Rating: 4 out of 5
As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.
It’s a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime – to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.
With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate – and herself – than she ever dreamed.
I have now read several books by Jenny Colgan – namely the ones with food in the title – Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams and Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe – and really enjoyed them. When I saw that this book, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – was being released this year, I was very excited and eager to read it. I have to say, it didn’t let me down!
This book is different to the other two I have mentioned however as the story has two protagonists. We meet Anna, a girl who had a horrible accident at the chocolate factory she worked out which led her to be hospitalised and Claire, her old French teacher who is in hospital with cancer. The two of them strike up a friendship and Claire persuades Anna that once out of hospital she should go to Paris and work for Thierry as a fresh start. We follow Anna’s journey – both physical to Paris and personal as she discovers herself and we flash back to Claire’s past as she discovered Paris and love for the first time.
I always like the characters Colgan writes about, and Anna and Claire are no different. I really liked their friendship. It shouted that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship and that the younger can always learn from the older generation. I thought that Anna was incredibly brave – heading to Paris on her own for the summer and I liked that despite what was thrown at her she didn’t give in. I admired Claire but also felt sorry for her. She fell in love in Paris and had a glorious summer as a young adult, and she never found a love that matched her first love. It was sad that she was in her late fifties, seriously ill and still in love with the man she met in Paris all those years ago.
The storyline itself was a little predictable – although it did take me a little by surprise the first time we jumped back in time to follow Claire as a teenager. However, this was a typical love story. I wasn’t surprised by who fell for who, nor was I surprised by the ending. I don’t mean to sound negative here – I don’t read these sorts of novels for the surprise factor and I would have been disappointed if the love stories panned out differently – I just think it is important to point out that if you are a regular chick-lit reader then you will find this book familiar and predictable.
Colgan did make living in Paris sound very glamorous. I loved how she described the winding streets hidden from the tourists and the secret restaurants. The night life and the crazy things Anna witnessed and joined in with sounded like a lot of fun. Is it all realistic? I have no idea but it made great reading!
I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I wanted from the story – with the added bonus of recipes at the end of the book. Jenny Colgan didn’t let me down and I thoroughly enjoyed this read.