Desert Isle Keeper
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
Goodbye, America! Oh, how I wish I could leave the snowy Northeast behind to wander around Paris. This may not be the best book that was ever written about the chocolate business, but it certainly seemed wonderful to me. Having finished it, I feel ready to leave my dreary American life behind and instead go off on an adventure to Paris.
Sadly, I cannot. Nor can I sample any of the delicious chocolate confections I have so lately read about. A word of caution to anyone who wishes to read this book: do not attempt to do so in a room filled with Christmas cookies and other sweets. The temptation might prove to be too much after spending some time with Anna Trent in Le Chapeau Chocolat.
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris begins in a most interesting way. Anna Trent starts this book as a fairly boring British girl who works in a chocolate factory. Yes, a factory, not a shop. There is a world of difference. Anna, in fact, does not have all that much to do with the chocolate-making process—she’s just the taster. Or rather, she was, until she had an accident at work.
I won’t go into details about the accident, simply because its outcome was different enough to quite surprise me, and I don’t want to take that little jolt of shock away from anyone else. Suffice to say, Anna ends up stuck in the hospital for a while, and it is while she’s there that she reconnects with her old French teacher, Mrs. Claire Shawcourt. Claire is frequently in the hospital for chemotherapy, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be doing much to stop the progression of her cancer. Whenever she’s around, she and Anna enjoy talking, and it is during one of these long conversations that they cook up the idea of Anna re-learning French in order to stave off boredom.
This turn of events seems to suit everyone until Anna is released from the hospital. She no longer has a job at the factory, and so is stuck moping around the house all day, feeling sorry for herself. Nothing seems to satisfy her, until Claire suggests that she travel to France, to work in a little chocolate shop in Paris where Claire has a connection. Reluctantly, Anna agrees, and is soon swept up into the hustle, bustle, and romance that is so much a part of the City of Love.
Naturally, this connection of Claire’s is someone special. Thierry Girard, the master chocolatier was Claire’s first (and only) real love. We learn their story through a series of short flashbacks, which (like many other flashbacks) are by turns annoying and wonderful. Claire and Thierry’s story is both sweet and sad, and I don’t regret a minute of the time I spent reading, even though it sometimes felt like I was just getting pulled away and distracted from the main story.
While in Paris, Anna—like so many other romantic heroines—finds her spunk, her peace of mind, and a man. In this case, that man is Laurent Girard, Thierry’s son. He’s a bit of a loner who has some problems with his father, but overall a likeable hero. However, as this book was more along the lines of women’s fiction as opposed to romance, Anna and Laurent’s relationship was not always center stage.
In fact, it seems a little difficult to say exactly what the main focus of this book was. Plenty of that focus was on Anna and her development—first as she crawled out of her depression, and then as she moved toward a relationship with Laurent. However, there was also a large focus on Thierry and Claire. I don’t know that I could call it a secondary romance, but it’s certainly something.
Overall, I would say this book is wonderful and worth reading. I thought it was going to be just an okay read—certainly something light and easy, what with its cover and title. I kept telling myself it was only an average, simple-fare sort of book right up until the end, when I realized I had tears in my eyes and I hadn’t stopped reading for the past five hours. I don’t know how or when it happened, but The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris sucked me right in. Now I’m left to deal with the excess emotion, craving for chocolate, and burning desire to visit the other side of the Atlantic which this book left in its wake.