Once upon a time in a rose-filled valley in southern France, Layla Dubois, lost and stranded, walks into a stranger’s house and is nearly mauled by the big resident bear. Matthieu Rosier, heir to that rose-filled valley is the blushing, growling, sweetly fumbling but very drunk bear of a man, she encounters. Having drunk much too much wine with his cousins, while celebrating his 30th birthday, Matt really wants to pick up and kiss the beautiful “Bouclettes” who walked in his house and keep her. Thankfully Matthieu’s friends and family intervene before any harm is done except to his pride. The following morning Matt wakes to a huge hangover, a great deal of embarrassment and the discovery that Layla is unexpectedly his new neighbor. He soon is torn between wanting to scare Layla “Bouclettes” Dubois away from his valley, and wanting her to stay forever.
Layla, has just finished the last gig on her European tour supporting her first hit album as Belle Woods. She has three weeks till she is due back in the studio to start work on her second, but she hasn't written any new songs. She is running away from the crushing weight of the studio’s expectations and her own fears that she won’t be able to match her first album’s success by retreating to the small house she has recently inherited in the middle of the Rosier Valley. The little house Layla has inherited was supposed to be Matthieu’s and it is right in the middle of his family’s rose fields, in lands central to his family’s perfume business.
This romance was delightful. Layla and Matthieu set up to be opponents, as she has something he wants and she doesn't want to give it up.I loved their flirtation, how Matt’s burning blushes make Layla bolder and saucier and how Matt's sweetly romantic gestures, surprise and unbalance her.
I loved that they can’t quite trust each other’s intentions even if they can’t deny their attraction. Is Matt trying to seduce her to get her little piece of the valley back? Is Layla simply playing with Matt to build her own confidence?
At first glance they seem to opposites that can’t help but be attracted to each other. Matthieu a farmer so tied to his land it is his whole identity, and Layla a nomadic musician, running away from expectations,and unencumbered by family but that is not the whole story. Matt and Layla have huge vulnerable hearts, that they handle very differently. Those hearts and how they respond to hurt and vulnerability come into play when they come close to having “Big Misunderstanding” moments. Twice their relationship comes close to dissolution but the fights don’t quite work out the way they usually do in Big Misunderstanding books. I loved that they work out their anger before confronting each other or stay to figure out what they misunderstood. Layla lays out her feelings and emotions for all to see, and Matt does his best to hid his gentle heart but neither can hold a grudge. That they are unwilling to tear each other when they are feeling extremely vulnerable and exposed is what most convinced me of their HEA despite the obstacles they will have to surmount to make their lives one.
I loved the way Florand depicted the family relationships in this book and how it forms and affects the way Layla and Matthieu respond to each other. The Rosiers are complicated, prickly and full of history. Tante Colette & Pépé Rosier both deeply love their shared family, have sacrificed much for it but have long ago stop listening & speaking to each other. Despite their missteps and machinations they have raised a band of Rosier cousins who are in turns playful, loving and infuriating. I loved how much the cousins tease Matt, while loving and protecting him. I loved that their love & camaraderie doesn't erase family rivalries and true tensions exist.
Florand gives Layla a very different upbringing & family relationships to contrast with the Rosier's without casting one as better than the other. Layla knows little of her family history, almost nothing about her absent father’s family and has few ties to any particular place in the world. She has her mother, and her grand-parents, Lebanese-refugees torn from their homeland by war. They are physically far away in the US, but always a close as phone-call. The closeness and love they share is never in doubt even if they are world's apart.
In the end, Matt and Layla's love and the machinations of Tante Colette & Pépé Rosier work to push the Rosier's to redefine their ideas about roots & belonging opening up doors for HEAs for all of them.