Epicureans and Pirates: a surprisingly enjoyable combination

I almost didn’t make it through Eli Brown’s new novel Cinnamon and Gunpowder. But I persevered and ended up falling for this pirate tale of abduction, tyranny, love, and of course, food.

cinnamon and gunpowderThe year is 1819, and the protagonist Owen Wedgwood is enjoying the safe and comfortable life as the personal chef for a shipping magnate, when one night his employer is brutally murdered by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot, who then takes poor Owen prisoner.

Owen secretly records his story in the journal he hides away in his small quarters aboard Mabbot’s ship.  He writes that his only option, if he values his life, is to cook a delicious meal for Mabbot once a week.  His resources are scant afloat on the ocean, and his inclination to oblige is equally small.  But oblige he does.  And in his more honest moments, he confesses that the challenge of creating delicacies against such adverse conditions is refreshing.  His love for food translates into mouth watering descriptions.  Placed against the salty, and barren backdrop of the wide ocean, Owen’s recipes become as much a salve to the reader as his meals do for Mad Mabbot.

This story is a swashbuckling ocean adventure where the pirates fight for treasure and kill for fun.  And just as Mabbot draws Owen deeper and deeper into her world, so too, did this book draw me in.  What initially was annoying to me (Owen’s diction), became endearing.  In fact, some of his musings were downright insightful.  My favorite is when he considers the depths of man’s depravity: “God dug no deeper pit that a man’s skull.”  And by the end, I was thoroughly enjoying my time aboard The Flying Rose, with its eclectic gathering of pirates.

This book is one for the beach, which is perfect, since summer is just about here.

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