This book should really be called “How to Manipulate People Into Doing What You Want Them To Do, or the Abusive Asshole Handbook.”
When Smart Bitch Sarah chose The Chocolate Kiss for the March book club pick, she said it was like You’ve Got Mail, the cute 1999 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie, which was based on The Shop Around the Corner. Unfortunately, this was nothing like that movie. The only thing that was even vaguely like it was the fact that Philippe was opening some big ass pastry store down the block from Magalie’s (and her aunts’) chocolate store. I honestly don’t know why I continued reading this book as far as I did (I stopped 20 pages from the end when my disgust with the characters reached a boiling point), but somehow I did.
Since I read so much of this awful AWFUL book, I figure I should review it to warn other unsuspecting readers, who were expecting Tom and Meg and ended up with something more along the lines of Bella and Edward. Let’s start with the characters.
1. Magalie: Passive Aggressive Doormat. But she’s had a horrible childhood, so it is okay. (Like no one else has ever had a bad childhood–*rollseyes*). Her parents were from two different worlds–her mother is from Provence, France and her father is American, a professor at Cornell–and because of this she has never really had a place of her own. Until she was 18 and attending university in Paris, she was ping-ponged between America and France, never really putting down roots. (Her parents were such assholes, putting themselves and their drama ahead of Magalie.) At the start of the book, she finally has a place of her own–her aunts’ chocolate shop on an island just off of the Parisian mainland. Then Philippe comes along with his Walmart of Pastry stores. This puts Magalie in a tizzy and she figures that he has decided that she is lower than him and that her store does not matter, so she projects her dismissal of herself onto him for about 3/4 of the book–then she starts sleeping with him because she could no longer resist his maccarons. From here on out, she is afraid that he is going to make her give up herself. Unfortunately, Philippe is the type of person that would make her do so.
2. Philippe: Manipulative Bastard. But he’s a 6th generation Parisian and an heir to a pastry empire, so that’s okay. From the minute he lays eyes on Magalie he wants her. (Because crazy women, who are cursing your hot chocolate, are so sexy. If the HIMYM gang were around, they would probably say she had crazy eyes.) She’s gorgeous, after all. For someone who is supposed to be worldy and smart, he doesn’t understand what his opening a store down the block from Magalie’s would do to her. He just doesn’t understand why she is so angry with him. His obliviousness, I could have taken, but the way he pushed Magalie and expected her to do exactly as he wanted was just too much–not to mention his views on men and women (I kept turning back to the copyright page to see if maybe this was really written in the 70s or 80s and not 2013: no such luck). For instance, he and Magalie had a conversation about two other characters (Cade and Sylvaine from an earlier book) and he couldn’t imagine Sylvaine (the man) moving from France to America (where Cade is from) because Cade’s job was there. He expected Cade to leave her life in the US because she was a woman. There are a lot of other examples of his misogynistic tendencies–towards the end of the book, Magalie returns home to find the lock on the door was changed and that Philippe took it upon himself to do it because he thought she needed a better lock. It didn’t even cross his mind to tell her about it and when she threw a fit at not being able to get in, he was angry with her. (EXCUSE ME???) The thing that gets me is that Magalie comes to the conclusion that she overreacted and that she needs to apologize. (Did the last 50 years not happen in this book? Do people still believe that men are right about everything because they have a penis and women don’t?) It was at this point that I had to put the book away before I threw it at something and scared my family.
The other characters in the book don’t really matter; they’re nothing more than props for Philippe and Magalie. If any of them truly cared for Magalie, they would have told her to run from Philippe, but not a single one of them even thought of getting a restraining order against the psycho that broke into her apartment and was on the brink of going through her underwear draw when she discovered him there. This just screams stalker to me. How anyone could consider this romantic is beyond me.