Pain Au Chocolat
By K Christine Martin
April 7, 2010
Lesbian/ semi contemporary- from 80’s on/Interracial
Buy it Smashwords, Amazon
Catherine still had her French accent despite twenty four years in the US. She was forty two years old, divorced, and restless. She had started 'Le Café' and worked hard to support her only child. She thought of beginning a new way of life. 'Perhaps in France', she told herself - until she met Anna. Both women discover a passion that is always challenged in pursuit of their dream to be together.
This is another self published book that I picked up on Smashwords. There are a few reviews of this book on Amazon and they pretty much all say things like (paraphrasing) heart wrenching, touching, great love story, I cried, I laughed, etc. So I thought it can’t be that bad even if I’m not totally up for mushy, sappy or over-the-top pull the heartstrings type of stories.
I have mixed feelings about this book. Yes, it is emotional. It will take you through the gambit of feelings and some not too pleasant. If you’re up for an intense ride, then this book will hit the spot. It’s a love story that goes through all the trials of a long term love including the things that get in the way of relationships or cause them to falter at times. But it’s also a tale of enduring love, a love that rides the waves and survives. That is, until it can’t. And I think this will upset most romance readers, especially those who would read this for the love story and want only the good feelings. Fair warning.
For this reason, I think I have to claim this book more as a chick lit/ Oprah book hybrid and not a romance book. It comes across more as a factual story of someone’s life and therefore, it’s a more realistic portrayal of a love story with its warts and all.
On the level of how I experienced this book emotionally and how it read to me, I found it very compelling. I was sucked in by the author and invested in the characters and their lives. This is also a story that goes into territory not usually explored, a 22 year age difference as well as cultural/racial differences. I found that the issues around these things were covered in quite a bit of detail and realistically portrayed.
Catherine is a French woman who has a café near Mount Holyoke College in Mass. She’s in her 40’s and her son, a part time instructor in another college and her daughter-in-law help her run the place. She’s long divorced and hasn’t found anyone to love in all those years. The students come and go and she likes being around them, but one particular girl has attracted her, a young, extremely beautiful Filipino girl.
She doesn’t understand why, but she slowly finds ways to have contact with her, to the point of stalking her in a minor way while she’s in the library. At first she thinks it’s just because she’s vivacious and cute, but slowly Catherine realizes that maybe it’s something more.
Anna is a naïve and spoiled young woman who’s going through college to please her family. They are a traditional Filipino family and all the members work for the family business. She will too when she graduates. Her older brother is quite protective of her and pretty much criticizes every one she dates, kind of controlling her on that level. So she ends up kind of lost and screwing around, not really getting serious with anyone.
She notices Catherine and knows her from the café and starts a friendship with her. They spend almost a year hanging out all with Anna being clueless that Catherine is pining over her. Anna ends up staying with Catherine during the summer vacation so she can work and Anna then realizes that she feels more for Catherine than just friends. The rest is basically they get together and deal with all kinds of family homophobia, anger, separations, acceptance and cultural/age difference issues.
Ok, first, I thought the love story and how they came together was beautifully written. I really believed that they really ache for and desire each other. However, I couldn’t believe that Anna and Catherine would get close to begin with and why no one questioned them hanging out together all the time before there was ever a love affair.
Anna is really close to her roommate, who is down to earth and cool and I couldn’t believe she never once asked Anna, what’s the deal? It seemed that neither Anna nor Catherine had anything in common. After a while, Anna hangs out solely with Catherine, ignoring all her friends and school work to the point of almost failing so again, why no one questioned what a 20 year old would be doing spending all that time with a 42 year old was weird to me.
I do love a May/Dec love romance, I do. But in this case, while I bought the love story, there was a part of me that felt a disconnect due to the age difference. And contrary to the usual, it was Anna who was fearful of Catherine leaving throughout most of the story.
I feel it would have been good if the author got a bit more into Catherine’s head. While not written in first person POV, most of the story is told from Anna’s POV. I just didn’t get where Catherine was coming from and I think that’s why I felt a disconnect. I kept putting myself in Catherine’s place and wondered what I would have had in common with a 20 year old when I was 42. Nothing. So I had a hard time with that even though I myself have been in relationships with a huge age difference.
On the technical side, the writing quality is very good I thought. I enjoyed the authors voice in this book and resonated with it. I read the first half pretty quickly, which is something because she wrote this story in linear format. I’m not too fond of linear story telling. It gets tedious and boring after a while with TMI. And I don’t mean TMI as in too much personal stuff, I mean it in that every detail of someone’s life is shared with the reader and it gets boring. I started skimming in parts because there were things that I felt not pertinent to story or which really didn’t add to it in there.
This is the author’s first book and I think linear story telling is a newbie thing. I also find it often in lesbian romance so I’m not sure what that’s about. Couple that with this reading like a biography in some ways and you get what didn’t work for me.
Still though, if you’re in the mood for something that will grab your heart or make you cry and feel good or if you’re in the mood for a full on real drama, this book will do it for you. And as I mentioned, I really liked the way the author presented this for the most part. I’d definitely read another of Ms Martin’s books.
Heat level- 0- barely mentioned sex scenes.