Imogen is feeling a bit trapped looking after her brothers and sisters at home in England, so when she is offered the chance to go and live in France and work as a trainee chef, she grabs it with both hands. She soon finds herself settling in in France, making brand new friends and enjoying life again. But when her American friend Bunny throws a lavish party and the guests all play Blind Man's Buff, Imogen gets kissed and she can't believe that it's the best kiss she's ever had. The only problem is that Imogen has no idea exactly which man kissed her. With the help of her friends, she's determined to find her mystery kisser, and sets out to eliminate the men she knows one by one. Which man is Imogen's mystery kisser, and has she found more than a dream career in France?
A Valentine's Kiss is author Lucie Hart's debut fiction novel, and certainly sets to be poised as the chick lit title for Valentine's Day this year. It's gorgeous purple cover and romantic title certainly pave the way for its target audience, and I was looking forward to a romantic and fun read. I have to say it looks like the sort of book I would seek out in a shop, but I couldn't help but feel once I had finished it that I was pleased it was over rather than being sad it was over, and it isn't often I feel like that about a book. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the book but I just found it hard-going at times and somewhat of a struggle, but the basis was there for a good story.
The lead character is Imogen. I can't say I really overly warmed to her and maybe that is where my lukewarm feelings for the book come in. Imogen is clearly stifled at home - she loves to cook yet her and siblings survive on cereal and school meals because their mother never cooks for them after her husband left her. Call me old-fashioned but I can't say I agreed with that so I perhaps started the book off on the wrong foot! Despite this, Imogen goes over to her neighbour Di's to cook lovely cakes and meals, and when Di offers her the chance to go and live and work in France near her own sister Daphne, Imogen jumps at the chance. The move happens rather quickly and easily, and it doesn't seem Imogen is at all bothered to leave her family, another fact which bothered me somewhat!
Once Imogen moves to France, we get introduced to a whole host of interesting characters. Bunny is Imogen's American friend, and one I really liked in the book. She is funny, sweet and adds a real humour to the book with her weird dead chicken sculptures, and she certainly lit up the scenes she was in. There is also Daphne, Imogen's confidante, another character I liked a lot because the relationship between her and Imogen was well written and enjoyable. I wasn't keen on the chef's in the Monsieur Bordin's kitchen - Dimitri and Bastien, despite supposedly being very different, mingled together too much for me and I found it difficult at times to follow which was which. Faustina, another French woman, was a good character but I felt she blended in to the background a bit much and a lot more could have been made out of her, she is a great character. The best one for me was the American Mitch, who Imogen rents a room from - he's hilarious, so so funny and I love the fact he owns a quaint little book shop!
Hart has clearly done her research when it comes to French cooking and French cuisine. She writes with ease about the different techniques used by Imogen and the other chefs in the book, and describes some wonderful dishes, and all of the ingredients, and I think this part of the book was lovely to read, I could definitely imagine all this lovely food Imogen was cooking! The restaurant which Imogen works at is fictional, but I can see how Hart has drawn on real life chefs when she writes the character of Monsieur Bordin who owns the restaurant. Hart does make life in France seem quite idyllic, Imogen seems to fall into somewhere perfect to live very quickly and she's given a chance to cook much more quickly than I imagine you would ever be in real life.
Overall, this was a pleasant enough read and some of the characters are really good and well written, but there were things about it that did drag it down a bit for me. I found it hard work to read some of the scenes, there was a lot of description and I felt sometimes it got a big too bogged down for me and I found myself skipping over certain parts because I was losing interest a bit. The French cooking aspect of the book was a joy to read, but strangely I found the main plot of Imogen's mystery kisser a bit boring and I found myself not actually caring that much about who it was! Imogen seemed to be a bit obsessed with it, and I found the whole thing a little bit silly. However, the rest of the book was good, it was interesting to read a book set in France, and there are definitely parts which make the book worth a go.
ISBN: 978-0091937935. Published by Ebury Press in January 2011. Pages: 448. RRP: £6.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com.
Thank you for reading.