If The Chocolate Heart by Laura Florand was a dish of ice cream it would be too chocolatey. Now I’m not one to throw “too chocolatey” around like a casual insult, unlike my mother who has been known to accuse an exceptionally chipped chocolate chip cookie of the faux pas. In my opinion, usually “too chocolatey” is a good thing, but for this book, the over-the-top-ness is a downfall. Full disclosure, there will be discussion of eating disorders because Summer, the heroine, suffers from disordered eating, and I’m a recovering anorexic.
Summer Corey is a spoiled brat who has just been given a hotel by her neglectful, elitist parents. I call her a spoiled brat because it’s a common insult hurled at her by every character, including herself. The devastating part is that Summer was raised on deprivation, but more on this and her resulting disordering eating later. Luc Leroi is the street brat turned three Michelin star chocolatier who is not about to let Summer woo him with her casual smiles and billions.
They hate each other, but they want each other. Not a unique situation. They are actually very hard to like for this reader, as well. They compete to see who can hurt the other worse, and it is cringe worthy. Three quarters of the way through the book they stop being mean, and I’m honestly not sure why. Maybe Florand just noticed she had less than a hundred pages to get to their happy ending, and they were still spitting fire?
Summer and Luc do get a happy ending, one that happened so quick it was fleshed out mostly during a conversation in a hammock in the last chapter and an epilogue. So plot development isn’t exactly an asset to this book either.
That said, this book is SEXY. Florand has a way of keeping the smolder simmering even in the most mundane plot moments. Maybe it’s the luxurious settings, unctuous desserts, or maybe she’s just good. Whatever the reason, a sous chef makes some eggs, and it’s hot. But she takes her power to ramp it up too far in other aspects of the book.
Here we go:
Summer, raised to view her beauty as her best asset was deprived desserts as a child. It was punishment for….existing? This memory is excruciating for her, and not easy for me to read. A child watches as everyone around her licks their spoons. So as an adult Summer refuses to eat desserts because why let go of the pain of your past? Luc tries to woo her with desserts, and she does things like dig her nails into her legs until it hurts and flirt with men she knows are bad for her to avoid the temptation. Also countless costly desserts are presumably thrown away, and I just can’t handle it. Eventually Luc gets her to break (There’s a lot of discussion of Summer breaking in this book. Not fun.) with an artfully displayed mango. How many anorexics out there pretended fruit was the best dessert you could imagine? (me raising my hand). The worst part about the way Summer’s disordering eating is handled is that it’s just dropped. That’s it. she eats his mango, and then she’s down for all his other desserts (hehehe). She never gets to say “hey that was shitty” or “I deserve more.” To be clear, if you don’t like desserts that’s fine. But Summer longs for the desserts. It physically and emotionally hurts her to turn down what Luc offers her. Then Summer enacts self harm to (and reminisces about past self harm) to cope with her emotions. These are the unhealthy habits Florand writes into her heroine. If an author is going to dip her plot into eating disorders, she needs to resolve it. As Florand did it, getting a man made Summer healthy. Not good.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, there is a sex scene that just doesn’t have enough consent. Readers are in Summer’s head, so we know she is turned on, but she is saying things like “Not here.” Unfortunately it happens there anyway, and it made me super uncomfortable. There is a lot of hot, rough sex in this book, and eventually safe words are discussed, which is helpful. But ultimately most of this book left me feeling yucky.
Florand has done better, and I want to give her another try, but this one was just much to much chocolate. And by chocolate I mean unhealthy behaviors brushed off as “being spoiled” and fixed by “finding a good man.” Yuck.