An entertaining, lighthearted novel about the trials and tribulations of falling in love in a Parisian cafe.
As Nichols’ (Winter’s Gift, 2015, etc.) book opens, Lena Malakhov, the daughter of Russian information technology services tycoon Anton Malakhov, has just moved to Paris from a “sterile student residence in Geneva” to finish up her graduate thesis. She’s living in an apartment in the 9th arrondissement, right above a lovely, quintessential cafe called Bistro La Bohème. Soon after her arrival, her father’s main business competitor asks Rob, a Russian-speaking waiter at the bistro, to spy on Lena’s phone conversations in exchange for a handsome paycheck. Strapped for cash to pay for his graduate school tuition, the waiter takes on the task. Lena begins to spend a lot of time at the bistro while working on her translation work, which gives Rob the perfect opportunity to befriend the Russian “minigarch,” eavesdrop on her conversations, and then report the details back to his employer. All is seemingly going well until he and Lena begin to realize that their chemistry may indicate something more than just a casual, friendly, patron-server relationship. Lena must confront her own reluctance to fall for another person after a painful breakup in Geneva, and Rob must face the ethics of his decision to spy on someone he cares about, despite his desperate, legitimate financial need. Ultimately, Nichols’ novel explores the concept of true, undeniable, passionate love and what it takes to entrust one’s heart to another person. Although it lacks depth, it’s still an engaging, vivid account of what it’s like to be a young person in Paris. The details of Parisian life, and the bistro in particular, paint a vibrant, realistic picture of the city—lingering in “wicker chairs” at a cafe, spending evenings at the Trocadéro to watch the “final light show of the day on the Eiffel Tower,” and escaping for weekend getaways to the French countryside. Additionally, Nichols includes a lively, likable cast of characters, and their complicated, ever changing relationships are both believable and fun.
An enjoyable love story made even more romantic by its enchanting Parisian backdrop.