In one day, Henry Dawson’s ordered life comes crashing down. He finds out a relative he didn’t even know he had has left him property in New Mexico, which throws him for a loop, only to then lose his job and his home. With nothing left, Henry heads to New Mexico to see the property, sell it, and hopefully get his life back with the funds. Meeting Levi Jones is a surprise that throws Henry even more. Levi is laid back, easy going, cheerful, and the complete opposite of Henry.
When Henry blurts out that the diner, run by Gracie, is the property he intends to sell, both Levi and Gracie are shocked. But the tiny town of Los Encantados is dying and Levi insists Henry won’t be able to sell, quickly or maybe at all. In a move that’s very un-Henrylike, Henry listens to Levi’s plan and goes all in with the engaging stranger to turn the diner into a chocolate works the likes of which the world has never seen.
Renovations go quickly, and Henry and Levi grow closer. With help of townsfolk and their relatives, things start coming together. But just when it seems everything is right, it all comes crashing down. Henry thought being brave and going outside his comfort zone was going to pay off. But secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. There’s no way Henry and Levi can be together, and certainly not see their dream come true. At least not without the help of their friends.
The blurb for this book grabbed me and drew me in, and it had been a while since I read this author, so I was quick to give The Chocolate Works a chance. There’s a lot here I enjoyed, especially Henry. This is his story, his journey, and I loved watching him grow, step outside of his ordered life, and take a chance at changing his future. This book has a unique style of storytelling, occasionally breaking the fourth wall in that there are some passages that are clearly Henry telling the reader the story, giving us bits of information not within the story itself. But for the most part, it’s about Henry taking a chance, on his life and on love.
I enjoyed Henry’s voice and it carried the story along. He is very clear about how much he likes order and organization. And it would take something as big as finding out about his inheritance, as well as losing his job and his home, all on the same day to make him take a chance on anything outside of that life. He holds onto his structure as much as he can, and I really liked that while he eventually opened up and took a chance, he was still, at his core, himself.
Henry doesn’t trust Levi at the beginning, and understandably so. Levi is a mystery, a stranger, and the very opposite of Henry. But he’s engaging and charming, and he wins Henry over in the end. The two embark on this endeavor together, bringing Levi’s vision to life. And as they grow closer, their attraction ignites and sparks fly. There’s a bit of a slow burn here, but not too slow, and it was clear how good Levi is for Henry. He helps Henry think outside of the box, and reach for things he’d never have reached for before.
The cast of characters is unique and inviting. From Doris Day loving Gracie, to Ricky the general store owner, and to eight-year-old Pancho, they round out the cast and give it depth. Toward the end, there were a few more secondary characters introduced, and while some were over the top, for the most part I enjoyed this varied group.
But of course, there are secrets that need to come out. Worse, there’s a tragedy that befalls this group. I won’t spoil it, except to say no one dies. But I will also say that it seemed extreme and, for me at least, went a little too far, considering they were on the verge of having everything. After this big thing, the ending felt rushed and over the top. I would have much rather have had it be just the secret revealed, followed by conversation and reconciliation. I was all in up until this point, but then it went into the realm of too much. With the rushed ending, I didn’t feel as satisfied with the conclusion as I would have liked.
But all in all, I did enjoy this book. Henry especially endeared himself to me, and I loved watching him take risks and be brave, and find true happiness. For me, that alone makes this book worth a read, despite my issues with the last part of the book.