straight and dressed somehow and–oh, fuck.

He stared at her, all the blood cells in his body rushing to his cheeks.

Of course, all his responsibility does weigh him down sometimes, and part of what he has to learn in this book is that he is worthwhile for who he is, not just because of his position in the family. I wanted to wrap him up and take him home and OMG he is just the cutest.

Because I liked Matthieu so much, it actually took me a little while to warm up to Layla because I wasn’t sure she was worthy! Fortunately, I grew to like her too. She’s lost when she arrives. She’s lost her creative energy, her drive to succeed, and even her love for music. She obviously needs mental and physical space, and she needs to be reminded that she’s more than just her music. I loved the way she understood Matthieu and I loved the lightness and humor of their interactions. I did think sometimes Layla was a little TOO perfect, though. Everything she does is kind and wonderful. A few more flaws would have made her more relatable.

The setting of the book is just plain gorgeous. Florand describes the landscape so lovingly and with so much detail, I was ready to hop on a plane right that minute. Matthieu’s family also play a large role in the book. I presume his cousins will be the heroes of future books, and if the glimpses we get of them are any indication, their stories will be amazing too. I would have liked to get more resolution between Matthieu and his grandfather, because there is clearly a conflict brewing there, but I expect his grandfather’s story line will continue throughout the series.

If I had to pinpoint my biggest criticism, it’s that Matthieu and Layla should have done more talking about their issues. There is a ton of internal monologue in this book, where each character works through stuff in their own heads. That’s great (and freaking adorable in the case of Mattheiu), but I wanted to see more of them working through stuff out loud, too. I kept wanting them to just say those internal comments to each other! For instance, Layla never really tells Matthieu about all the pressure she was under, how she had lost her enthusiasm, why music was so important to her, etc., even after Matthieu learns about her career. They also have a crucial argument near the end of the book that might have been avoided if they had actually discussed a lie of omission Layla makes earlier. Clearly Matthieu’s feelings were still hurt from earlier, but because they never discussed things, it festered until it exploded. It’s not that they don’t talk, and it’s not that I didn’t believe they understood the other. I guess I just felt like there were several important conversations I wanted to see to help convince me that they were starting off fresh and fully informed. It also got a little tiresome when both Matthieu and Layla persist in thinking they’re not that attractive. There is a lot of “No YOU’RE the hot one!” At the start it made sense, but I thought they both should have moved beyond that sentiment pretty quickly.

Despite some flaws, this was a fun book with a sexy, adorable hero, and I’m glad I didn’t wait to give it a try.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Laura Florand. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.


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