The Spice Merchant’s Wife
This novel is set during the 1666 Great Fire of London and its fascinating but less well-known aftermath. The heroine is the wife in the title. To get my misgivings out of the way, there is an actual recipe at the end of the book along with countless descriptions of baking throughout. My feeling is if I want a recipe I’ll go to my grandmother or to a cookery book, not to a novel, but I suppose the publishers know their market. Having said that, I found it an interesting read with plenty of descriptions of the living conditions of ordinary people whose lives were devastated by the fire. The encampment of the homeless on Moor Fields is particularly telling.
This is a romance, and the hero makes a fetching debut with his sea-green eyes and matching coat – and then there are the red-heeled shoes. I thought this might be a difficult act to pull off, as such accessories along with an interest in perfume are not usual in your standard hero, but I was pleased to find that by the end of the book he does deliver. Thoroughly nice and suffering physically as he must, he’s always there when needed, proving himself a proper hero in the final mini-conflagration. The villain, a property speculator – as then so now – is suitably nasty. But for the incessant baking, I would have enjoyed this more. It’s a pity the blurb on the back gives away an essential of the plot, but I suppose murder always sells, too, so it would have been folly to miss a chance. Suskind’s Perfume this is not. That’s a very different world; this is rather more pleasant and undemanding.