Wow, I sure had to struggle to give Patrick the benefit of the doubt for the first, I don’t know, maybe the first quarter of the book.
The thing about Patrick is, he really is acting like a selfish jerk when we first meet him. It’s hard to admire a guy who’s seducing an intern who is his direct subordinate, no matter how brilliantly he performs in other areas of life.
Since this is Laura Florand, though, Patrick turns into a sympathetic character after all. I bet you could see that coming, right?
Part of that is the way he was presented as a secondary character in The Chocolate Heart, which takes place contemporaneously to this book. Remember how insightful and loyal Patrick is, as he works so hard to get Luc over himself enough to admit he needs Summer? Well, here we see that relationship from the other side, and by the end of The Chocolate Temptation, we have seen just how deep that loyalty goes. For me, Patrick’s never-voiced love and loyalty for his foster brother is crucial to make Patrick work as a character.
We don’t see this through Patrick’s own eyes, or not exactly. We see it through Sarah’s eyes. The other thing that makes Patrick work for me is Sarah. She is not a very easy intern to take advantage of, actually. If she hadn’t wanted to be seduced, it wouldn’t have happened; and she wants Patrick because she sees right through all his (thick) layers of defenses to the man hidden behind them, even from himself. It’s impossible to dislike Patrick when you see him through Sarah’s eyes:
“You like to take care of people. You like to take care of strong people who are going for their dreams and to make sure they know how to reach them.”
Sarah also reinterprets that initial unsympathetic picture of the boss who seduces an intern:
“But I did use my position of power over you to seduce you, didn’t I?”
“How?” she asked, genuinely curious.
He looked at her as if she was being willfully dense. “I made you trust me. I got you used to me being in your space. I made you admire me. God, you think I’m perfect.”
She tilted her head. Put like that, it sounded oddly like a – “Patrick. That’s not abusing power, that’s, that’s –”. . . . “I think that’s how it’s supposed to go,” she said carefully. “When you’re – interested in someone else. You build their trust. You try to get them to think well of you.”
After that, it’s hard to see Patrick’s earlier actions in quite the same light. Especially as it becomes more and more clear that he really is the kind of guy Sarah thinks he is, no matter how screwed up he is about love, about admitting to anyone that he really cares about anything.
Again, it’s his relationship with Luc, not with Sarah, that drove this home for me. That thing with the MOF contest, that was amazing. It was just so perfect for showcasing the real Patrick. The importance of the relationship between Luc and Patrick was unexpected in a romance novel, but that is the relationship that really convinced me about Patrick’s quality. That’s the point where I wound up really rooting for Patrick.
Not quite as much as I was rooting for Sarah, though. She’s something special. She’s the one who figured it out about the MOF contest. Of course she figured it out; she’s always thinking, always figuring stuff out. Especially stuff about Patrick.
Sarah’s mother is from Korea, we get that early on, but the North Korean thing, I didn’t see that coming at all, and wow did it add layers to Sarah’s background, and to the story. Any writer could learn a lot from Laura Florand about handing her protagonists difficult, complicated backgrounds that echo forward to inform all their actions and motivations, and this time she did that in spades for both Patrick and Sarah. I wound up loving both of the protagonists as well as the overall story.
So, yes, this one is another excellent novel. I don’t think it’s possible for Laura Florand to write anything less.
Plus, Cinderella! Again, with a light touch, so don’t go in expecting a real retelling of the fairy tale. But it’s fun to pick up the echoes.