The second such tale I’ve read from Karen Brooks, this one focuses on the introduction of chocolate and one young woman’s foray into the new delicacy in mid 17th century England
The Chocolate Maker’s Wife
Rosamund is of age and desperate to leave her abusive home, but the ‘how’ causes consternation. All but sold to nobleman Sir Edward Blithman, Rosamund doesn’t know if she will be treated better or worse than in her family home. Charming and beautiful, with a way that brightens the room, she’s also capable and competent, and able to mix the new delicacy, chocolate, with flair. Strangely enough, with the chaos in England during this time, it was a chance for women to be ‘freer’ with conditions, many would open businesses, own properties and conduct their lives with a solid sense of self-determination. The men were consumed with other matters, and the women were allowed to function near-freely – a condition that would soon be halted and not be reproduced until after the Suffragette movement. That was possibly the most intriguing bit of history I hadn’t known before, and the character of Rosamund does embrace these freedoms and opportunities with open arms.
When we first met Rosamund, she is a mere ten year old girl, but with the freedoms and appreciation shown her in her marriage, and her ability to blend herbs and flavors into the chocolate bring customers to the door in droves. As a male-dominated establishment, her beauty can be a double-edged sword, her concoctions thought to be ‘magical’ and the ever-present danger of religious fervor never far away. Of course, as she grows and experiences life, los and great events (including the London fire) she’s gaining skills and talents that can be to her benefit, if she chooses wisely. We get the full range of possible behaviors from the characters- from horrible to not saying boo to a goose, but the peculiar mix of Rosamund with her more archaic speech contrasting with her often very modern belief system did make for some interesting thoughts and conundrums – for both her and the reader.
What stands out is the interweaving of historical events and people with the fictional ‘what happened’ that extends beyond the ‘written’ records used for sourcing, and beings the delights of chocolate – first as the “new” delicacy, then with the additions and manipulations that Rosamund brought to the table. Surviving strife, fire, abuse and plague, and finding the elusive ‘love’ what Rosamund discovers is that simple pleasures are most needed and appreciated in times of difficulty – and what is simpler than a pot of chocolate with all of its complexity hidden beneath and within the first sip.
While not as gripping to me as The Locksmith’s Daughter, this was a story that is loaded with visual and sense imagery, history and plenty of intrigue as Rosamund’s life unfolds before our eyes in a time when England was redefining itself as a country and a republic, and the people were subjected to a series of struggles and challenges, all made better with chocolate.
Title: The Chocolate Maker's Wife
Author: Karen Brooks
Genre: 17th Century, British, European History, Family Saga, Food / Recipes, Historic Woman's Fiction, Setting: Britain
Published by: William Morrow
Published on: 20 August, 2019
Source: Publisher via Avon Addicts
Audio Length: 20 Hours: 56 minutes
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Australian bestselling novelist Karen Brooks rewrites women back into history with this breathtaking novel set in 17th century London—a lush, fascinating story of the beautiful woman who is drawn into a world of riches, power, intrigue…and chocolate.
Damnation has never been so sweet...
Rosamund Tomkins, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, spends most of her young life in drudgery at a country inn. To her, the Restoration under Charles II, is but a distant threat as she works under the watchful eye of her brutal, abusive stepfather . . . until the day she is nearly run over by the coach of Sir Everard Blithman.
Sir Everard, a canny merchant, offers Rosamund an “opportunity like no other,” allowing her to escape into a very different life, becoming the linchpin that will drive the success of his fledgling business: a luxurious London chocolate house where wealthy and well-connected men come to see and be seen, to gossip and plot, while indulging in the sweet and heady drink.
Rosamund adapts and thrives in her new surroundings, quickly becoming the most talked-about woman in society, desired and respected in equal measure.
But Sir Everard’s plans for Rosamund and the chocolate house involve family secrets that span the Atlantic Ocean, and which have already brought death and dishonor to the Blithman name. Rosamund knows nothing of the mortal peril that comes with her new title, nor of the forces spinning a web of conspiracy buried in the past, until she meets a man whose return tightens their grip upon her, threatening to destroy everything she loves and damn her to a dire fate.
As she fights for her life and those she loves through the ravages of the Plague and London’s Great Fire, Rosamund’s breathtaking tale is one marked by cruelty and revenge; passion and redemption—and the sinfully sweet temptation of chocolate.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via Avon Addicts for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.