Today I wish to welcome international bestselling author Laura Florand to Fab Fantasy Fiction. Laura is the premier guest for our From the Heart February celebration. Could there be a better choice than Laura whose books about French chefs and chocolatiers are as addictive the desserts they create!
This weekend she discusses her Amour et Chocolat and La Vie en Roses series. Laura selected three excerpts for you to sample from THE CHOCOLATE KISS, THE CHOCOLATE ROSE (a book that “bridges” the Amour and Provence series), and her most recent, THE CHOCOLATE TEMPTATION.
One lucky person will have the chance to win a signed copy of THE CHOCOLATE KISS, the second book in her Amour et Chocolat series that has been nominated for Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Best Book of the Year.………..Laura, you’re the first guest for the month of February. Welcome to our “From the Heart February” celebration. I couldn’t think of a more fitting introduction to the month of romance than your Amour et Chocolat series. What could be more romantic than Paris, unless you sprinkle some alpha chocolate and pastry chefs among the heroes. Before we sit down, could I get you a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate, bien sûr!Super – let’s begin.
(EVW) As Paris is as much a character as any of your heroes and heroines, could you talk a little about your love affair with this city of love?
(LF) I studied French from the time I was very little. (My father brought me a teddy-bear back from a conference in Paris when I was fifteen months old, and so by the time I could read, I was looking up French words so I could make the teddy-bear talk in his own language.) But I actually didn’t particularly want to go to Paris and was focused on Francophone countries. (I spent a year studying in Tahiti, for example.) When I did first go to Paris for studies, it was a difficult city for me at first—very cold, very rainy, and you have to have a certain attitude to deal with Paris. But I pushed myself out there anyway, exploring all the museums and quarters of Paris, and, of course, its bakeries and pastry shops, and as I did—there’s so much to love. It’s a fascinating, challenging, intensely romantic city and still a universal symbol of going for your dreams.
And I met my husband while exploring the restaurants of Paris! He was waiting his tables as he worked his way through school.
(EVW) It’s funny, but when I first asked you about a giveaway you suggested that I choose my favorite book. That’s practically impossible as each one of your books is a favorite. However, I have a special place in my heart for the second book in the series, THE CHOCOLATE KISS*. If we were to visit Paris, might we discover your inspiration for the witches house – La Maison des Sorcières on the Île Ssint-Louis? Or was this totally a creation of your imagination? (*This book is a nominee for RT Book of the Year!)
(LF) There used to be a little shop on Île Saint-Louis that was the inspiration for La Maison des Sorcières. It was the most magical place. I would stare at its windows, then go inside and order a cup of their luscious chocolat chaud and just write and write in my journal, trying to capture the magic of the place. Most of the physical details of that shop in The Chocolate Kiss came from the real place—the conical hats, the old chocolate molds, the witch cuckoo clock. I made up a lot of the display windows, but keeping with the style of the ones they actually had, which all had those magical references made out of deep, dark chocolate and candied orange peel and the like.
It was a little secret part of Paris that people who discovered it loved forever. I have readers who tell me, “Oh, I’ve been there!”
And a few years ago, it was sold. The name of the original is still the same as it once was (not La Maison des Sorcières), but all those witchy elements were taken out, and now it’s a perfectly fine little shop, bright and cheery, but the magic is gone.
So I like to think that The Chocolate Kiss is its tribute. That the book captures something special about Paris and holds it for a moment in time forever.
(EVW) Your most recent story, THE CHOCOLATE TEMPTATION, is also set in the same hotel kitchen as THE CHOCOLATE HEART and THE CHOCOLATE ROSE. Will we see more stories set in that kitchen or do you have another temptation in store for us soon?
(LF) Right now, I don’t have any plans to write more stories in the Hôtel de Leucé kitchen. I should probably never say never, because once I do that’s a sure sign inspiration will strike! (Or does that mean I should always say never? Hmm…)
But The Chocolate Rose is actually in the south of France. It’s another top pastry kitchen run by someone who helped train Luc Leroi of The Chocolate Heart when he was a sous-chef. And the chef in that one has a brother who’s kind of cute, so…perhaps!
Also, there may be some developments as Luc sets up his new restaurant. Sarah’s sister wants a story, although she’s a little nervous about it.
(EVW) The descriptions of the desserts that were created by Luc, Patrick, and Sarah in that kitchen remain in the realm of fantasy for me. But looking at your website and the photos that you shared from your time in the kitchen at Le Bristol, I realize that they’re just reflections of the originals. It almost seems criminal to imagine eating these, but tell us, how did they taste? 🙂
(LF) Oh, they tasted delicious! My research is a tough, tough job. 🙂 It’s actually extremely hard to convey in writing exactly how extraordinary some of these desserts are and the incredible level of passion and perfectionism and work that goes into them. But I try!
(EVW) What’s next for Amour et Chocolat? For Laura Florand?
(LF) Well, I really want to get the Vie en Roses series going, which will be set in the south of France, around Grasse, the old perfume and flower growing region of Europe. We have this old, old perfume family and a valley of roses…I’m really enjoying being in their world. There are some prequel stories for this series already out, and there will be four books that focus on the Rosier family themselves.
That, plus a couple of shorter novels connected to the Amour et Chocolat series and possibly a longer novel for Sarah’s sister, are what’s coming next.
(EVW) During the month of February we are honoring author’s causes “from the heart.” Is there any particular cause that you endorse or support that you’d like to share with us?
(LF) On an international level, organizations that everyone can contribute to, Save the Children. If we could manage to give all children a safe childhood, that would be the greatest accomplishment in the world. But I also want to stress how important it is to help on a local level, too. Sometimes you can continue in your life, perfectly oblivious to the fact that maybe the child sitting three desks away from your daughter needs help, too. Most schools these days send backpacks home with food for kids who wouldn’t otherwise eat on weekends, and collect coats in the winter, books to send home in the summer. Check with your local school. These are all easy, easy ways to give that cost very little but can make a big difference. The same way volunteering to help work on reading with kids and being a friendly adult to them while you work with them can help. Sometimes I’m working in small reading groups at my daughter’s school, and a child just starts chatting about the parent in jail or some other difficult story, and I remember, Oh. Yes. Everyone in this room is not having a happy childhood, and they do need help.
And if you don’t have extra money or time, sometimes you can just give of your patience. Maybe that little kid you assume is acting up and ill-behaved in the store or in the park—maybe you could be the tolerance they need, rather than the judgment. Usually we don’t know someone else’s story, and there are an infinite number of ways you can reach out of yourself, toward others. I know nobody can do everything to help everybody, but little gestures can make a huge difference, even if you never know it.
Sorry! That’s probably more preaching than people needed here.
Many thanks for your kindness in joining us at Fab Fantasy Fiction today, Laura. Merci mille fois!
C’est à moi de vous remercier. Thank you so much for having me on! It’s been a pleasure!
…………………READ AN EXCERPT FROMTHE CHOCOLATE KISS by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 2
Magalie finished hanging the moon just before a beast rattled the doorknob, so she knew it was going to be one of those kind of days.
The doorknob rattled again. The beast was out without a hat, despite the hint of snow, his honey-colored hair curling against his neck in a rich mane. Some people had blue eyes you never even noticed, so that after years of friendship you still might not be sure of their eye color. But not Philippe Lyonnais. His pinned her right through the glass window, picking her out unerringly among the dangerous thorns and the looming, primitive, snow-dusted, dark-chocolate firs. A chocolate witch picked jewel-like flowers made from crystallized violets and mint leaves in the shadow of the trees. Farther off loomed a chocolate tower, from the one high window of which draped a long braid carefully made from fine strips of candied lemon peel.
The beast outside the tea shop stood slightly lopsided, because a little girl with eyes as blue as his was clinging to his hand.
Typical of him. To use a little girl to get into a witch’s house. He knew he was banned.
She climbed down off the stepladder, trying so hard not to show how sore her legs were from her last run that she barely remembered to duck the moon she’d just hung. It dangled, chocolate so dark its brown was almost black, just a few inches above her forehead. Taller people would run into it if they got too close to the display case below it, but this was the type of hazard her aunts liked to have in their salon.
She unlocked the door and held it open, and the visitors passed her in a whirl of cold air from the street. The cold air freed a space in the rich, thick scent of chocolate, and just for a second she smelled roses and sunshine. A lion that smelled of roses and sunshine? What was he working on now?
She sneered at him.
He smiled back sharply, showing his fangs.
“Is she a weapon or a shield?” she asked over the little girl’s head.
“A lock pick,” he said, and closed the door behind him, confirming his entry.
She contemplated swirling a love potion into his chocolate, to make him fall in love with some horribly inappropriate frog in the belief that she was a princess.
If she could ever get him to drink her chocolate.
“Are you a witch?” the little girl asked, hushed and eager, looking around.
Magalie studied her. Her hair was the same tawny shade as Philippe Lyonnais’s and curled over her shoulders in rough, large locks. A lavender pageboy cap attempted to restrain it. “That’s an indiscreet question.”
Oh, mouthed the little girl, her eyes growing rounder and even more delighted. She looked around at the conical hats of all descriptions, so beautifully rearranged by the beast holding her hand. Besides the hats, the shelves and walls were crammed with images from the aunts’ artist friends—from pen-and-ink to mosaic to woven and needing a good dry-cleaning—as well as with teapots and strange, whimsical souvenirs and a cuckoo clock that looked like a house covered with elaborate candies. As the little girl looked at it, a witch suddenly popped out of the clock’s bonbon door and laughed evilly.
That clock was always five minutes slow.
……………ENTER THE GIVEAWAY
Laura will offer one winner a signed copy of THE CHOCOLATE KISS, her book that is up for RT Best Book of the Year for the giveaway winner. Bonne chance!
……….READ AN EXCERPT FROMTHE CHOCOLATE ROSE by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 3, La Vie en Roses Book 1
Hands locked high over his head, Gabriel arched his back into it, rolling his neck, his shoulders. What started as a deliberate calculation was such a relief after the past seven hours without a break that he sank into it, taking his time, muscles easing. Putain, but that felt good. It would feel even better if slim little hands added their pressure.
He glanced back at Jolie Manon, who had her knees pulled up so he couldn’t even see her chest, staring at him. Her fingers rubbed slowly back and forth over her jeans-clad knees, as if she needed texture.
Don’t hold back, chaton. I’m happy to be your texture.
He sat on the edge of the terrace wall, stretching out his legs, bracing his hands against its edge so that his torso was long, lean, fully exposed, the muscles of his arms and shoulders flexing a little.
Putain, but he liked it, when she had to bite on her lower lip.
He had so many things he could do with that mouth of hers. Make her lose not only her worries but her entire mind, tangling with him desperately in a—
A beast, though.
A beast. Was he really that bad?
Would one of those civilized men who paid a fortune to eat at his tables sit here in front of that slim, vulnerable, adorably delicious little body, those eyes so wide and dark on him, and not do anything about it?
And just because some men were des putains d’idiots, did that mean he had to be? In order to live up to their standards? Something was screwed up, there.
“About that other idea,” he said firmly, because, well—he would like to be a prince. If it was remotely possible and didn’t require him to ignore her screaming body language indefinitely. “I think you should give me fifteen percent of the royalties. Since fifteen percent of the recipes are mine. Of your father’s royalties,” he added, as he saw her eyes flicker in calculation.
She bit her lip. Wait, had that not been a princely thing to say? Damn it.
“Not yours. You did the same amount of writing, whether you knew you were writing up my work or not.”
She worried at her lip.
Putain, would she quit doing that? It appealed to every heroic instinct he had—and he had a lot more of them than she gave him credit for—the thought of swooping in and protecting that lip from her cruelty. Offering himself to her teeth in its place. . . .
He shifted, wondering what her head was doing with his increasingly obvious arousal. Anyone would think she would like it, since he aroused her, but apparently it couldn’t be that easy.
“And I want subsequent editions to acknowledge me under each recipe that’s mine. Created by Gabriel Delange works fine. For the remaining print run of this first edition, you can just insert one of those slips of paper that corrects errors. It’s not ideal, but it’s either that or make you destroy the entire run.”
That lower lip got more punishment. Her physical awareness of him faded as her worry rose. Merde. You’re not the knight in shining armor, you’re the beast, remember? She’s never in a million years going to think of you as the hero. Women never did. “I’m just starting out as a food writer,” she said, low. “If I have to get my publishing house to do all that, they probably won’t ever work with me again.”
Gabriel sat still for a moment, his fingers pressing into that rough stone. He tilted his head back, closing his eyes, concentrating on the distant sound of his fountain, below in the square. “I’m never going to get any damn justice, am I?”
She said nothing. When he opened his eyes again, she had her arms wrapped even more tightly around her knees, and she was watching him with a mixture of worry and apology.
Bordel. “It is so like that salaud to have a stroke just before that cookbook came out.”
“As if he did it on purpose!”
Yes, all right, she loved her father. Le connard. He got three daughters to love him, even though he didn’t deserve it, while Gabriel lost his girlfriend of six years—sixteen to twenty-two—and had had a really lousy success rate when it came to long-term relationships ever since.
How did Pierre Manon always manage to manipulate his situation to get everyone else to give him their all, so much more than he deserved?
“Forget it,” he said roughly, shoving to his feet. “Don’t mess up your career with your publishing house. I’ll think of something else.”
He headed back toward the hotel door and paused in front of her. Her eyes ate him up, making him very conscious of his naked upper body, of the way his shoulders blocked out her moonlight. Chaton, you don’t have to just look. I know what I make might mislead you, but I myself am more than happy to be devoured like junk food. “Do you have a boyfriend or something? Fiancé? Married?”
Her eyes went enormous. She tightened her computer over her breasts, a defensive shield, but he saw her throat work again. “No,” she whispered.
He shook his head, feeling heavy, puzzled. Like some damn beast who had wondered out of the woods and gotten lost, baffled, in society. “Then I don’t understand why, when you want me to kiss you so damn badly, you’ll get so mad if I do.”
He strode out before he could crack and try it anyway and heard her tablet smack onto the stone terrace behind him.
Fallen out of her lap as she lost herself in dazed arousal? Or just poorly aimed at his head?
Why was he so bad at this? Surely no other man had to sue a woman just so he could make her put up with him long enough that he had a chance to figure out how to talk to her.
……….EXCERPT THREE FROMTHE CHOCOLATE TEMPTATION by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 6
A moment in Sarah Lin’s life as an intern in one of the top pastry kitchens in the world, with Patrick Chevalier as the second responsible for correcting her mistakes and training her to get things right. He’s just had to toss out one of four of the plates she is prepping because they weren’t good enough.
Patrick winked at her, stacking her rejected plates out of the way. “Let me show you a trick, Sarabelle. For just how easy these plates can be.”
Oh, no. Oh, but yes. She craved it every time.
He came around the counter, always such a casual grace to him that one forgot how fast and precisely he moved. Maybe he forgot it, too. He had grown up in this environment; maybe everything felt in slow, relaxed motion to him.
Warmth wrapped around her body from behind. “Like this, Sarabelle.” His voice just seemed to rub over the top of her head. A long arm fitted itself to her much shorter one, and through two layers of thick chef’s jackets, she felt its strength. Like a fencer’s, but a fencer who fenced non-stop every day for sixteen hours. His cheek nestled in next to hers, the gold-streaked bronze of his hair tickling her temple, a strand catching against the far edge of her eyelashes. Just for a second, that close, his scent, warm and male, snuck through all the scents of lemon and butter and vanilla and cinnamon and chocolate and strawberry and fresh-crushed almonds, the layering of aromas so thick even human sweat rarely managed to assert a presence.
“Relax.” He squeezed her wrist just a little.
And, of course, she did. It was terrible how little she could help it, and how wonderful it felt, when all her muscles yielded themselves up to him.
He laughed and guided her hand closer to his mouth as he bent to it, bent her body with him, his hand cupping hers. Pleasure washed through her. This felt so right. She could get nothing wrong. For one second, with him controlling her, she could only get everything right. His chest pressed into her back, in that graceful dip over the plate she had seen him make a hundred thousand times. His breath ran, so faintly it could have been the touch of sunlight, over her bared wrist, swirling in her palm. He adjusted the angle. Air glided over her finger, and gold dust swirled from it as his other arm, circling around her, deftly guided the plate under the fall, turning it to get the sweeping look of the “ashes” perfect.
“There.” He gave her that quirky smile that made her feel as if she was standing at the very edge of a cliff above a turquoise sea, ready to drop into his arms naked, roll over and over with him on a sun-washed beach. “Got it?” With a wink, he was gone.
She tried to catch herself back, but her toe caught on the edge of that imagined cliff just as the waves pulled back, and she fell splat on the jagged rocks below.
Her toes curled so tightly in her shoes they hurt. She couldn’t tell the difference between his plate and hers. Not at all. Six months of brutal, expensive courses at Culinaire, nearly five months as an intern, huge debts she was trying to juggle on her stagiaire stipend of four hundred euros a month, and she couldn’t see it. Almost, almost, but not really, she could almost feel the difference, tickling in her palm where his breath had been.
She curled her fingers over that palm, trying to hold that brush of breath to it. And she hated him for that breath. She hated him as hard as she could.
Laura Florand is the international bestselling author of the Amour et Chocolat series (The Chocolate Thief, The Chocolate Kiss…), where sexy Parisian chocolatiers woo the women they love with what they love best – romance you can taste. The Chocolate Kiss is nominated for RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Book of 2013. Her books have been translated into seven languages, received the RT Seal of Excellence and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and been recommended by USA Today, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal. In the blogging community, her books have been named as Desert Island Keepers on All About Romance, received multiple recommended read and Best of Year mentions from Dear Author, Smexybooks, Romance Novels for Feminists, and others, and twice been selected as Sizzling Book Club Picks by Smart B*, Trashy Books.
She was born in Georgia, but the travel bug bit her early. After a Fulbright year in Tahiti, a semester in Spain, and backpacking everywhere from New Zealand to Greece, she ended up living in Paris, where she met and married her own handsome Frenchman, a story told in her first book Blame It on Paris. Now a lecturer at Duke University, she is very dedicated to her research into French chocolate. For a glimpse behind the scenes of some of that research as well as recommendations for US chocolate, make sure to check out her website: www.lauraflorand.com.
Keep in touch with Laura
………………….ADDAMOUR ET CHOCOLAT & LA VIE EN ROSES SERIESTO YOUR BOOKSHELF
THE CHOCOLATE THIEF by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 2Kensington BooksISBN 0758269404Price $11.99 (on sale for $8.49)Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Breathtakingly beautiful, the City of Light seduces the senses, its cobbled streets thrumming with possibility. For American Cade Corey, it’s a dream come true, if only she can get one infuriating French chocolatier to sign on the dotted line. . .
Melting, yielding yet firm, exotic, its secrets are intimately known to Sylvain Marquis. But turn them over to a brash American waving a fistful of dollars? Jamais. Not unless there’s something much more delectable on the table. . .
Whether confections taken from a locked shop or kisses in the dark, is there anything sweeter?
THE CHOCOLATE KISS by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 2Kensington BooksISBN 0758269412Price $11.99 (on sale for $8.49)Publication Date: December 24, 2012
The Heart of Paris
Welcome to La Maison des Sorcieres. Where the window display is an enchanted forest of sweets, a collection of conical hats delights the eye and the habitués nibble chocolate witches from fanciful mismatched china. While in their tiny blue kitchen, Magalie Chaudron and her two aunts stir wishes into bubbling pots of heavenly chocolat chaud.
But no amount of wishing will rid them of interloper Philippe Lyonais, who has the gall to open one of his world famous pastry shops right down the street. Philippe’s creations seem to hold a magic of their own, drawing crowds of beautiful women to their little isle amidst the Seine, and tempting even Magalie to venture out of her ivory tower and take a chance, a taste. . .a kiss.
Parisian princesses, chocolate witches, pâtissier princes and sweet wishes–an enchanting tale of amour et chocolate.
THE CHOCOLATE ROSE by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 3, La Vie en Roses Book 1ASIN B00CACT6TMPrice $3.99Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Now, in the third book in the Amour et Chocolat series, a book USA Today calls “so romantic and sexy”, Florand takes us from Paris to summer in Provence, for the steamy encounter between top chef Gabriel Delange and the daughter of his worst enemy, Jolie Manon. Hot-tempered Gabriel isn’t above blackmail to get what he wants, but what he wants might very well be Jolie herself. Because in the heat and sun of Provence, where jasmine and roses climb up old colored walls and fountains play in ancient stone villages, even a beast can prove he is a prince at heart . . .
THE CHOCOLATE TOUCH by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 4Kensington BooksISBN 0758286325Price $11.99 (on sale for $8.49)Publication Date: July 30, 2013
La Vie en Chocolat
Dominique Richard’s reputation says it all–wild past, wilder flavors, black leather and smoldering heat. Jaime Corey is hardly the first woman to be drawn to all that dark, delicious danger. Sitting in Dom’s opulent chocolaterie in Paris day after day, she lets his decadent creations restore her weary body and spirit, understanding that the man himself is entirely beyond her grasp.
Until he touches her. . .
Chocolate, Dominique understands–from the biting tang of lime-caramel to the most complex infusions of jasmine, lemon-thyme, and cayenne. But this shy, freckled American who sits alone in his salon, quietly sampling his exquisite confections as if she can’t get enough of them–enough of him–is something else. She has secrets too, he can tell. Of course if she really knew him, she would run.
Yet once you have spotted your heart’s true craving, simply looking is no longer enough. . .
THE CHOCOLATE HEART by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 5Kensington BooksISBNPrice $11.99 (On sale for $8.69)Publication Date: November 26, 2013
Mille-Feuilles can’t buy you love…
No one hates Paris–except Summer Corey. The moody winters. The artists and their ennui. The inescapable shadow of the Tour Eiffel. But things go from bad to worse when Summer stumbles into brooding, gorgeous chef pâtissier Luc Leroi and indecently propositions the hero of French cuisine…
Luc has scrambled up from a childhood panhandling in the Paris Métro to become the king of his city, and he has no patience for this spoiled princess, even if she does now own his restaurant. Who cares if she smiles with all the warmth of July? She doesn’t eat dessert!
There is only one way to tempt her. A perfect, impossibly sweet seduction…
THE CHOCOLATE TEMPTATION by LAURA FLORANDAmour et Chocolat Book 6ISBN 0988506548Price $4.99Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Romantic Times acclaims Laura Florand’s work as “sensuous and sumptuous”, nominating her for Best Book of the Year, and NPR says it’s “explosive, sensual . . . and utterly sweet”. Now, in her sixth book in the internationally bestselling Amour et Chocolat series, Florand takes us into a top Paris restaurant’s pastry kitchen and into the hearts and irresistible temptations of its chefs in The Chocolate Temptation.
She hated him.
Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.
But he didn’t hate her.
Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.
But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.
He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?
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Add Laura’s real-life romance to your bookshelf
Blame It on Paris by Laura Florand
Forge Books (Macmillan)
Publication Date: April 21, 2010Laura has spent most of her adult life avoiding serious relationships, flitting around the world, and keeping her romantic expectations comfortably low. As far as she’s concerned, chocolate is just as satisfying as true love—and a lot less complicated.
So how has she managed to get involved with a dangerously charming Frenchman named Sébastien? And only weeks before she’s scheduled to leave Paris for good?
The cultural differences alone are enough to kill any relationship. She’s from small-town Georgia. He’s a sophisticated Parisian. They go together like grits and escargot.
But Sébastien isn’t just any Frenchman. He’s a gorgeous, sweet, sexy, graphic artist, and as the days slip by, Laura’s finding it harder and harder to say adieu.
Unless she comes to her senses soon, she could end up ruining her life with a beautiful romance. . . .
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