cover image The Chocolate Maker’s Wife

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife

Karen Brooks. Morrow, $16.99 trade paper (608p) ISBN 978-0-06-268659-6

Historian and novelist Brooks (The Locksmith’s Daughter) shows her research and imaginative chops in a luscious and astonishingly affecting chronicle of family scandal, political unrest, and redemptive hope in 1660s London, through the Black Plague and the Great Fire. When Rosamund Tomkins’s mother sells her as a wife to Sir Everard Blithman, who has recently invested in an establishment serving drinking chocolate to the wealthy and fashionable, Rosamund is glad to escape from her abusive father and brothers. She tries to be an enchanting and savvy proprietress for the chocolate house even after she realizes that Blithman chose her largely for her uncanny resemblance to his deceased daughter, Helena—and specifically to be bait for Helena’s widower, poet and spy Matthew Lovelace, who is Blithman’s sworn enemy. Some of the tenderest moments in the story come from Rosamund’s friendships with Bianca and Jacopo, two of the household’s black slaves, and with the chocolate house staff; Brooks acknowledges the connection between the early chocolate trade and the slave trade while enhancing the contemporary reader’s impression of Rosamund’s goodness as she disregards race and class lines in favor of human caring. Brooks also casts real-world eccentric Samuel Pepys as Blithman’s cousin and uses details from his published diaries in the story. Readers will be pulled into the highs and lows of this novel’s personal drama and the sweep of its historical backdrop. Agent: James Frenkel, James Frenkel Assoc. (Aug.)