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.
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.