Paula Brackston comes to the blog with the second in her Found Things series, focused on Xanthe, a newly-empowered time spinner in
Secrets of the Chocolate House
I should have paid attention and realized this was the second in the series, not because I felt lost or out of touch with the events, but the concept, the spinning and the main character, Xanthe were just so marvelously drawn and intriguing. But, I entered with her second find and ‘assignment’ and it was both gripping and engaging. Xanthe and her mother have moved to Marlborough and opened an antiques shop: after Xanthe’s rather catastrophic end to her last relationship. She and her mother are close, and Xanthe worries about her mother: her arthritis is a constant companion, and frequent flare-ups that make it worse have limited her mobility. But, not one to be coddled, her mother is determined to make a wonderful Christmas for the two of them, and to continue re-finishing and repurposing their stock. They both have an appreciation for the past and its items, and the very special items ‘sing’ to Xanthe… such was the chocolate pot they found.
The pot continues to sing to Xanthe, and while she knows that using the little ‘blind’ in their garden will allow her to travel back in time, she’s torn because of the lies she needs to tell her mother, her worries about being able to “guide” her landing in the past, and her heartbreak over the man she met – an early 17th century architect of some renown, Samuel. She thought with the last ‘task’ set her by an object that she had completed her mission, but she now knows that Samuel is in some danger due to his politics and thoughts, and she has a recurring dream of him being in a jail cell (or blind), alone, cold, scared and in danger. She uses the chocolate pot as a gps – it lands her in the blind just yards from a chocolate house, but in the sight of a dangerous man. Unsure of her purpose, or just what dangers she faces, it is the proprietress of the Chocolate House who has some answers, a task and the pot that was singing to Xanthe – newer, unblemished and purposed.
The story was one of contemporary and past times, questions and answers, and plenty of intrigue. Samuel is under the employ of Benedict Fairfax, a man of great (and growing) power, and with the ability to ‘locate’ other time spinners at will. With his work on the abbey for Fairfax, the end of the construction means the end of Samuel’s life, and places both Xanthe and Samuel in a very precarious position. Meanwhile in the present, she is still singing occasionally at the local pub, her ex has returned to ‘demand’ her cooperation and Christmas is fast arriving, with their stock needing to be topped up and hopes for successful Christmas sales being of primary importance for their survival. Brackston’s prose and character development are marvelous, the historic moments are clearly well-researched, and the lore of the time spinners is as unique as it is unusual. Xanthe will risk everything in her determination to save Samuel and allow him the life he should have, while keeping Fairfax ‘contained’ and restrained. A read in one sitting book, there was plenty of information, heartache and heartbreak among the intrigue and dangerous moments, with Xanthe’s understanding of her gift and purpose as a time spinner grows. A curious and dangerous second appearance of a man from the past adds that bit of “oomph’ to the story, leading us into a third book as Xanthe’s travels continue.
Title: Secrets of the Chocolate House
Author: Paula Brackston
Series: Found Things #2
Genre: 17th Century, British, Contemporary Fantasy, Historic Elements, Historic Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery Elements, Romantic Elements, Science Fiction Elements, Setting: Britain, Time Travel / Alternate Universe
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: 22 October, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 17 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.
After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.
But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.
While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.
This time she'll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.