At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner’s daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air. But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins. Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words ‘Forgive me’. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.
For the wealthy in 1909-1910ish Paris, the place for the most delectable, most elegant, most impressive, most delicious treats could be found at one place and one place only, the Patisserie Clermont. The confections that come from the kitchen of the Patisserie are as much art as they are food and it is no wonder Gui is drawn to the site.
Gui fully expected his life to be nothing more than hard labor as a railroad worker but his expectations were radically altered the night he met Mademoiselle Clermont. In what will eventually be a moment that haunts him for nearly a decade, Gui bargains for a job at the Patisserie so that he may learn the trade and be closer to the woman he is so fascinated by. In the weeks that follow Gui works harder than he ever has in his life and learns everything he can about the confection business. The work is grueling, the standards are extraordinary, and it is all worth it for those stolen moments with Mademoiselle. In those stolen moments, the most unlikely pair develop a real affection for one another but their stations in life prevent even a casual friendship let alone a love affair. Their only hope to be together is to run and though they have a plan in place, circumstances beyond their control threaten their love and lives together.
Meanwhile, in the modernish world . . . .
Some 80 years later, a young scholar, Petra begins digging into the life of her famous (and recently deceased) grandfather only to find a picture with the words “forgive me” written on the back. Unwilling to think the worst of her grandfather, Petra starts down a road she just can’t give up despite the advice of nearly everyone around her. Her research leads to dead end after dead end until that one glorious moment when the way is clear and the answers are within her reach. What Petra finds is a side of her grandfather she never knew existed. His friendship with a young French couple in pre-war France, his misguided belief in his involvement in their separation, and his life-long attempts to make amends for the sins he committed as a young man.
The Bottom Line: I was drawn to this title for several reasons: 1) the gorgeous cover, 2) the title and, 3) the meeting of past and present. What I got was a sure delivery on the gorgeousness of the cover, the promise of the title, and the beautiful blending of the past and the present. For me, this story is all about Gui and Mademoiselle Clermont, how they overcame so many obstacles to eventually reach their HEA. The fact that you don’t find out how their story ends until the very last pages of the read had me holding on and flipping pages furiously hoping this story would have the HEA it deserves. The writing style is very much in the vein of historical fiction which makes it something I knew would appeal to me. My only, very tiny complaint is that sometimes the pace gets a bit slow but those moments are few and far between. In all, The Confectioner’s Tale is a sweet read on nearly every level.