Thursday, February 19, 2015

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey

"As Kitt tramped on alone towards the villa, unease clung to him like the rancid sweat that soaked his shirt. He was weak-headed, sure enough, after five days of throwing up over the boat rail. At Leghorn, his port of arrival in Italy, he had disdained the other disembarking English passengers. They had jostled and jawed in gaudy Paris costumes, their ruddy faces peering into \mr Nugent's Grand Tour." Opening Sentences 

Synopsis: "That’s how it is for us servants. No one pays you much heed; mostly you're invisible as furniture. Yet you overhear a conversation here, and add a little gossip there. Then you find something, something you should not have found.” 

Irrepressible Biddy Leigh, under-cook at forbidding Mawton Hall, only wants to marry her childhood sweetheart and set up her own tavern. But when her elderly master marries young Lady Carinna, Biddy is unwittingly swept up in a world of scheming, secrets, and lies. Forced to accompany her new mistress to Italy, she documents her adventures and culinary discoveries in an old household book of recipes, The Cook’s Jewel. Biddy grows intrigued by her fellow travelers, but her secretive and unconventional mistress is the most intriguing of all. In London, Biddy finds herself attracted to her mistress’s younger brother. In France, she discovers her mistress’s dark secret. At last in Italy, Biddy becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy, knowing the secrets she holds could be a key to a better life, or her downfall. Inspired by eighteenth-century household books of recipes and set at the time of the invention of the first restaurants, An Appetite for Violets is a literary feast for lovers of historical fiction. Martine Bailey's novel opens a window into the fascinating lives of servants, while also delivering a suspenseful tale of obsession and betrayal.
Review by Mirella Patzer

Biddy Leigh is a young woman who works as an undercook at Mawton Hall for the elderly Lord Geoffrey and his young new wife, Lady Carinna. She is content with her life and dreams of marrying Jem one day and together opening up a tavern where she can indulge her passion for cooking her cherished family recipes. When Lady Carinna decides to travel to Italy, Biddy is obliged to accompany her, along with the bitter lady's maid, the shady steward, and a captured slave owned by her mistress.

The story is told through Biddy's point of view. This colorful cast of characters collide amid dangerous secrets, dark ambitions, and a touch of intriguing cultures and their cuisines. Not all is as it seems and the characters are ever evolving, and always surprising. The novels pages contain plenty of nice plot twists that kept me interested to the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! It's definitely a favourite of mine, appealing in every way. 

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