And chocolate is such a rich, sensual pleasure. Every time a woman bites into a beautiful chocolate without regret or doubt or calorie-counting, just to enjoy how delicious it is, she’s re-affirming her own right to sensuality and happiness. Plus, these top chocolatiers and top chefs just speak to me – so intense, so perfectionist, so indefatigable, with so much heart that they have to pour out in their language, the language of food. When you do research with these chefs and see what their daily lives are like, it’s simply amazing. And the whole point of all that passion and work is to bring you pleasure. It’s an incredible thing. Every time I do more research, I feel another story coming on.
2. Luc, from The Chocolate Heart, is one of the most arrogant heroes that I can remember. Yet, he is an incredibly endearing hero, not at all alphaholish. Why do you think Luc is so appealing?
Because he’s got so much heart in him, perhaps, and he has such trouble expressing it, but he tries so hard? He’s actually a total mess, with his control issues and obsessiveness, and he needs this obsession with the heroine to crack him wide open. But he fights it! He’s so caught by his own feelings and he tries so hard to control them, but they just keep pouring out of him in the only language he understands.
3. Much of the conflict in The Chocolate Heart revolves around a Big Misunderstanding. Both Summer and Luc completely misjudge each other through the lenses of their own past hurts. This creates a wonderfully intense tension between the two. How did you come up with a hero who needs to show his devotion through his chocolate creations and a heroine who avoids sweets at all costs?
Well...it’s the worst thing she could possibly do to him. And she doesn’t know that. She thinks she’s just defending herself.
Meanwhile, it’s the most beautiful, the most affirming thing he could do for her – if only she can trust him. And she just can’t. So while she can’t, the gesture is in fact the worst thing he can do to her, too.
And by rejecting the only way he allows himself expression, she also does the best thing she can do to him, by forcing him – allowing him – to let his heart out in other ways.
They both have to learn something very important about themselves – that they have other values and other ways to communicate and find love than the ones in which they are currently trapped.
So it just grew out of that. But I love to cook, and I’ve certainly had the experience of guests who have, ahem, discouraged me from wanting to invite them back, in what seems to me their total blindness to what the offering of food means. It can really feel like being slapped in the face. So I understand that sensitivity of Luc’s. Because for me, cooking is a hobby and it still bugs me when people don’t appreciate it, but for him, it’s all he is. It’s his heart.
4. Do you try all of the chocolate creations that Luc makes? If so, what is your favorite?
Some of them are inspired by things I watched being made and tried when I was doing research with Laurent Jeannin, who is head chef pâtissier at Le Bristol, Paris, and was named Pastry Chef of the Year a couple of years ago. L’Épicure in the Bristol is a Michelin three-star restaurant, in a luxury palace hotel, just like the Hôtel de Leucé in the book, so that was invaluable research experience for me. I originally started doing that research just for The Chocolate Heart, but it was so fascinating, it ended up inspiring The Chocolate Rose and The Chocolate Temptation, too.
The gold heart in a cage, for example, was directly inspired by Laurent Jeannin’s most photographed dessert, and you can see some photos of my own encounter with it on my website (www.lauraflorand.com) and even more on my Pinterest site (http://www.pinterest.com/LauraFlorand/boards/). (In fact, you can find a lot of photos from my research at Le Bristol there.) The multiple versions Luc goes through are kind of flights of inspiration departing from that real dessert.
The Pomme d’Amour was inspired by a real dessert I saw once, too, but the real one was pure green, and in the book, of course, it’s a Snow-White apple.
But some of them I just make up, and so no, I only get to try them in my head. Like all my readers! They are “do-able”, though, albeit often only by the very best of the best chefs.
5. What is up next for Laura Florand? (Do you mind if I say that I cannot wait for more??)
Thank you so much! That makes me really happy.
Patrick’s book is next, The Chocolate Temptation. His book was entirely unplanned, but he kept stealing all the scenes he was in when I was writing The Chocolate Heart. And there was this thing with the intern clearly developing, so...
And then, of course, I’m working on the Vie en Roses series, of which we see a start in Rose in Winter (in No Place Like Home, out December 3). I want to do three, perhaps four, full-length novels in that series, but I’ve also got several novellas that I still want to write in conjunction with the Amour et Chocolat series, so I suspect some of those will work their way out in between longer novels. I really enjoy writing (and reading) novellas, when a certain story is right for that length. Also, I know this surprises people, but I may do some seventeenth-century historicals. We’ll see!
Thank you so much for having me on! It’s always a lot of fun to me to talk with readers about the books, and I appreciate the chance.