Mar 4 2015 4:40pm

The Je Ne Sais Quoi of Romance Novels Set in France

Recently, I read two France-set romances back to back: Laura Florand’s Once Upon a Rose and Cole McCade’s A Second Chance at Paris. Those novels got me wondering what it is about France that lends a little extra magic to love stories. Is it the language? The Eiffel Tower? The chocolate?

In Laura Florand’s books, it’s all of those things and more. Her Amour et Chocolat series is gorgeous and made me perpetually hungry. But in her latest release, Once Upon a Rose, I think it’s the sense of smell that is most associated with the je ne sais quoi of French-inspired love. Set in a rose-filled valley in Provence, scent—and the relationship between scent and the sensual in French perfumes, food, and ambience—seems to be a part of every exchange between the hero, Matthieu “Matt” Rosier, and the heroine, Layla Dubois. For example, in this scene, Matt, a rosarian descended from a long and impressive line of rosarians, and Layla, a rising star singer-songwriter, are in the car together, driving through the valley:

She took a deep breath, and that sense of nothing shimmered like a mirage before all the things that filled her lungs. An air rich with scents and with the vitality of the man beside her. Cliff-hills rose and narrowed around them as they headed into the pass that led out of the valley. All the rest of the world seemed so far away here. Songs lurked in the scents of rosemary and thyme and pine and roses in this car…

Part of the beauty of France comes through only because Florand is such a gifted writer. But another part feels very specific to France itself, almost as though it is impossible to portray another place on Earth in quite the same way. And it seems to have a lot to do with the way that Provence smells.

A Second Chance at Paris by Cole McCadeIn Cole McCade’s A Second Chance at Paris, the setting is an important plot element—probably obvious from the title—and McCade’s poetic descriptions of Paris enhance the sensation of romance between Celeste London and Ion Blackwell, two lost souls who get a another shot at finding one another in the City of Love:

The lights on the water dazzled; the Eiffel Tower thrust against the horizon, a bright spear. Historic buildings shouldered against housing developments so modern they bordered on outré, dotted with glowing exterior lights along streets limned by golden lamps. Reflections swam in the Seine like fireflies darting beneath violet-dark glass.

Doesn’t it make you want to hop on a plane, buy a chic scarf and a croissant, and wander the streets of Paris for a while? No wonder McCade’s astrophysicist Celeste gets starry-eyed when she falls in love all over again with Ion in France.

It’s not just books in which France plays a role so important in the romance that it’s practically a character unto itself. Countless movies—like Sabrina, for example—use the city as a vehicle to happily ever after. And who could forget the John Cusack classic Better off Dead? “French fries, French dressing, French bread…and to drink: Peru!”

What are your favorite France-inspired romances?


Learn more about or order a copy of Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand, available now:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes



Learn more about or order a copy of A Second Chance at Paris by Cole McCade, now available:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes



Audra North fell in love with romance at age thirteen and spent the next twenty years reading as many romance novels as she could. She is a contemporary romance author of seven contemporary romances, including the Stanton Family Series from Entangled Publishing. Audra also occasionally dabbles in cyberpunk erotica. She is the organizer and publisher of the Love in the Rain anthologies to benefit RAINN and a regularly contributing member of the Wonkomance blog. She is a member of the New England Chapter of RWA.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. PhoebeChase
I was totally smitten with the City of Light after reading Florand's Amour et Chocolat series.
Nicole Neal
2. icecharm
I read Once Upon A Rose, it had some fall-down funny parts, especially the beginning! An excellent book.
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