Food, travel, clothes and romance --- and, oh yes, plenty of chocolate. In BON APPÉTIT, the second book in her French Twist series, Sandra Byrd’s delightful follow-up to LET THEM EAT CAKE, Lexi Stuart leaves Seattle and pursues her dream of becoming a pastry chef in France. Multiple love interests, a sabotaging classmate who threatens her ability to graduate from pastry school, tension in the bakery and loneliness all help anchor the plot.
Those who read the first novel will remember that Lexi was living in Seattle with her parents, trying to find her identity and longing for a date. She discovers both a new career and an attraction to Dan, a handsome customer at the bakery where she works. Her love of pastry, however, wins out over her attraction to Dan --- at least for the moment. When a serendipitous opportunity to train as a pastry chef and work for a family bakery in France opens up, Lexi prays about it…and goes.
Lexi finds more than just pastry in France, however. A kind, handsome (and Christian) widower, Philippe Delacroix, whose family owns the bakery, has more than a passing interest in Lexi. His young, precocious daughter Céline soon captures Lexi’s heart, and the loneliness Lexi has felt on her own in France vanishes. But when Dan plans a trip to France to see Lexi, she’s torn. How can she choose between the two? And will her future be in France, or back in Seattle?
Some light humor leavens any romantic angst, such as Lexi’s faux amis mistakes (meaning “false friends,” a term used when a French word sounds like an English one). My favorite happens when Lexi tells one of her co-workers that in America they use “preservatives” in pastries….but the French word that sounds like preservative --- “préservatif --- means condoms! Her co-worker is appalled. Readers will enjoy the behind-the-scenes glimpses of bakery school and gain a new appreciation for their next fancy bakery treat.
Those who enjoy armchair travel will be happy to discover that Byrd has included plenty of details about various touristy spots in France and, particularly, Paris. One nice scene shows Lexi, Philippe and Céline enjoying a post-Christmas celebration called Three Kings Day. Celebrants look for a feve (small party favor) in their dessert (in this case, a galette, an almond puff pastry treat). The diner who finds it in his dessert wears a gold paper crown.
Descriptions of scrumptious food are liberally sprinkled throughout, and a few recipes are interspersed for dishes that fit the plot line (i.e., when Lexi orders French onion soup, a recipe follows). Lexi is a devout Christian, and her faith is front and center in the series, which Christian fiction fans should appreciate. Occasionally, some scriptural insight seems a bit overdone, especially when Byrd already has gotten the point across more subtly through her characters and their actions. But most of the faith aspects are neatly integrated into her storyline.
Byrd leaves plenty of loose ends dangling, which will have readers anticipating the release of PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE in the summer of 2009. Bon appétit!
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on September 16, 2008