Monday, January 6, 2014

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin (Birthright trilogy book 3)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read the first two books in the trilogy, All These Things I've Done and Because It Is My Blood, Stop! I don't want to ruin Anya Balanchine's story for you.

Observant readers will note that the three titles in the Birthright series make up a sentence beginning with the first title (All these things I've done/ because it is my blood/ in the age of love and chocolate) that tell a synopsis of the trilogy.

Anya Balanchine willingly chose to go into business with the man who imprisoned and poisoned her, former DA Charles Delacroix. Doing so cost her the love of her life, Win Delacroix, Charles' son. Win cannot get past the idea that Anya went into business with his father. He has decided to leave New York and go to college in Boston since there is now no one to tie him to the city. Her sister Natty has been sent home early from genius camp for causing trouble. Her brother Leo's new wife is living with them while he is serving his prison sentence. Scarlet has made her the godmother to her new son, Felix even though she doesn't feel like she is a good Catholic. Having just turned eighteen, Anya is now a legal adult with all of the benefits and dis benefits.

Outside of her club one night, her cousin Mickey Balanchine comes up to her with a gun. He wants to know where his wife, Sophia Bitter is. Sophia had tried to kill Anya and Mickey thinks she has kidnapped her in retaliation. Trying to reach her machete, she is surprised when Charles Delacroix comes to her rescue. Mickey is taken inside the club for further questioning. Anya isn't happy over Charles' heroics and he suggests that she get a bodyguard. A bodyguard would be bad for her image and he shouldn't interfere again. He is her employee and she only works with him for his legal counsel. Charles leaves and Anya goes to speak with Mickey in the presence of one of her security guys. Mickey looks sticky and is coughing up a little blood. When he expels a large clot of blood and begins to convulse, they decide to take him to the hospital. Mickey is dead three days later and the official cause is a rare strain of malaria but Anya suspects poison.

In the early morning hours before the grand opening of the club, someone has vandalized the club's entire supply of cacao. Desperate, Anya calls Theo in Mexico to see where she can find a new supply locally. Even if she could, the cacao wouldn't be the same quality as his. He will have his sister secure a cargo plane and he will fly in a new shipment that afternoon. He will come to New York to help her. He wouldn't mind seeing her again. Theo arrives in time for the opening and is even able to create the signature drink for her club that has eluded her chef for months. The opening of the Dark Room is a roaring success. Only half the people in the line were able to get in and Theo's shipment of cacao runs out. Afterwards, Theo offers Anya a deal. He wants in on her business venture. He can supply the cacao and oversee her kitchen. She needs help and he wants to be that help. Anya realizes how indispensable Theo has been in the past 24 hours and she agrees.

Natty, who skipped two grades in school, is seeing a fellow student who is five years her senior. When she spends the night with him one night, Anya knows that she cannot fail her sister and have her end up like herself. Natty is too smart to be pulled under by the family and wants to give her a fresh start. She is sending her to boarding school in Boston. Natty agrees but isn't happy. She is not readily accepted by her new classmates. She begs to come home. Anya reluctantly asks Win to drop in on her. He does and lets her know that he will not be home for Thanksgiving. He is spending it with his girlfriend's family. Anya is crestfallen. The year doesn't end on a good note when her attorney, Mr. Kipling passes away.

Anya decides to close the club and throw a private New Years' Eve party. She is surprised that Natty invited Win to come and he does, bringing along his new girlfriend. After politely speaking with the family, Anya leaves. Walking through the club later, she runs into Win alone. She thanks him personally for checking on Natty and from there, things fall apart. Win wishes that he had followed his father's advice but more importantly, he wishes that he had never met her. She wasn't worth all of the pain and trouble she put him through. Anya is devastated but as the hostess, she cannot leave her own party. As the countdown begins, Theo tells her it is bad luck not to kiss someone and he can kiss her properly. She agrees.

The next morning, New Years' Day, Anya is up early and has the idea to expand the nightclub to other locations. This way, she could put other members of her family to work. She calls Charles and she meets with him and Theo. They agree to the idea and Theo goes to get drinks. Anya brings up the fact that she is sorry to hear that Charles and his wife are getting a divorce. At first, he is upset but Anya tells him that she is alone and considers him one of her few friends. Dejected, he leaves to go find some new investors. Theo and Anya decide to go to get something to eat. After having a good time, they begin to walk back to the club since a cab couldn't be gotten. They share another kiss in Central Park even though Anya doesn’t have feelings for Theo.

Soon, Anya gets everyone but her own life situated. She begins to shut out everyone thinking she doesn't deserve anyone. She is hardened but needed to in order to survive. But when an unexpected incident leaves her fighting for and rebuilding her life, it is surprising who in her life comes to her aid. Always the strong one who never needed anyone, Anya finds herself needing those she has pushed away. In this thrilling conclusion to the Birthright trilogy, Anya Balachine comes full circle over the choices she has made in her life.

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