Title: Christmas Chocolat
Author: Kate Defrise
Genre: Christmas, Women’s Fiction
Published: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Kensington Books
My Rating: 4 stars
In this warm, engaging debut novel, four siblings make their way home, where their father, the memory of their mother, and long-held family secrets all collide just in time for Christmas.
For Maggie Arnaud and her siblings, childhood Christmases meant lavish feasts and beloved rituals. The day began with hot chocolate and cougnolle de Noel —the sweet, rich bread traditional in their parents’ native Belgium. Those special holidays ended with their mother’s death, and their father has grown more distant each year. But now, he has summoned his grown children once again. And none of them is eager to expose their imperfect lives to his scrutiny…
Jacqueline is an opera singer living in Brussels—outwardly successful but yearning for a deeper fulfillment. Near Philadelphia, cookbook writer Maggie’s career and marriage are in turmoil. Colette, an aspiring clothing designer in California, lost her boyfriend and her savings in one blow. And roving younger brother Art is still searching for something—or someone. Armed with their insecurities, rivalries—and their mother’s most delicious recipes—the Arnauds gather in Pennsylvania. But a good meal does more than feed the body—it awakens memories, nurtures bonds, and might even bring a family back together.
Includes classic Belgian recipes.
Read on for my thoughts on Christmas Chocolat. No true spoilers, promise.
Being summoned home for Christmas is unusual for the Arnaud children. Of course, their father never asks or requests anything. But this command performance with everyone gathered under one roof after so many years is… unusual, even for dear old dad. Not one of the siblings wants to return to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But they will all show for no one crosses their father.
In Christmas Chocolat we are given a peek into the lives of the members of a dysfunctional family. As siblings whose adult lives have them scattered across the globe begin to get caught up on lives missed, memories from past Christmases when their mother was alive naturally tumble back to them. Old feelings of resentment will surface, tempers will flare and finally these sisters and brother will start to forge another bond as adults who can look at the past with different eyes. Nothing about this reunion is going to be easy. Especially when their arrogant father drops a secret as the reason for commanding them all to return.
This story is rich in details of everyone’s lives away from each other. And while no family is perfect, there is a feeling of mending. Yet will their father’s secret destroy them now?
There is no such thing as perfect. As each of the children tried throughout their lives to reach their father’s version of perfect, each failed. And it affected every part of their relationships within and outside of their family. So many times I wanted to whisper to a character – it’s okay, no one’s perfect – but of course they never heard me.
I found Christmas Chocolat to be an enjoyable story. Often sad, at times heartbreaking yet with hope scattered about enough that they could meld back together eventually.
*I received an e-ARC of Christmas Chocolat from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. That does not change what I think of this novel.*
Available in paperback and for the Kindle