• The Good: Dark coming-of-age tale about finding happiness and chocolate
  • The Bad: Lacks the enchanting quality of the first book in the series
  • The Literary: Gorgeous prose with a strong sense of place; alternating POVs

As a price for the small magic Vianne Rocher uses, the winds blow her from city to city, from the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes to the crowded streets of Paris. Desperate to try to stay in one spot, Vianne gives up magic and takes on the new identity of widow Yanne Charbonneau, of black dresses and dull shoes, of mediocre chocolates.

With a new baby in tow, Vianne doesn’t get too close to anyone. And nearly everyone believes the father of preadolescent Annie (formerly Anouk) and the baby is dead, or at least they don’t ask too many questions. Vianne wants more than anything to be normal to provide a stable home for her children. She even tells Anouk that all those memories of magic and spells were make believe. So it’s Anouk, formerly the child who wanted to stay put, now a student who doesn’t quite fit in with her schoolgirl friends, who desires the extraordinary. 

Enter the young and bombastically charming Zozie de l’Alba, whose bright red lollipop shoes promise rebellion. But the reader soon understands more about Zozie than either Anouk or Vianne, as each of these three ladies has alternating POV chapters. Zozie steals identities, and with them money, clothes, apartments, and more. And she’s taken an interest in the little chocolate shop in Montmarte.

I love that the supernatural is front and center in the sequel to Chocolate, including spells, totems, and new fables. There’s something so warm and comforting in this series, and that continues through as a domestic magic stands up against something far more evil than the priest antagonist of the first book. The mother-daughter relationship, Vianne’s new relationship, and Anouk’s catty schoolgirl friends all ring true. Then there’s the person who worms their way into your life on false pretenses, and you want so much for Vianne and Anouk to be happy for once that each page turn is full of anxiety. Zozie makes such a deliciously slippery villain.

Roux returns, and despite Vianne’s certainty in the first book that he is destined for someone else, this installment plunges headfirst into the romance, and was nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Women’s Fiction. Highly recommended if you enjoy the predecessor Chocolat, though this one nearly stands alone.