Summary and book reviews of An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey

An Appetite for Violets

A Novel

by Martine Bailey

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey X
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
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  • Published:
    Jan 2015, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

"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.

Excerpt
An Appetite For Violets

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 across the heaving boat rail. At Leghorn, his port of arrival in Italy, he had disdained the other English disembarking from the boat. They had jostled and jawed in gaudy Paris costumes, their ruddy faces peering into Mr Nugent's Grand Tour. While they dawdled over vast portmanteaus he had sauntered onwards with only a saddlebag slapping his hips. He was a hunter, not a tourist, Kitt told himself. He was here to find Carinna, not follow some vulgar Itinerary.

He had hired the first unshaven ruffian who grasped his sleeve and offered himself as a guide. Later, he regretted his impulse: at Lucca the rogue had urged him to enter a squalid inn to meet his purported bellisima sister. By then Kitt understood he was very far from his usual Covent Garden haunts. No doubt a ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Can there be anything more fetching to a mystery loving foodie who also enjoys historical fiction than the delicious tale of two women – one a lady, the other a servant – up to some very unsavory doings? No. And Martine Bailey’s debut delivers just that – a tale about Obedience (Biddy) Leigh, a young Eighteenth Century British undercook and the Lady Carinna, Mistress of Mawton Hall.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review (885 words).

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Media Reviews

The Daily Mail (UK)
If you enjoyed Jo Baker's Longbourn you'll enjoy this. It's another beautifully written 18th century servant story, sad in the same sort of way and similarly rich...An impressive debut.

Booklist
Starred Review. Though the novel seems to have too many ingredients, everything is kneaded together at the end. This is a delectable dish that will appeal to readers with a taste for historical mysteries as well as fiction about food.

Author Blurb Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen's Governess
An Appetite for Violets is a feast of unique characters, suspense, passion and delicious storytelling. Martine Bailey has served up a beautifully rendered, haunting tale told by an unforgettable heroine. A novel to devour yet savor.

Author Blurb Fay Weldon, author of Long Live the King
Martine Bailey writes with such easy, compelling grace, and in a fascinating new genre – best described as culinary gothic. I was hooked and enraptured.

Author Blurb Maria McCann, author of As Meat Loves Salt and The Wilding
I adored this novel: a delicious addictive mix of confectionery, skulduggery and crime, sprinkled with dark secrets and sauced with piquant comedy.

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Beyond the Book

Oh Restaurant, From Whence Thou?

Thermopolium in Pompeii While buying ready prepared food outside the home has been an intrinsic part of urban culture in Europe from the earliest of days (as can be seen by the many thermopoliums in Pompeii), in the modern era, in general the upper classes, especially the women, would not have chosen to eat a meal outside of a private home - except in the direst circumstances, such as extended travel. They looked upon food that was prepared elsewhere with distrust, even disdain. With no overarching standards or regulations, they felt there was no way of knowing whether such food was fresh, or that kitchens were clean, or even that the cook knew what s/he was doing.

Taverns, inns and boarding houses often served food, but this was secondary to their main ...

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