tl;dr: chemist accidentally drugs her childhood nemesis with a love potion, sexy hijinks ensue
Nothing makes me happier than a completely ridiculous but fun storyline in a romance novel, and this book delivers. The book opens on Sylvie Fontaine, a chemist for a pharmaceutical company, who believes she may have developed the world’s first love-inducing drug (not just lust, it also creates emotional bonds). She’s testing on rats, but she thinks it is ready for human testing, and has created some love potion-laced jelly beans with her enzymes, hoping to lure her employer in because she’s tired of slacker jerks. Luc LeDeux, her childhood mortal enemy and now a roguish lawyer, waltzes into her lab and demands that she test some water samples that he believes implicate a giant oil company of toxic dumping. Her enzyme-filled jelly beans are sitting right there on the table, and wouldn’t you know who has a sweet tooth when her back is turned?
This sets up the rest of the novel, where Sylvie and Luc attempt to fight off their growing attraction to each other, which only grows stronger as they get to know each other better, beyond the misconceptions they’ve had of each other. The reason that they disliked each other so much makes sense–Sylvie thought that he an obnoxious and arrogant womanizer, and Luc thought that Sylvie looked down on him for being poor and dirty as a kid. Over time, they both realize that they were wrong; eventually, they give in to the desire between them.
The rest of the conflict involves all the competing interests, both for the love potion once word gets out what Sylvie has been working on, and also the backlash from Luc’s investigation into the oil company’s illegal waste dumping. They don’t know who exactly is after them, but they are getting shot at and having their apartments ransacked, so they have to go into hiding. From there, they get to spend time together, developing a friendship, learning each other’s quirks, and letting sparks fly.
The biggest complaint I have is the “chronic shyness” plotline. The actual affliction is totally fine, but calling it chronic shyness makes it seem, well, stupid. Like something made up. But social anxiety is a completely real thing, and I would have liked that part to be portrayed with a slightly lighter touch. I loved how she had the anxiety attack and Luc calmed her down instead of making fun of her. That part showed me how well-suited they were to each other. I didn’t think that she needed to “prove” herself by singing in front of a crowd of people toward the end, because for people with anxiety, that would be highly triggering and traumatic.
There were a few parts of the book that were lacking for me, and most of that was from sections that went too quickly, as if they’d been a first draft, almost outline-like in quality and not fleshed out. One portion is Luc’s Big Secret (which worked here, mostly because I figured it out, and I think the reader was supposed to), and when he realizes that his brothers are also confused about their role in the Big Secret, it was in this rushed little scene that honestly didn’t need to be there, and could have been mentioned later in a conversation between Sylvie and Luc.
Some of the writing was a little heavy-handed. Stuff like Sylvie thinking to herself “I never realized how good-looking he was before,” and “Then he winked at her. God, she hated it when he winked at her. Well, truth be told, she liked his winks, and that was why she hated them.” It’s… fine, but… I think the same idea could be imparted without being so blatant. There were a few other instances that just seemed like the author was hitting me over the head with the obvious hammer. Luc thinks to himself: “No way am I falling in lo… lo…” …Really?
Overall, though, I loved this story. I finished it in about 24 hours because I was completely sucked in to the setting of the Louisiana bayou. The conflicts and tension, while sometimes tossed about with Captain Obvious-like prose, made perfect sense. The characters acted in such a way that I completely bought their reactions and motivations. The whole cast of characters were great, with Tante Lulu being especially awesome. Gotta love an old lady with spunk and a purple Cadillac.
Get thee to your local library and enjoy some hijinks yourself!
If you like books set in Louisiana, I’m going to recommend the first book I’ve ever read set there, and that’s going way back to VC Andrews’ Ruby. I read this at the tender age of 15. It has all the hallmarks of a VC Andrews book, so buyer beware.