Author: Karen Brooks
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 1st October 2014
Book Source: Harlequin Mira & NetGalley
Synopsis: It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.
When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.
Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well.
Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring.
Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?
Fascinating, horrifying, evocative; Karen Brooks' meticulous research and eloquent writing took me to medieval England in the 1400's ... from the fictional town of Elmham Lenn to Southwark, London and Gloucester and the world of ale-making.
Anneke Sheldrake is such an interesting character, what she endures while establishing herself as a brewster, plagued by prejudice, sabotage and tragedy made for harrowing reading. I found the entire brewing process surprisingly fascinating ... ale, hops, beer, the ale crones, ale-conners, taxes, laws, fines, bizarre punishments and corruption.
And what a wonderful cast of characters ... Betje, Adam, Captain Stoyan, Leander, Alyson; their fierce loyalty and unwavering friendship providing a beautiful sense of family and a lightness to balance out this story. I fell in love with them, especially Alyson, the feisty owner of the Swanne bathhouse, that woman had a heart of gold.
To keep it spoiler free I won't mention the antagonist by name, I'll just say it's been a while since I've hated a character with such passion. ...would the evil bastard ever die?? Maybe it was simply a case of 50 pages too many ...
The author's historical notes were a great bonus, I didn't pick up that Alyson was Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath and this is Karen Brooks' take on her life beyond The Canterbury Tales.
All up The Brewer's Tale was a page turner, rich with historical detail and characters to love and hate.
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