A tale of cruelty, revenge, redemption, love and hope, and the sweet, sinister temptation of chocolate. Damnation has never been so sweet...
When Rosamund Tomkins enters the world she is so different, with her darkling eyes and strange laughter, that the midwives are afraid, believing her a changeling. But Rosamund's life is set to be anything but enchanted...
Born into poverty, brutalised and ignored by her family, it is only when she is married off to a nobleman that her life undergoes a wondrous transformation, as he recognises that Rosamund infuses magic she does not know she possesses into everything she touches.
Clever, quick and irrepressible, Rosamund soon becomes the darling of the haute ton, and presides over her luxurious chocolate house where the rich go to be seen and indulge in their favourite pastime, drinking the sweet and heady drink to which they've become oddly addicted.
But Rosamund stands on the brink of losing all she has worked so hard to achieve and will be forced to make a choice: walk away from all she knows and has grown to love with her soul intact, or make a deal with the devil?
Australian author Karen Brooks rewrites women back into history with this sweeping, breathtakingly researched tale of 17th century London, set against the backdrop of Restoration London, the plague and the Great Fire.
'Historian and novelist Brooks shows her research and imaginative chops in a luscious and astonishingly affecting chronicle of family scandal, political unrest, and redemptive hope in 1660s London.' - Publishers Weekly
'Brooks masterfully deploys surprising plot twists, deftly pacing the opening of closets to reveal hidden diaries and family skeletons. . . A charming and smart historical novel from a master storyteller.' - Kirkus Reviews
'Sensual, seductive, bold . . . A rich indulgence.' - Booklist
'The latest from Australian author Brooks is an excellent option for reading groups that enjoy multigenerational tales and historical fiction. . . Your late middle English vocabulary will be sumptuously rewarded.' - Library Journal
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.