Rated it: 5 stars Recommend it to: 18 and above. People who liked The Chocolate Thief, and chocolaty romance.
The Heart of Paris
Welcome to La Maison des Sorcieres. Where the window display is an enchanted forest of sweets, a collection of conical hats delights the eye and the habitues nibble chocolate witches from fanciful mismatched china. While in their tiny blue kitchen, Magalie Chaudron and her two aunts stir wishes into bubbling pots of heavenly chocolat chaud.
But no amount of wishing will rid them of interloper Philippe Lyonnais, who has the gall to open one of his world famous pastry shops right down the street. Philippe’s creations seem to hold a magic of their own, drawing crowds of beautiful women to their little isle amidst the Seine, and tempting even Magalie to venture out of her ivory tower and take a chance, a taste…a kiss.
Parisian princesses, chocolate witches, patissier princes and sweet wishes—an enchanting tale of amour et chocolat.
My take on the cake
How do I even begin? Magalie has trust issues that stemmed from her uprooted childhood of continent hopping due to her parents’ complicated love. Now all grown up, she’s her aunts’ protégé and sole heir to their charmingly delicious shop, La Maison des Sorcieres, stirring her sweet concoctions of dark hot chocolate thrice and a good wish for the sipper, unaware that there was magic in her mindless ritual. There on her little island just outside the bustling city of Paris is where she’s felt truly at home in a long time.
Enter Philippe Lyonnais, le Prince des Pâtissiers (which I’ll hazzard a guess means Prince of Pastries). He’s opening a new branch of his world renowned pastry shop. Magalie goes on the defensive, threatened by his presence on her territory, her future, since his very presence there can put her out of business. I believe that the fear of losing their shop means she’s going to be losing her place, her center, her only anchor. This panic inside of her blinds her to the man who Phillipe is. Okay, he can be arrogant, righteously so in his opinion. He didn’t go there specifically to snuff them out but he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t be where he wants to be. After all, Paris was his.
They both longed for someone to love, only that she’s reluctant as hell and he’s more open to the prospect of love. Nothing was rushed, nor was it lagging much. But did I mention his arrogance? She calls him on it almost every time but then takes it upon herself to label him as ‘spoiled’, which wasn’t entirely true as he explained to her. Like Magalie, he had the passion for all that was devilment to the palate. They were meant to be, but first they must learn to control the sparks they sent flying, instead of burning each other, they could stir a love so true under that blaze of theirs.
She had originally seemed quick to judge her princesses (their female clientèle who ‘indulged themselves with problems they don’t know how to fix’) . I was ticked at first then curiosity niggled. Now I see that she’d convinced herself that she’s protected from such problems, her barriers to the causes are as resolute as she thinks. I’d thought it very assuming but now I understand more properly, about her need for emotional stability at most. Her childhood wasn’t smooth as most can hope to have and it’s taken a toll on her trust. Her fear of not being wanted or even think that she could be loved for just being herself, to be needed by someone. Especially by Philippe. That fear was, I believe, espoused by a misinterpretation on her part of something her mother had once said to her before she joined her aunts, and her pre-existing insecurities made it worse.
Phillipe has lived up to the generations of Lyonnais before him, besting even his own father. He worked hard, developed this extensive capacity for patience, to be the best in his field. It wasn’t easy but his family’s history helped, unlike Sylvain who had to start from scratch. He’s drawn to Magalie and to the mystery of what made her tick, it didn’t take him long to figure out where his feelings were headed. But of course they always seem to find reasons to butt heads with each other. He sees that it’s her he wants and if making her the most perfect delicacy he’s ever made will win her over, he’ll be damned if he doesn’t try. Here’s his thoughts during one of those attempts.
Let me in.
I will make you notice me.
Not the greatest anger anger or the greatest will in the world will keep your mouth locked tight against me.
– Page 185
The tension between Magalie and Phillipe was interesting. Oh! We get to see Sylvain and Cade again, not to mention that irritatingly-imposing-but-still-tolerable culinary blogger, Christophe. Once more he’s a target of the green eyed monster named Jealousy and he’s probably still unaware of it. Also if you read the first book, you might have seen Phillipe mentioned as one of the pastry/chocolate chefs Cade had been hoping to buy out.
The aunts. I absolutely enjoyed Magalie’s aunts, Genevieve and Aja. Where Geneviève was the storm and fire, Aja was the calm and the water with some underlying bite. They both love their niece so much she was good as their own daughter. That couple is so sneaky and manipulative it was funny to witness! I wish I could have included several quotes to give you a peek of what you’re missing out on but I have this on Kindle so I’ll have to settle for this one that has Phillipe, Magalie and the aunts.
“Yes, but we’re the ones people come hunting in the depths of the forest! We’re not the ones who put a castle on a hilltop and wave a flag to get attention. I don’t like the kind of people who come just because they’ve seen a waving flag”. [Magalie]
“It won’t last,” Aja said soothingly. “Let her get over this. It will die down eventually, or we’ll close more hours and send them all his way.” A slight flick of her hand, as if brushing crumbs off a dirty table for Phillipe to scrounge.
“I hope it doesn’t last! If this keeps up, we’re going to have to dig up this place where no one else knows where we are, and you know that would destroy Magalie. So we’re stuck.”
Phillipe had a brief, terrifying vision of La Maison des Sorcières running off on chicken legs to an African jungle or something. He reached out and just barely stopped himself from grabbing Geneviève, who probably would have atrophied his arm with a look if he had. “Don’t you move anywhere else.”
Geneviève sniffed. “Well, keep more of your customers down your way. They’re not my type.”
Phillipe grounded his teeth, a gesture he didn’t even know he had in him. “Magalie takes every person who comes to my shop and not yours as a personal insult.”
Geneviève squinted at Aja. “When I was twenty-four, was I that confused and fragile?”
“I didn’t know you when you were twenty-four,” Aja said repressively.
– Page 190.
I have to mention my delight as Phillipe tiptoed around drinking Magalie’s chocolate chaud or Aja’s tea for fear they’d really turn him into a toad, ha! He takes the witch thing seriously. Magalie refused to eat any of his pastries out of pride and it was well into the middle of the book until they both had taken each others creations.
Also there is this one where he confront her about the very interested women he suspected she’d sent his way with her bewitched chocolate.
If I wish anything on anyone, it’s usually strength and courage and clear-seeing, which they never seem to have enough of. I have no idea why that would lead them to you.” She looked as if she had bitten into something in polite company and didn’t know where to spit it out.
Strength and courage and clear-seeing. He felt himself draw a long, deep breath, like at the gym when he had just finished a punishing set of exercises well. Or at the Meilleur Ouvrier de France trials when the last, extravagant spin of sugar held. “Thank you,” he said, for the compliment.” The extraordinary compliment.
“It wasn’t intended.” She scowled.
“Yes, I gather that.” But maybe, when she stirred her chocolate and thought of strength and courage and clear-seeing, maybe some part of her thought of him.
– Page 156
It was not even a reasonably smooth road they had to traverse to reach where they have in the end, but every minute was worth it all. I’ve read that lots of readers say that they like Chocolate Thief much more. I love both, they offer varied perspectives because these are different people despite the shared chocolate ties. This book was considerably sadder because of Magalie’s insecurities and hurt. Cade was by far more confident though she had her own misgivings. I find myself sharing a few of Magalie’s fears and that ability to empathize with her made it click better with me.
All in all, this was a lovely read. Humorous, whimsical, mouth watering, touching and laugh out loud fun. I totally recommend it. I’ve started this year with two romances, I do feel it’s time I stirred things up. Have you read The Hobbit yet? I wanted to even before they made the movie but I finally got a copy!
Cheers, all. Be happy, be safe.