Secrets of the Chocolate House

Paula Brackston. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-07244-3

In Brackston’s pleasing follow-up to The Little Shop of Found Things, her supernaturally gifted heroine, Xanthe Westlake, goes back to the early 1600s, where she finds her lover under threat from a mysterious and powerful stranger. Xanthe and her mother, Flora, in the present, are working to make their small antique shop in Marlborough, England a success. But their efforts are put on the back burner when Xanthe, who has the power to sense the historical life of items in the shop, hears an antique chocolate pot singing to her and has a vision of her former lover Samuel, who she met when traveling to 1605 in the previous book, being imprisoned. The revelation pushes her to return to the 17th century, following the chocolate pot to a chocolate house, where she learns about the persecution of Catholics and dissenters. She also learns that Samuel is in the custody of Benedict Fairfax, a local aristocrat who knows more about Xanthe than she expected. As she tries to free Samuel, Xanthe becomes embroiled in the political turmoil of the time and fears she might not make it home—or perhaps even want to return. Brackston’s vibrant story is on firm historical ground, with period details woven in nicely. While the plot is less propulsive than the first book, Brackston’s majestic time-swapping romance will please fans of Alice Hoffman. [em](Oct.) [/em]
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