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.
Let me just start this review by saying that I really liked this book. It was over 600 pages but it flew by. I felt fully immersed in the world of 1660s London. However, this book also really made me angry. The reason for that is the treatment of the female characters.
The story starts with Rosamund, as a teenager, working as a serving girl in the inn that her mother and stepfather own. You quickly find out that her stepfather and two stepbrothers have been sexually abusing her since she moved in with them years earlier. This is not spelled out in detail but is made clear from their interactions.
In an attempt to run away from her brothers to avoid being raped again, she meets a wealthy man. He offers to take her to London with him for reasons that he doesn’t make clear. Her mother sees this as an opportunity to get her daughter away from the men in her life and get her a better life. She arranges a fast marriage ceremony and then sends Rosamund away with orders never to return.
Her new husband turns out to be a controlling man who owns slaves and who tells her that he doesn’t want to her any opinions or ideas from her. Her job is to learn to make chocolate. Her husband is going to be opening a chocolate house and he wants her to serve the chocolate.
You learn a lot of chocolate at this time in England. It is just being introduced. It is considered a very racy drink. The English are started to add sugar and milk and herbs to it to fit their tastes instead of drinking it straight like Central Americans and Spaniards.
Rosamund is an anomaly. She is in the chocolate house. She is seen in public. So of course in the minds of the men in the area she is up for grabs. There are more attempted rape just because she is on the street. In the chocolate house she is molested and called all kinds of names just for existing in public. The attitude of the men of the era is completely repulsive. I want to shove this book into the hands of everyone who tells me that women had it better when they lived at home and were protected. This is what it was like to have zero rights even as a noblewoman. It is even worse for the few other female characters. There is a widow who cleans the chocolate house, there is a young girl who starts working there, and there is a female slave in the household of Rosamund’s new husband. Add the sexism into the hatred of the poor and into the racism of the time and these women were just hanging on.
Real events of the time period like outbreaks of plague and the Great Fire are detailed to show how this affected people living in London at the time. I really did learn a lot in this book. I appreciate a book that can make me angry at the injustices that fictional characters are faced with. So, read this book – just don’t be surprised if you feel like yelling at men afterwards.
About Karen Brooks
Karen Brooks is the author of twelve 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.
With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
This is the follow up to Elizabeth Acevedo’s extraordinary debut, The Poet X. I was thrilled to see that this book was coming out and extra excited to see that the story was about food.
Emoni is a senior in high school who loves to cook. She wants to go to culinary school, which wouldn’t normally be a problem except that Emoni got pregnant as a freshman and now has a daughter to raise. That limits her choices because she needs to work to support herself and her daughter. When she gets a chance to be in a culinary program at school she has to decide if she is able to fit it into her life.
Emoni is a character who I haven’t read often. Usually stories with teen mothers tell the story of the pregnancy. This is several years later when she is trying to juggle school, work, and a child. It doesn’t make any of these seem easy or glamorous. She has problems with the father of the child and his parents. She works when her classmates only have school to worry about. She knows that classmates make assumptions about anyone who found herself in her situation. She’s pushing through and ignoring what anyone else thinks.
Emoni was raised by her abuela after her mother died and her father moved back to Puerto Rico. I loved Abuela. She is a woman who keeps getting pulled back into child rearing when she is ready to live an independent life. First her son all but abandoned his daughter on her doorstep and then when she gets her granddaughter mostly raised, her granddaughter gets pregnant and now Abuela needs to help raise her great-grandchild. I found her very realistic. She’s doing what she has to do to make her family work but she’s starting to spread her own wings too as Emoni gets ready to graduate.
Even if YA isn’t normally your cup of tea, I’d encourage you to pick up Elizabeth Acevedo’s books. They are powerful.
Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves--Indian cooking and sustainable living--to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You'll find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps," "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney," "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub," "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree," and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens," to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.
This book is more than merely a collection of recipes. It is a beautiful reference book for anyone interested in Indian cuisine.
Types of commonly used spices are discussed. Learn about the types of vegetables and beans that are valued in Indian cooking. Find out the differences and similarities between regional cuisines. Chapters are devoted to appetizers, soups, pastas/rice, vegetables, and meats. Usually in a book that isn’t strictly vegetarian I feel lucky to find one or two recipes that I would be interested in making. This book has many that I plan to make. That almost never happens.
The book is wonderfully illustrated with full color pictures of each dish. I appreciate that in a cookbook. It would be particularly useful if you aren’t familiar enough with Indian cuisine to know what each dish is supposed to look like.
I was inspired by this book to add some spices especially for Indian cooking to my garden this year. I have a pot full of mint and am waiting for my cilantro to sprout. The author uses these herbs most in her cooking. I look forward to making many of the recipes in here with fresh vegetables from my garden.
A compelling look at animal welfare and factory farming in the United States from Mercy For Animals, the leading international force in preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.
Nathan Runkle would have been a fifth-generation farmer in his small midwestern town. Instead, he founded our nation's leading nonprofit organization for protecting factory farmed animals. In Mercy For Animals, Nathan brings us into the trenches of his organization's work; from MFA's early days in grassroots activism, to dangerous and dramatic experiences doing undercover investigations, to the organization's current large-scale efforts at making sweeping legislative change to protect factory farmed animals and encourage compassionate food choices.
But this isn't just Nathan's story. Mercy For Animals examines how our country moved from a network of small, local farms with more than 50 percent of Americans involved in agriculture to a massive coast-to-coast industrial complex controlled by a mere 1 percent of our population--and the consequences of this drastic change on animals as well as our global and local environments. We also learn how MFA strives to protect farmed animals in behind-the-scenes negotiations with companies like Nestle and other brand names--conglomerates whose policy changes can save countless lives and strengthen our planet. Alongside this unflinching snapshot of our current food system, readers are also offered hope and solutions--big and small--for ending mistreatment of factory farmed animals. From simple diet modifications to a clear explanation of how to contact corporations and legislators efficiently, Mercy For Animals proves that you don't have to be a hardcore vegan or an animal-rights activist to make a powerful difference in the lives of animals.
I’ve had this book on my Audible wishlist for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m glad I finally started to listen to it. I was surprised when it opened with a story of a stealth rescue of chickens from Buckeye Egg Farm in Croton Ohio. At the time of the story I was living in the area and driving past there a lot. The place was hugely hated because of its affects on the people living around it. There would be hoards of flies every summer. The smell was awful and all the groundwater was contaminated from the feces.
Mercy for Animals was started by Nathan Runkle as a teenager and has grown into a huge voice in the animal welfare community. They have sponsored a lot of undercover investigations into abuses at factory farms. The undercover investigators are tough. I couldn’t work in slaughterhouses or factory farms for months on end to document abuses. Sadly, it is getting harder to do this kind of work because of agriculture protection laws that punish investigators more than the people perpetrating the abuse.
This was a tough book to listen to because of the abuse that it details. I took a few breaks from it to listen to other books for a day or two.
The last section of the book discusses how technology might help solve the problems. Companies that make plant-based meat substitutes like Beyond Beef are profiled in addition to companies making meat out of animal stem cells. This will allow people to eat meat with any animals being slaughtered. It was nice that this book ended on an uplifting note after all the horrors that came before.
He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant. On the surface, nothing about Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover’s instant, incendiary, attraction makes sense. But when they peel away the layers and the assumptions—and their clothes—everything falls into place. The need. The want. The light. The laughter. They have more in common than they ever could’ve guessed. Is it enough? They won’t know until they take a chance on each other—and on love.
I’d heard good things about this novella on Twitter and it seemed to be perfect for Foodies Read so I had to pick it up.
Pinky got out of her small hometown but had to return to help out in the family restaurant when her mom got sick. She’s frustrated at the turn her life has taken. Trucker is the leader of a local biker gang that regularly comes into the restaurant. They are attracted to each other but know that they have absolutely nothing in common. Pinky doesn’t want anything to do with the trouble that accompanies the gang. But a few encounters outside the restaurant lead Pinky to believe that they more have more in common than she thought.
I liked this story even though it had way more sex in it than I generally like in my romances. The author managed to bring in some good character development in such a short space.
Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She's finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.
Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?
This novella takes place at the same time as A Duke in Disguise, which features Reggie’s sister. You don’t really need to have read that book in order to understand this novella but it does reference the events in the novel.
I love this whole series so I liked reading Reggie’s story. No one is royal in this one. Reggie is considered to be “the good twin” by her parents especially since she had a brain infection that left her disabled. She is tired of hearing how proud her parents are of her for managing to do the most basic of things while at the same time they nag her sister for not meeting their standards. She’s stopped working for their company and has built a successful online business but they don’t understand what she does.
Gus is autistic. He used his livestream to try to find other people as interested in puzzles as he is and to practice speaking. Reggie was his only follower. He quit after a while and then deleted his archives. He didn’t know that Reggie still listened to his soothing voice to fall asleep.
Both characters are a bit prickly because they are used to being misunderstood. Despite the slightly contrived circumstances of their meeting, I really liked this story.
Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.
Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.
I really enjoyed this book too. This is the story of a British man living in South Carolina who is suspected of having anti-slavery views. His home is burned because of this and his wife and child die in the fire.
Three years later, an old friend from England who has fallen on hard times asks him to take in one of his daughters. She is uncomfortable with this change in her circumstances but realizes that there is more going on with her new guardian than she suspected.
This delves more deeply into the time and events than the romance. It is straddling the line between historical fiction and romance.
There is a new American culinary landscape developing around us, and it’s one that chef Edward Lee is proud to represent. In a nation of immigrants who bring their own culinary backgrounds to this country, what happens one or even two generations later? What does their cuisine become? It turns into a cuisine uniquely its own and one that Lee argues makes America the most interesting place to eat on earth. Lee illustrates this through his own life story of being a Korean immigrant and a New Yorker and now a Southerner. In Off the Menu, he shows how we each have a unique food memoir that is worthy of exploration. To Lee, recipes are narratives and a conduit to learn about a person, a place, or a point in time. He says that the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food they eat. Each chapter shares a personal tale of growth and self-discovery through the foods Lee eats and the foods of the people he interacts with—whether it’s the Korean budae jjigae of his father or the mustard beer cheese he learns to make from his wife’s German-American family. Each chapter is written in narrative form and punctuated with two recipes to highlight the story, including Green Tea Beignets, Cornbread Pancakes with Rhubarb Jam, and Butternut Squash Schnitzel. Each recipe tells a story, but when taken together, they form the arc of the narrative and contribute to the story we call the new American food.
Edward Lee is fascinated by what happens to food when people move to a new country. For example, what happens when Korean immigrants move to an area where they can’t get the types of peppers that they are used to using and have to substitute South American varieties instead? What new types of cuisines emerge?
He traveled around America to areas where new immigrant communities have grown up to sample the food. Along the way he tries to ingratiate himself in restaurants to find the best food. It doesn’t always go well.
This book challenges a lot of deeply held beliefs in the foodie world.
What does it mean to call a food “authentic”?
If authentic means “the way it was made at a certain time in the past in a certain place”, does that imply that that culture’s food scene can’t evolve? Must it stay stagnant so rich American people feel it is worth eating?
Who gets to be the judge of authenticity anyway?
Why is he looked at strangely if he decides to open a restaurant serving anything but Korean food? Should he be limited to cooking the food of his ancestors? Isn’t he allowed to evolve too?
There are a lot of recipes in this book. I actually made a few which is really unusual for me. I know now that I don’t like anything pickled except cucumbers. I was making coleslaw at the same time I was reading this and he had a basic coleslaw recipe. It was good.
A $10 Amazon gift card if in the U.S. A book of their choice (up to $10) from Book Depository if international
I’d like to thank everyone who participated in 2018. We had loads of people with 20 plus links! Our superstars last year were Mark with 33 links and Cam with 38! I really appreciate your enthusiasm and hope to see more of what you are reading (and cooking) in 2019.
The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time
"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence
When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Lights is turned upside down.
So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.
Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.
I had this book on my iPad for a long time. I had started reading it and then wandered off as I so often do. However, I realized I had this while on my recent riverboat cruise in France, so I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and finish it up.
I was actually on the outskirts of Lyon when I picked the book back up just in time for the chapter on Lyon. Lyon is known as gastronomic hot spot in France. Their claim to fame are small restaurants that were started by women catering to working class people. They are called “bouchons”. They still exist and are considered some of the best places to eat. I appreciate this book for explaining that they still feature tripe heavily in their meals. Vegetarian-friendly is not a concept most of these have grasped. A few days later I was standing in old town Lyon turning in a circle looking at all the bouchons.
Whispering to the husband – “We aren’t eating anywhere that says bouchon.”
Him – “Why?”
Me, muttering like just saying the word would manifest it in front of me – “Tripe”
Him – “What?””
Me – “It is sort of like restaurants who claim they are Family Restaurants in the U.S.”
He understood my theory that any restaurant that claims that title is using recipes from some old lady who cooked meat and potatoes without any spices and believed that the way to cook vegetables is to boil them until they give up. Also, the soups are totally made with meat broth and if you order vegetable soup anyway odds are 50/50 that there will be unexpected chunks of meat in it. Yes, I am a vegetarian foodie snob.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about local food traditions in combination with a memoir. She decides to write this book to distract her from the fact that she’s been left in France alone for a year. They just moved there. She knows no one. You see her personal growth over the year as she reaches out of her comfort zone to make friends.
So what did we eat in France? Stay tuned for that post in a bit.