Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.
He wants them back.
Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?
Or maybe he just wants her.
When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.
It might involve kissing.
I’ve been hoarding this book for a moment of true need. Or at least, that’s how I’m explaining why it took me this long to read this book, considering that it’s been in my virtual TBR pile for a very long time. It was, as with other Florand books, lush, funny, and richly layered both in terms of plot and characters. I guess you could loosely describe this as a beauty and the beast retelling, in so much as we have a really grumpy love interest who has a very soft heart–Matthieu, and a love interest who is beautiful, kind and curious–Layla. But because this is written by Florand, it is more than that. It is a musician who inherits a house in France, and steps into a family involved in the perfume industry who are collectively going through some growing pains.
Layla is a musician trying to find her inspiration when she meets Matthieu. She has recently been gifted a house in France by a previously unknown relative, and after her tour, Layla is looking into it. She also wants to know more about her father’s side of the family, since she didn’t grow up with him. She is not looking for a committed relationship. She needs to figure out how to be a musician without burning out. At first, she doesn’t tell Matthieu who she is–or explain that she is more than a hopeful musician traveling around Europe. But eventually, it all comes out and Layla and Matthieu have to talk through how they want their relationship to be, both for them, and for the public.
Matthieu is prickly, though this isn’t apparent upon our first introduction because he’s very tipsy on his birthday party. All his barriers are down. When his barriers are up, he’s cautious and on guard, even against his family. He’s trying to take the reins of his family business, which has been run by his grandfather for a very long time. He wants to keep his family together, to keep them from scattering all over the world. For him, that involves, among other things, keeping all of the family property in the family. And that is where Layla’s house comes into play. So the conflict for Matthieu is not just that Layla wasn’t fully upfront with him about herself, but that he needs to rethink what family is and is not.
Florand also describes roses and music beautifully, as well as family dynamics. For example, she describes how roses look before they are picked, how the bushes look after they’ve been harvested, and the cycle of new blooms that appear in a few days. This serves as an analogy to how Layla feels when composing music while there–not like something that has been stripped down to the bone, but rather a being that gives, is replenished, and can give again. And, because this is a Florand book, good food and fancy chocolate make appearances. We also get a grumpy grandfather and mysterious great aunt.
I highly recommend this book, though maybe not on an empty stomach, and not if pre-pandemic ways of interacting with the world make you uncomfortable.
You can buy a copy here.