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The Chocolatier

The Chocolatier

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In The Chocolatier, Jan Moran offers a testament to the resilience of love, along with insights into the fascinating world of chocolate-making.

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Book Description

A young widow. A husband she thought she knew. On the picturesque Italian coast of Amalfi lies a chocolatier’s destiny…

San Francisco, 1953: Heartbroken over the mysterious death of her husband, Celina Savoia, a second-generation chocolatière, resolves to take their young son to Italy’s shimmering Amalfi coast to meet his father’s family. Just as she embarks on a magical, romantic life of making chocolate by the sea surrounded by a loving family, she begins to suspect that her husband had a dark secret–forged in the final days of WWII–that could destroy the relationships she’s come to cherish.

While a second chance at love is tempting, the mystery of her husband’s true identity thwarts her efforts. Challenged to pursue the truth or lose the life and those she’s come to love, Celina and her late husband’s brother, Lauro, must trace the past to a remote, Peruvian cocoa region to face the deceit that threatens to shatter their lives.

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One chocolate truffle had changed her destiny. Indeed, it was one of Celina’s best—a silky cocoa powder-dusted truffle filled with raspberry-infused, dark chocolate ganache and enrobed with a couverture, a layer of rich chocolate that melted optimally with the warmth of the body. 

After she had offered one to a weary, dark-haired soldier who had just returned from the European front, he introduced himself as Tony Savoia, an Italian immigrant whose family had owned and operated Cioccolata Savoia before war rationing had made sugar difficult to obtain. The truffle had restored light to his eyes. Though she knew little else of the charming, impetuous man who wooed her with murmurs of love, they married within a few months.

“That’s right. Cioccolata Savoia in Naples, Italy,” Celina said to the international operator, trying to keep the crack of emotion out of her voice. She repeated the foreign telephone number to the world-renowned chocolate company and hung up. The operator would call back when the connection was ready.

A telegram wouldn’t do, not for this type of news. 

Anxious to reach Tony’s father, Celina had waited until midnight to place a call to his company. She perched on a little wooden chair in the narrow hallway of the tiny apartment near Union Square, poised to answer quickly to keep the trilling ring from waking her young son. Turning up the collar of her flannel robe against the chill night air that bathed her neck, she clutched a piece of notepaper and gazed out the living room window at the city lights that lined the sloping hillside street as it fell toward the bay. The brightly lit sign of Ghirardelli, the chocolaterie that had been serving up chocolate for the past hundred years in San Francisco, illuminated the Golden Gate Strait. How many times had she gazed at that sign, a beacon of what she, too, might achieve with hard work? Yet now, her future seemed as foggy as the mist hovering over the city. 

Months ago, Celina had written to her husband’s family in Italy, notifying them as she felt she should, regardless of Tony’s strained relationship with his parents. Just as he’d warned her, they had never replied. Had they even received her letter? She felt a duty to inform them, as well as reaching out on behalf of little Marco—her son and their grandchild—even though Tony had always forbidden contact with them. That had been his only rule. 

She drew a trembling hand across her forehead. Six months. How could that be? Every day since then had been an exercise in suppressing her grief to get through the day. She felt adrift without her husband, without a real home or family. Through the open window, foghorns bleated in the distance as if to signal danger in the murky depths of her memories.

A second letter she’d sent to Tony’s parents had also been returned to her just last week. Invalid address. Undeliverable. She’d even wondered if his parents were still living, though she knew his family’s company had resumed operations in Italy after the war. Among connoisseurs of chocolate, Cioccolata Savoia was famous. From Torino to Amalfi, experts lauded the family’s legendary chocolatiers for fusing the smooth, delicate flavor of Criollo chocolate with Sorrentino and Amalfitano lemons. Chocolate aficionados around the world had celebrated the reopening.

When the telephone jangled on the wall, Celina snatched the receiver. “Hello?” 

The telephone line clicked.

“Who is this?” an angry male voice demanded. “Who is calling this time of night?”

She considered herself lucky to have a telephone line at all, though she had to share a party line. Hearing her son whimpering, she cupped her hand around her mouth and the receiver, shielding the noise. 

“Mr. Albertson, this is Mrs. Savoia,” she said, lowering her voice. “I’m sorry, but I have to place a call to Italy.” His wife chatted on the phone so much that Celina could hardly get a call through when she needed to. “Please go back to bed.” 

“Can’t do that during daylight hours? Some of us have to sleep.” 

Mr. Albertson muttered something else Celina chose to ignore. If Tony had been around, he would’ve leapt to her defense. At the moment, an argument wasn’t worth it.

“Excuse me,” the operator intoned. “I can connect you to Italy now.”

Celina clutched the phone. “Mr. Albertson, please hang up, this is important.” At the sound of the disconnection, she blew out a breath in relief. 

“Hold, please. I have your party in Italy. Connecting now.” 

As the operator switched the call across transatlantic lines, Celina heard a series of clicks. Moments later, a tinny voice echoed toward her. 

“Pronto? Cioccolata Savoia. Pronto?”

“Posso parlare con il Signor Savoia, per favore,” Celina said, raising her voice as she read from the paper she held, asking to speak to her father-in-law. “Sto chiamando dagli Stati Uniti.” I’m calling from the United States. She had visited the library and used an Italian dictionary to form the words she would need to say. She’d been practicing how to deliver such dreadful news in a language with which she struggled. When she spoke Italian, Tony had often laughed—lovingly, at least—at her efforts.

“Si, si. Un momento per favore.”

Celina could hear crinkling and bustling, and she imagined that the secretary was rushing to find Tony’s father. She drew in a breath to quell her nerves. This call wasn’t one any parent wanted to receive.

“Lui non è qui.”

Pent up air surged from her lungs. He wasn’t there. She was half-frustrated, half-relieved. This call wasn’t one anyone wanted to make either.

“Qual è il tuo numero di telefono, per favore?” 

Slowly, Celina recited her number. The woman said something else, but Celina couldn’t make it out. “Mi dispiace, non capisco.” 

After saying good-bye, Celina returned the receiver to its hook and stared from the window.

Non capisco. She still didn’t understand why Tony had to be taken from them, repeating the pattern of her childhood, yet ruminating on this regretful coincidence wouldn’t bring him back. As a parent, her son depended on her. She no longer had the luxury of childhood, fretting about her turn-out in ballet class or practicing her piano scales as she had before her father had died and her mother had returned to work full time as a chocolatière. Now she knew how her mother had felt. Resolutely, she rose to prepare for bed. 

She was in a deadened sleep when the telephone rang again.

Recognizing her party line ringtone, Celina whipped off the duvet and bounded toward the phone, her feet slapping the oak hardwood floor. Marco cried out as she passed his room, but she couldn’t stop to comfort him.

“Hello?” Pushing her tangled hair from her forehead, she stood barefoot, shivering from the damp morning chill off the bay that seeped through her cotton gown. The moon illuminated the room, glancing off trees that lined the street outside and projecting alien shapes into her home. “Pronto?” She held her breath. Eerie shadows swirled before her like wispy wraiths twisting in a silent, moon shadow dance. Turning from the window, she hugged an arm around her midsection and rested her forehead on the wall. “Hello?”

The line crackled, and from half a globe away a man’s deep voice reverberated through the connection. “This is Lauro Savoia. May I help you?” 

“I called earlier.” He spoke in accented English, but the smooth, rich tenor of his voice made Celina grapple for the wooden chair. Trying to dispel the nocturnal fog from her brain, she rubbed her eyes.

“Mi dispiace, it sounds like I woke you.” He hesitated. “You are in New York, no?”

“San Francisco.”

A small silence ensued. “Sono le cinque di mattina. Forgive me, it must be five in the morning. I will call back later. It is too early for business.”

“This isn’t a business call,” she blurted out. Squeezing her eyes, she struggled for composure. “I’m calling about your son, Tony.”

The line fell silent, and Celina thought she had lost the connection. “Are you still there?”

“Sì. I am Lauro Savoia. Do you mean Antonino? He is my brother...” 

Book Reviews

“A delicious novel, makes you long for chocolate.” – Ciao Tutti

“Smoothly written…full of intrigue, love, secrets, and romance.” – Lekker Lezen

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