Laura Florand is a new-to-me author, but after reading so many positive reviews of her books, I thought I would like Trust Me, the third book in the Paris Nights trilogy. Unfortunately, this is a terrible book to try and read as a standalone and trust me when I tell you not to make the same mistake. If you are determined to give Paris Nights a try, read Chase Me first. Trust Me is a mostly introspective look at the aftereffects of the terrorist attack that takes place in Chase Me on the woman who thwarted it. I was lost (and annoyed) when the story opened, easily distracted as the story progressed, and disappointed when it ended. Trust Me tries to be and do too much, and unfortunately, it isn’t very romantic or interesting. Although the problems our heroine deals with are timely and merit our attention, the book fails to strike the right balance between those concerns and the love story at its heart. Truthfully, it was a bit dull.
My biggest complaint, and why I rarely read series out of order, is that Trust Me relies heavily on the book that precedes it with nothing to indicate that this is the case. I disliked backtracking over passages I’d already read, and needing to seek out reviews of the earlier books for the basic context required to move forward. Lina Farah, the focus of this book, is a Michelin starred pastry chef at Au-dessus restaurant. The granddaughter of Algerian immigrants, she’s ambitious, talented and fiercely independent, and has never let her sex or race keep her from achieving her dreams. In Chase Me, her cousin Abed, a terrorist, targeted Au-dessus because he hated Lina and her best friend Vi (the head chef). Lina survived the attack by throwing liquid nitrogen on him, but Vi and her boyfriend Chase (get it?), an elite counterterrorist operative, are hospitalized with gunshot wounds. At the start of this novel, Ms. Florand assumes you already know all this. By the time the story picks up, Lina is now venerated as a hero for her efforts.
Trust Me jumpstarts in Lina’s PoV as she attempts to slay a dragon. Well, she’s trying (and failing) to carve a block of ice into the shape of a dragon. Pay attention, because Ms. Florand loves this metaphor and you’ll revisit it over and over again whenever Lina struggles to overcome her memories of the attack. Frustrated when the dragon falls apart, Lina gives up and returns her attention to the pastry kitchen at Au-dessus. Watching over her is one of Chase’s counterterrorism teammates, Jake Adams. Jake fell hard for Lina when he met her (I think? It happened in Chase Me. Ahem.), and after her brave and heroic take-down of Abed, his admiration and affection for the fierce and beautiful pastry chef has grown and he’s determined to keep her safe. Jake’s fellow counterterrorism teammates in Paris are aware of his feelings and though they love to tease him, they allow Jake to watch over her. Lina is similarly attracted to her handsome protector, but wary of his intentions. Is Jake watching her because he wants to keep her safe? Or is he watching Lina because she’s Algerian and could have links to terrorists?
For the first half of this book, it’s a frustrating wait as Jake and Lina dance around their attraction to one another. Struggling to overcome her anxiety over the attack, Lina decides having sex with Jake will help (why not?). Just when Jake is about to approach Lina and ask her out on a date, she pre-empts him and asks for no-strings sex instead. Lina, suspicious about Jake’s motives and emotionally wrecked by the attack, is reluctant to develop a relationship with her sexy protector, but hopes a physical relationship with Jake can help her feel alive again. He’s offended (but flattered) by her offer, and willing to do whatever he can to help her overcome her demons. Via his PoV, we know he wants something more significant with Lina and is ready to make major changes in his life in order to prove it to her, but he’s willing to wait and help her – for now.
Jake doesn’t give Lina quite what she wants – at least not right away, and we spend the better part of the novel in a frustrating slow burn as Lina works through her feelings about Jake and the attack, and Jake decides he’d rather have a sexual relationship with Lina than none at all. But once Lina has a taste of Jake’s sexytimes, she also decides she wants more. When she finally confesses she wants more out of their relationship, their mutual attraction flares into a deeper and more soulful connection right away. The sex is good, too – but you’ll have to take their word for it, because not much makes it onto the page. Right away, Lina is happier and emotionally stronger than she was before the affair; Jake revels in her happiness and wants more of it. In a few rapid chapters, Lina begins to conquer her dragons, the restaurant triumphantly re-opens, our couple get their HEA and the books ends.
If that last bit seems a bit rushed, then you know just how the book felt. There’s a lot of long, dull introspective passages from both principals about their feelings, Lina’s incredible desserts, their friends (I thought they were annoying and pretentious), and the love and passion they feel for each other, but not much else. Aside from a few visits to the hospital, the development of new desserts that mirror Lina’s transition from a fragile, damaged victim to fierce heroine/fire breathing dragon, and some sexy times, Trust Me simply repeats and revisits the terrorist attack and Lina’s reaction to it.
Although I sympathize with Lina and her experiences, Ms. Florand spends way too much time in her head and not enough time developing the relationship between her and Jake, or on Lina’s newly minted status as a hero of France. And that’s disappointing because she’s smart and brave and likeable and he sounds like a great guy. I particularly loved Lina’s fondness for Jake’s freckles (he’s covered in them), and her vivid and vocal appreciation of them in bed and out.
Jake makes a nice alpha hero; his protective nature and spot-on instincts about just what Lina needs to recover emotionally and physically are admirable. I had a harder time connecting with Lina, despite how much time we spend in her head. The character, though beautiful, ambitious and intelligent, is developed entirely in the context of the attack and her feelings for Jake. It’s hard to identify with her apart from those things, and the cover of this book makes visualizing her challenging as well. Lina is of Algerian descent and despite the ‘foreignness’ of her appearance, she’s fiercely proud of her heritage. The golden color of her skin and her curly jet black hair are also much admired by Jake. But this cover? It’s almost an insult to the whole point of this book. Lina is proud of her appearance and culture, and she strongly resents the perception that somehow her appearance makes her more likely to know or be a terrorist. It’s part of why she resists Jake for so long! The cover model should be a more accurate representation of this main character.
Trust Me was both more and less than I expected when I decided to read it and I can’t recommend it to anyone trying this author for the first time. It’s a quick, if boring, love story with a strong connection to current events in France. The dessert descriptions will leave you craving more; the book itself? Not so much.