‘“You see, Rosamund, when you married me, you didn’t just become Lady Blithman”. Unable to prevent it, the words tripped from her mouth. “What else did I become?” Her voice was barely a whisper as her heart tumbled in her chest. “Today, my lady, you also became a chocolate maker’s wife”’.
England, 1662. It’s a swelteringly hot summer’s day, and in the kitchen of the Maiden Voyage Inn in Kent, Rosamund Tomkins is slaving away over a platter of coddled eggs, bread and cheese for the inn guests. Born into ignominy as the illegitimate child of a local nobleman and a miller’s daughter, Rosamund has had a hard life, and as a scullion in her brutish stepfather’s inn for almost as long as she can remember, she’s all but given up all hope of a better life.
But fate has other plans, and as Rosamund is returning from a trip to the village one day, she falls – literally – into the path of a distinguished-looking gentleman on a glossy-coated horse. As he helps Rosamund up, Sir Everard Blithman is drawn to her beauty, and soon strikes a deal with Rosamund’s parents for her hand in marriage.
Whisked away from her life of drudgery, Rosamund can hardly believe her luck. No longer a downtrodden kitchen maid shunned by her family, she is now the finely dressed lady of a sprawling manor house on the banks of the Thames, with a new husband who could charm the birds out of the trees. The fact that he owns a chocolate house adds extra deliciousness to her new situation.
Quick-witted and equally charming, Rosamund soon becomes a valuable asset to Sir Everard’s business. Life is good – there she is, a former maid presiding over her husband’s grand London chocolate house, to which wealthy folk flock to indulge in the delicious, exciting new delicacy called chocolate.
Sadly, Rosamund’s new good fortune melts as rapidly as a bar of chocolate left out on a hot summer’s day and once she discovers some sinister goings-on in Sir Everard’s business, becomes a pawn in the deadly game he’s playing. Suddenly she’s in great danger, and as the Plague and the Great Fire ravage the city she’s come to love, Rosamund must begin the fight of her life if she is to survive.
The latest novel from bestselling Australian author Karen Brooks, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife is a sweeping tale of power, love, revenge and redemption, set against a richly detailed and colourful backdrop of 17th Century London. Seamlessly meshing fact and fiction, she imbues the story with some fascinating history, her meticulous research bringing the bustle and the thrill – and dangers – of the period to vivid life. A gripping and original novel that will have you hooked from the start and cheering for the heroine, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife will delight history buffs and thrill-seekers, alike.
Rosamund’s growth throughout the story is particularly well done. Plucky and brave, with a spark of hope that still flickers within even when the world seems determined to see her fail, it’s a joy watching her grow in confidence and learning how to succeed in a world dominated by men. Providing a revealing insight into the lives of women in Restoration London, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife makes important points about gender and power, many of which are still relevant today.
Another treat is Rosamund’s journey into the heady, dangerous world of chocolate-making and all the astonishing facts about chocolate’s arrival in the western world that you learn along the way: for example, it was the French who made it fashionable and the English who thought it was a magical medicine that could cure all ills. (If only).
A gorgeously atmospheric historical thriller, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife is sure to be devoured by fans of Alli Sinclair, Kayte Nunn and Deborah Challinor. A gold-star read.
Just make sure you have some chocolate handy.
Karen Brooks is the author of eleven books, an academic of more than twenty years’ experience, a newspaper columnist and social commentator, and has appeared regularly on national TV and radio. Before turning to academia, she was an army officer for five years, and prior to that dabbled in acting.
She lives in Hobart, Tasmania, in a beautiful stone house with its own marvellous history. When she’s not writing, she’s helping her husband Stephen in his brewery, Captain Bligh’s Ale and Cider, or cooking for family and friends, travelling, cuddling and walking her dogs, stroking her cats, or curled up with a great book and dreaming of more stories.
WIN prizes valued at over $1000 with Herstory: Books that write Her back into History – harpercollins.com.au/herstory.