A frothy exposé of the perils of book packaging, seasoned with a soupçon of culinary courtship.
In French-German author Barreau’s American debut, lovers of Paris and voyeurs of the French publishing scene will find much to relish. However, aficionados of tightly plotted romantic comedies will find considerably less. After being unceremoniously dumped by Claude, her boyfriend of two years, Aurélie Bredin, chef/owner of a charming restaurant on the Rue Princesse, drifts into an Île Saint-Louis bookstore to elude a nice gendarme who thought she was about to leap into the Seine. She espies a novel entitled The Smiles of Women, in French translation, by an English author, Robert Miller. Amazingly enough, the novel portrays a beautiful woman resembling Aurélie, and much of the action unfolds at Le Temps des Cerises—her restaurant. Her new infatuation with Robert Miller supplants her despair over Claude, and she resolves to meet the author, which poses a problem for Miller’s editor, André Chabanais, of Éditions Opale. Urged by his boss to scout and commission an “Englishman in Paris” project, André finds it easier just to write the thing himself. Collaborating with a British literary agent, Adam Goldberg, André invents a stereotypical English writer, an ink-stained, country-dwelling recluse. Adam’s dentist brother, Sam, agrees to pose for Robert Miller’s book-jacket photo, but now Opale’s marketing department is clamoring for Miller, who’s selling books in France like Ladurée sells macaroons, to make a Paris appearance for press interviews and a book signing. Worse, when Aurélie comes to his office in pursuit of Miller, André is smitten. To prevent exposure of his hoax, André, while trying to woo Aurélie himself, must answer her fan letters to Miller. But, what will happen when Miller, as impersonated by Sam, finally comes to town? The enjoyment of the deception is somewhat mitigated by the many talky scenes that pad the plot. The English translation exacerbates the ennui with flabby phrasing.
A romp which, too soon, slows to a crawl.