Kiss the Bride

Kiss the Bride - Laura Florand It feels weird to give this anthology four stars, after I almost trashed it because of the first story. I was just filled with loathing for every character in it. Thankfully I remembered in time that I'd wanted to start the "Chocolate" series, and so did not miss out on a good story by Christie Ridgeway and a fantastic one by Laura Florand. "Weddings Ink" by Ridgeway is a reunion story. Luke left Charlotte because she refused to let their relationship move beyond casual; when they're reunited during the preparations for her former stepsister's wedding to his brother, she not only discovers they still have strong feelings for each other, but also learns some surprising truths about her family history. This was steamy and fun, but with a powerful emotional underpinning. "Alls Fair in Love and Chocolate" by Florand -- wow! If I'd know this was an insta-lust story about a happy-go-lucky woman ridiculously inventing a fake fiance, I never would have started it, but Florand's style with words and feelings made it a gem. Parisian chocolatier Simon Casset, a somewhat rigid perfectionist, is immediately attracted to American Elle's zest for life; unfortunately, Elle is hiding her food blog and so pretended she visited his shop because she needs a wedding cake. Although Simon realizes she's lying and so has no qualms about pursuing her, their relationship is complicated by Elle's fear that Simon just wants to use her, like other guys she's known: "She was all-out, delighted enthusiasm, like a stupid bubbling stream, and the guy would just cup that in his hands for the hell of it, splash his face with it, and drop the leftovers back into the river." Meanwhile, Simon is frustrated by her lie and has similar fears: "Was he just her French lover? He was making love to her, and he was French but… why did it sound so different if he put the terms together, made them an identity."This is a perfect example of how you can write a gorgeously sexy story without needing to get explicit. The love scenes are simply exquisite. Florand weaves both of Elle and Simon's forms of creativity -- drawing, and chocolate sculpture -- into the story, showing how much they express about the characters and their feelings for each other; the romantic metaphors are delicious, and the end had me swooning: "His flush deepened. This man clearly found it easier to express himself in chocolate. But he kept on. 'All those sculptures.' He nodded to the photos of the award-winning swoops and swirls and color and deliciousness on the wall, made a sweep of his hand that seemed to indicate his whole chocolaterie, or perhaps his whole life. 'All that time.' He pulled her tightly against him. 'I was just trying to make you.'"