Pub. Date: September 20, 2016
Source: ARC + finished hardcover via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner’s daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air.
But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.
Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words ‘Forgive me’. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga, Forbidden Love
Paris is the place to set your novel. It’s the city of romance and intrigue and several books I’ve read this year have been set either in the city itself or in France (two stand-outs – coincidentally also from the same publisher – are Michelle Gable’s I’ll See You in Paris and Serena Burdick’s recent debut, Girl in the Afternoon), so when I received The Confectioner’s Tale it was a no-brainer.
It’s the late 1980s and Petra Stevenson is a few weeks away from being kicked out of her university. For a PhD candidate, she’s severely lacking the discipline she desperately needs to pull her thesis together: what originally began as an exploration of the Belle Époque has quickly lost steam and unraveled out of control, particularly after a writer interested in penning a biography about her grandfather gains access to his estate. Petra’s beloved grandfather is suddenly shrouded in controversy and she fiercely wants to protect his reputation…until she discovers a photograph that spins her world upside-down. What could her grandfather have possibly done that had him carrying around guilt for seven decades?
In 1909 Guillaume du Frère is a laborer on the railway, sending whatever pay he can spare back home to his mother. One night he helps unload a delivery for the famous Patisserie Clermont and it changes his life forever. Not only is he utterly mesmerized by the sights and sounds (and smells) of the bakery, but the owner’s daughter is equally enchanting. After a flood nearly claims Jeanne’s life, Gui is rewarded with an apprentice position at the bakery and, soon after, a forbidden romance blossoms between Gui and Jeanne.
The Confectioner’s Tale hit all my buttons and then some! At times I couldn’t believe this was a debut; Laura Madeleine crafted a gorgeous world (hello, Parisian pastries!) with compelling characters and I quickly became invested in both storylines. Gui and Jeanne’s romance was swoon-worthy with all the drama a forbidden romance entails and Petra’s desire to defend her grandfather’s reputation was moving. Despite both storylines being equally well done, I’ll admit I kept looking forward to jumping back in time to Gui’s story – though that’s totally a me thing. I love historical fiction and the Patisserie Clermont kept calling my name.
I wish more would have been done with the ‘present day’ storyline (can 1988 be considered present day??). Petra’s lackadaisical attitude toward her thesis (and ultimate boot from the program), the biographer looking to shed light on a rumor, Petra’s budding romance with a friend, the mystery itself – there was so much potential with this side of The Confectioner’s Tale, but the end of the novel left me with several unanswered questions.
If you’re in the mood for a novel full of mouth-watering descriptions of pastries, secret romance, and family drama, this is the novel for you! I do feel the present day story could have been tightened up a bit, but it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. The Confectioner’s Tale is being compared to one of my favorite authors, Kate Morton, and it certainly lives up to that praise! This was a phenomenal debut and I’m thrilled to see Laura Madeleine already has another book in the works, scheduled for a 2017 release!