Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading: A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand

So, a few days ago, I had to get through a somewhat tense day filled mainly with hours and hours of waiting. I tweeted something like, “You know what would make today easier for me is @LauraFlorand’s newest book and it won’t be out till the end of the month!”

Ping! Fifteen minutes later, A Crown of Bitter Orange appeared in my email. That was certainly a nice surprise. Plus, I was right. It’s the perfect sort of book for a long tedious day: charming and engaging, quick-witted and sweet, filled with sympathetic characters getting their lives sorted out and with a guaranteed happy ending. I read the whole thing in one quick swoosh, and if you like romances at all, I do recommend it for, say, doctor’s waiting rooms, airports, anything of that kind which you may have coming up.

Anyway, A Crown of Bitter Orange

Okay, if you’ve been keeping up with Laura Florand’s romances, you remember the Rosier family, filled with all those male cousins – Matt and Damien, Raoul and Tristan and Lucien (currently absent). Also, pretty clearly, Antoine. The family seems a little slow on the uptake there, though I suppose us readers get a few hints about Antoine that they don’t.

Also the family patriarch, the grandfather, famously a hero in WWII; and Great-Aunt Colette, ditto. Those two of the elder generation are always important background characters in this series, but never more so than in Bitter Orange.

The male lead in this book is Tristan, who is kind of the emotional heart of the family – he plays an important role in holding the family together. But the tension in Bitter Orange arises from the female lead, Malorie Monsard, and her background. Tristan has always been drawn to her, but she’s never for a second believed that he cares for her – her in particular – because all the girls in the world fall at Tristan’s feet. Or so it seems to her. And she doesn’t believe anybody could really care for her, certainly not a Rosier, because . . .

I said the older generation is important here, right? Well, here’s why: Malorie’s great-grandfather also used to be important in perfume, the Monsards were another economic cornerstone of the region, but far from being a war hero, he collaborated with the Nazis. He was directly responsible for the deaths of some of those working with the Rosier’s grandfather and Colette.

How about that for setting up background tension for a relationship? Also, Malorie’s grandfather and particularly her father were nothing to write home about, either. You know how family is so important to the Rosiers. Well, Malorie practically doesn’t have a family. She’s spent her whole life making absolutely sure she will never need to depend on anybody, especially not a man.

So, after building a perfectly decent life for herself in America, Malorie comes back to her grandmother’s house, with its orchard of bitter oranges and its occasional hidden secrets. Should she sell it and leave again or try to restore it and stay? Tristan is determined to help her with that decision. Things develop from there. There are misunderstandings, but not the kind that drive the reader mad as they percolate through half the book before finally getting resolved. It’s not quite as sweet a story as Once Upon a Rose, not quite as infused with warmth as A Wish Upon Jasmine. But it’s a delightful return to the fragrant world of the La Vie en Roses series.

Also, there’s an indication that the next Rosier book will focus on Lucien, the prodigal cousin. Good. That’ll be quite something, I’m sure, with Lucien’s background. I’m looking forward to it.

Incidentally, at the end, there’s also a brief excerpt from Trust Me, which is the direct sequel of Chase Me, which as it happens I also re-read during the past couple of days. I see Trust Me is coming out in April 2017. I doubt I will be spending a lot of time waiting for various situations to resolve themselves in April, but hey, if I am, you can bet I will be hitting up Laura Florand for an early copy of that one, too.

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