At the famous Patisserie Clermont, 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.
A wonderful story: evocative, memorable and utterly unforgettable
The dual timeline mixes with alternating point of view takes us to 1910 Paris and 1988 Cambridge, telling the story of Gui and Petra spurred by the discovery of a note stating “Forgive Me” and a photograph.
Gui is from Bordeaux, living hand to mouth trying to support his mother. An opportunity to join the railroad with his best friend Nic sends him to Paris. In Paris, Gui finds a world vastly dfferent from the country he knows: hard work, poor conditions and few moments of luxury in turn of the century Paris.
Petra is approaching the end of her first year of doctoral studies in history, a position she believes was granted due to her famous grandfather, a noted historian. With her grandfather’s death, Petra was left at loose ends, and her father’s disposal of his estate left her scrambling to gather papers and memories. At the bottom of a trunk she finds a note in her grandfather’s writing, with a photograph enclosed, noting the date of 1910. From here, she is obsessed with the puzzle, and a lecture from a biographer, insinuating a great scandal involving her grandfather sets her on a path heretofore unplanned.
Laura Madeline took this story in directions I never expected. Gui is the innocent, unaware of the finer things in life, but a chance encounter and a chocolat chaud started him on a path that could lead to nothing but heartache. Petra, already reeling from her grandfather’s death, unsure about her doctoral work or her ability to complete it, and now a stranger threatening her grandfather’s good name. The mystery is on, and she is determined to find an answer.
Slowly both stories unfold: Gui’s tale of moving from railroad ovens to bread ovens, an apprentice chef in a well-respected pastry shop in Paris, and the instant connection he feels for the daughter of the owner. Petra’s obsession and friends (Cass and Alex) who help her put moments together, research clues, and provide support when it all becomes too much.
What emerges is captivating: descriptions of Paris then and now, the pastries, a mystery of love lost and a touch of romance for Petra all blend together, keeping readers turning the pages to learn both stories. Does Gui find happiness in his dreams of pastry, will Petra clear her grandfather’s name, what about her doctorate, can opening this mystery to scrutiny help or damage. A wonderful story: evocative, memorable and utterly unforgettable.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.