The Chocolatier: A Heartwarming Novel of Chocolate, Love, and Secrets on the Italian Coast by Jan Moran

A young widow. A husband she thought she knew. Will a chocolatier’s secret destroy the family left behind?

From the publisher: “San Francisco, 1953: Heartbroken over the mysterious death of her husband, Celina Savoia, a second-generation chocolatière, resolves to take their young son to Italy’s shimmering Amalfi coast to introduce him to his father’s family. Just as she embarks on a magical, romantic life of making chocolate by the sea surrounded by a loving family, she begins to suspect that her husband had a dark secret—forged in the final days of WWII—that could destroy the relationships she’s come to cherish.

While a second chance at love is tempting, the mystery of her husband’s true identity thwarts her efforts. Challenged to pursue the truth or lose the life she’s come to love, Celina and her late husband’s brother, Lauro, must trace the past to a remote, Peruvian cocoa region to face the deceit that threatens to shatter their lives.”

The Chocolatier is a romance novel and a mystery all-in-one. Romance is not usually my type of book, but I’ll take a good old fashioned mystery any day. Except the mystery wasn’t much of a mystery to me at all. Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many Nancy Drew books with convoluted plots, but I totally figured out the mystery early on.

The romance is all right, although how Celina can just fall in love with Lauro so soon after losing her husband a mere six months prior is beyond me. I felt a sense of disbelief as I read about her falling into Lauro’s arms so quickly. And Lauro’s flowery speaking seemed out-of-place with his character.

While this takes place in 1953, with some flashbacks to the 1940’s and late 1930’s, I didn’t get that much sense of history in this book beyond how Celina’s in-laws behave in an old-fashioned way when they find out she’s fallen in love with their other son. The World War II references were nice, but there weren’t enough of them.

All that aside, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like The Chocolatier. I did, I was just expecting more from the mystery which, when you get to the end, seems fairly obvious. The descriptions of the makings of chocolate and the chocolate shops were wonderful. I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but my mouth was definitely watering as Celina creates her chocolates and hands out samples. We have several chocolatiers here in town, and I could imagine Celina’s store as being similar to the stores in my town, some of which date back a century or more. And her relationship with her young son is characterized very well. I guess I was just expecting something more. Three out of five stars.

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