*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Ellie Sanchez wants revenge. Spurned during her school days at prestigious Monty’s academy when she was plain Eleanor Finch, and played second fiddle to her idol, Barnaby Westwood, and his show-off sister, Clementine, Ellie will stop at nothing to turn the tables now she’s all grown up. The siblings and their snubbing have been the catalyst for everything that’s gone wrong in her life, from parental neglect to her divorce.
When the Westwood travel merchandise company advertises for a new HR manager, Ellie decides her unique combo of karma and Law of Attraction has finally come good. And she’ll be bagging herself a cherry-on-the-cake, second, and richer, husband in the process – once Barnaby sees how much she’s changed, anyway.
Fast forward two years and he STILL doesn’t recognise her!
Fast forward two years and the company is in a financial mess.
Last Chance Saloon-style, Ellie coerces the siblings and their older sister, Brooke (the perpetual spanner in her works) to a rustic gîte in Normandy for a spot of team-building… over a very ‘special’ box of artisan chocolates.
Cue ALL the fireworks in the cocoa bean version of Jumanji…
If you dive into The Chocolate Box expecting a standard, sweet romcom then you’ll find you’ve bitten off more than you bargained for… the sugary surface (that cover picture – yum!) hides an unexpectedly dark filling!
It’s clear from quite early in the book that Ellie Sanchez isn’t your typical romcom heroine, as she ruthlessly schemes and plots to get her childhood crush, Barnaby. But she’s more moonstruck than lovestruck, as what she’s really after isn’t Barnaby’s affection, but the sweet, sweet contents of his bank account and a side helping of delicious revenge for slighting her in the past. Not that Barnaby doesn’t deserve a little comeuppance, with his cruel and casual attitude towards other people’s feelings.
Ellie’s machinations alternate with chapters from the perspective of Barnaby’s older sister, Brooke, who is more of a typical heroine – muddling through her working life, family life and love life, desperately hoping that something will change.
Luckily (or not) for Brooke, Ellie has a great big box of change, masquerading as artisan chocolates, and she is about to unleash her hexed confections on the Westwood siblings on their team-building retreat and reap the rewards… or consequences. Still, Ellie’s chocolates aren’t the only French delicacy around, and so maybe at least one of the characters has a shot at sweet success, instead of just desserts?
There is a serious underlying theme, beneath the ‘Black Magic’ and bickering: it is obvious from glimpses of Ellie’s childhood, and her thought processes, that she has a real problem with her relationship to food, specifically chocolate, thanks to the borderline-abusive brainwashing from her mother. This is referenced throughout the story, and is addressed directly in the dramatic climax, but it added a slightly bitter undertone to the more light-hearted shenanigans of the main plot.
This is a darkly comic story about some rather unpleasant people, one or two likable ones, and the most delectable selection of chocolates that you will ever read about. Seriously, I would be willing to brave a curse or two to get my hands on some of the amazing creations Isabella May describes here. A riotous read, not to be taken too seriously; this particular ‘chocolate box’ should be devoured with a large pinch of salt and plenty of caramel!
Next Barnaby would grill her about her strengths and her weaknesses. She’d tip her head back just so, shake it at a precise angle – she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t debated the merits of a token bust-shimmy as well – beam a tickled-pink smile, then fix him with expertly smoky eyes. Side note: thanks very much, House of Fraser’s glamorous Chanel counter for the freebie first thing this morning. Side side note: the shop really did need to train its staff to recognise fake bridezillas who had no intention of either marrying, or purchasing a particle of primer.– Isabella May, The Chocolate Box
Well, she needed at least a six month safety net to woo Barnaby into a wedding proposal first, purlease…
“I’m not going to waste your time or mine,” she’d tell him. “I don’t have a single fault. The darkest, most luxurious 85% Columbian cacao couldn’t lead me astray. And really, you may as well quit while you’re ahead. You’re looking at your next Human Resources Manager, and you know it.”
Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this tour (see the poster below for details) for more great content and reviews!