The Chocolate Run, by Dorothy Koomson

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

TITLE: The Chocolate Run
AUTHOR: Dorothy Koomson

COPYRIGHT: 2004
PAGES: 419
PUBLISHER: Arrow

SETTING: Contemporary Leeds
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: None

REASON FOR READING: I'm not sure, I think I read something about it on Karen's blog.

Amber Salpone thinks in chocolate - talk to her for three minutes and she'll tell you what kind of chocolate you'd be. In fact, most days, if she was asked to choose between chocolate and relationships, there'd be no contest. At least chocolate has never let her down. Unlike her family. Growing up in the Salpone household has taught Amber to avoid conflict - and love - at all costs. So, when she does the unthinkable and has a one-night stand with womaniser Greg Walterson, her uncomplicated, chocolate-flavoured life goes into meltdown. Especially when Greg announces she's the love of his life - and Amber finds it hard enough to decide if she wants plain or Fruit & Nut ...Meanwhile, her best friend, Jen, seems to be launching a bid to become Bitch Of The Year and Amber's family are making unreasonable demands. Amber has two choices: to deal with her past and the people around her, or to go on a chocolate run and keep on running...
I reviewed another Dorothy Koomson a few weeks ago, but The Chocolate Run was my first by her, and the one that put her square on my autobuy list.

When Amber Salpone met Greg Walterson, the first impression wasn't great. Too good-looking for his own good and a complete bastard with women, he was the sort any rational woman shouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Being a rational woman herself, Amber was careful to squash any romantic interest before it developed. However, it turned out that no matter how toxic he would have been as a potential boyfriend, Greg was a pretty cool guy otherwise, and he and Amber became very close friends.

Over the years, Amber has had a front-row view of Greg's extremely active sex-life, even having to rescue him from clingy wife-wannabes every now and then. And yet, one day Amber finds herself where she could have sworn she'd never be: in Greg's bed. Worse, even as she swears it was a one time thing, it keeps happening.

If you were wondering (and I was, before I started this), even though it's narrated in the first person by Amber, TCR is very much a romance novel. The other two Koomson books I've read haven't really been so (The Cupid Effect was chick lit, while Goodnight, Beautiful was more women's fiction), but this one definitely is. The focus is on the development of Amber and Greg's very intriguing relationship.

Because, you see, after a few "I can't believe we ended up here again" encounters, they decide they might as well keep doing it, since it's clear they won't be able to help themselves otherwise. For Amber, it's pretty obvious that they're plain having sex, rather than anything more involved. Amber has some issues with commitment herself, and also, she knows Greg can't want anything else. Only he's not acting as if he didn't. Amber is pretty oblivious to it, but to us readers, it's clear Greg's feeling a lot more than Amber suspects.

I absolutely loved every minute of it. Amber is wonderful. She's funny and a really decent person, a great friend to her friends. She's got her hang-ups and flaws, of course, but these only make her more human and a more realistic character. Greg I liked almost as much, although not from the beginning. In fact, at the beginning of the book I felt nothing but disbelief that this utter pig was going to be the hero.

The reason this works and I was fully behind him by the end of the book, is that Greg suffers the consequences of his earlier womanising and general assholeness. Sadist that I am, I loved seeing him suffer because of the complete role reversal from what he was accustomed to. In all his previous relationships (well, hookups, really) he was the one who didn't want to commit and kept it casual, with his girlfriends getting jealous and possessive and clingy. Well, now he's the clingy one, and Amber isn't having any of it. Amber doesn't realise the effect of her actions on him (whenever she's delivered what to Greg is really a crushing blow, she usually just thinks he's acting weird, because after all, this is just sex, it's not as if Greg would actually want to be in a relationship, is it?), but we readers do. Greg really has to work for it, and that's sweet.

Amber's relationship with her best female friend, Jen, is also a huge part of the book, and boy, do things get complicated (and quite heartbreaking, as well) there! Same thing with her family. All this doesn't detract at all from the romance. Rather, it's enriched and made even better, because the characters become even more real.

What else can I say? The writing's excellent, as usual with Koomson, easy-flowing and absorbing, making it the sort of book you just can't put down. It's a fantastic read, and one I highly recommend, most especially to romance readers.

MY GRADE: An A-.

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