*Originally published 2016/01/18
CINNAMON AND GUNPOWDER Written by Eli Brown
2013, 318 Pages (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Genre: historical fiction, adventure, cooking
When ruthless pirates take over his Master’s house and murder him Chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by their Captain, Mad Hannah Mabbot. She loves luxury items and so spares Owen’s life if he can make her extravagant meals once a week – never repeating a recipe. Wanting to stay alive he uses the crude materials around him to make his own masterpieces.
In between those Sunday meals, Owen looks for a way to flee the ship. He starts to get to know all the major players on Mabbot’s crew and that there are rules for being on a pirate ship. Mabbot becomes obsessive in catching up to the infamous Brass Fox which seems to be her Achilles’s heel . As Owen attempts to make marvelous meals and form an escape plan he starts to also get close to Joshua, a deaf cabin-boy and he must rely on the scary Mr. Apples if he wants to live through this ordeal.
This novel (and author) was no where on my reading radar. In one of my Goodreads group (historical fiction group) our theme for our group read was Culinary History – to which this novel was nominated and won. The cover had me intrigued from the beginning – a stunning red-headed pirate holding chef hostage – what’s not to like. I started the novel and bam – I have just traveled to 1819 on a pirate ship with scrumptious meals. I enjoyed not just the writing (humour and drama) but also the descriptions of the meals that Owen makes, the ship and how it runs, and the characters (you can imagine them right in front of you). The plot reminds me of an old adventure story like The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas) – a swashbuckling romp. I highly recommend this novel to historical fiction readers, for sure!