Title: Bittersweet Candy Kisses (All Petit Morts Stories)
Author: Clare London
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Paranormal M/M
Length: Novelette. 18,550 words, 61 PDF pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A mysterious story about irresistible chocolates and two down on their luck men. Chance’s machinations gave them a chance at love (yes the pun is intended). 🙂
Oliver’s been dumped by his date in the backstreets of London, where his Armani suit and a rich family background don’t count for much.
Des is waiting tables to make ends meet, reconciled to the fact that all he attracts are lame ducks and lost causes.
Two different men, two very different worlds.
Then Des’s cheerful generosity meets Oliver’s lovelorn confusion over a cup of coffee and a bag of sinfully good chocolates…Enter Chance, working at the Cafe Mystique under the looming presence of the London Eye, searching as always for The One, matchmaking with his own brand of sensual, sweet and shocking magic.
What follows is a mix of providence, passion and good old British pounds. After all, everyone should give credit where credit’s due.
Clare London is a new author in this series but she is well-known to M/M readers. The story opens with one of our heroes Oliver, a marketing expert in the banking industry out to dinner with his boyfriend Rupert who was behaving badly. Soon after his altercation with Des, one of the waiters, Rupert left in a rage after dumping Oliver because he had someone new in his sights. Poor Oliver! Not only did Rupert dump him as his lover but he also fired him. Oliver’s evening got worse as he drank himself into a state of complete inebriation and could barely walk at the end of evening when he left the restaurant at closing time. Soon after, Des came by on his way home, recognized Oliver’s predicament and offered to sober him up with coffee at his regular hangout, Cafe Mystique.
Chance was in his element in London, England and although he was now managing Cafe Mystique for several months instead of another Sweets to the Sweet, underneath the coffee flavour were the delicious aromas that always permeated Sweets –
“the tantalising undertone of pure indulgence: the flavour of chocolate. …. And the smell? It was deliciously pervasive, like the warm blush that spreads through one’s cheeks after a tender kiss.”
When Oliver and Des walked into the cafe Chance realized who he had been waiting for in London.
The plot was ingenious as the author wove her magic around the MCs to make them more evenly matched. There was Des who was poor, kind, compassionate and sensitive, the youngest son in a family of 5 males who didn’t think highly of him because he worked as a waiter instead of in the family business. Oliver was financially secure but had no one in his life outside of his mother who was not exactly loving. He had lots of money but he found out it couldn’t buy what he wanted, someone who loved him, as his boyfriends never lasted long. As Chance put it, “there are people who have money and people who are rich.” Unfortunately for Oliver his money could take flight at any time, but would that be a bad thing?
Chance tipped the love scales by having Oliver and Des seduce each other with broken, mis-shaped pieces of chocolate made to resemble London landmarks, including the Eye. Were these rejected chocolates that weren’t packaged for sale with the perfect pieces special? Were the soon-to-be lovers Oliver and Des like the chocolates – imperfect?
This intricate tale about two lonely men looking for love had a lot of life lessons. Of course Chance was his usual mysterious and omnipotent self as he treated the MCs as if they were chess pieces. At times he was actually terrifying, well not really because I knew he meant them no harm, but he loved to manipulate people for their own good in the name of romance. All of the characters were well drawn including Billy who worked at the cafe as a busboy and Molly, an old crone who introduced a bit of levity into the book by offering herself to Oliver if Des, his “bit o’ rough” as she called him, was not good in bed. 🙂 The author worked the local dialect into the story very effectively to give it authenticity and the prose made me feel as if I were in London.
There is magic in these stories and whenever Chance is in a scene he overshadows the other characters because his aura is so strong. It’s not that the MCs are his puppets or that they don’t resonate, far from it, but he’s there for a purpose and he always achieves his matchmaking objective by changing their circumstances to suit the end result that’s best for them. The characters seemed at times as if they were on a stage with Chance manipulating the scenes, but the story was very enjoyable and Des and Oliver got their wishes granted. Even Billy came out ahead before Chance departed for other shores.
London Eye is delightful and fun and the paranormal element was present throughout the story as Chance lived up to his billing. This story fitted into the series as if Clare London had been writing Petit Morts from the very beginning. It’s a pity that this will be her only contribution because the atmosphere was quite eerie and the plot was as unpredictable as I have come to expect.