Bingo Square: Delicious!
This was going to be my “Cannonballer Says!” square until I remembered that cinnamon is kind of a food (spices count, right? I mean you eat them, just not in large portions) and the novel’s whole premise is that a chef has to impress a pirate captain with a weekly gourmet food menu, so the novel promptly got moved to “Delicious!” (and replaced by another pirate themed novel for “Cannonballer Says!”).
I definitely understand why ElCicco gave this one 3 stars while also calling it a great beach read. It is fun but it also takes a bit to build to the fun. It starts action packed and keeps up a decent pace throughout, but it takes a while for the chef, Owen Wedgwood, to embrace his new life, instead judging everyone around him as wanting and praying for escape for much of the book. While this is completely understandable, and Eli Brown shows Wedgwood’s development and discoveries in a reasonable way, I still was looking forward to Wedge’s reluctance giving way to acceptance, and him becoming a true member of the crew rather than a bystander and outsider.
As the novel kicks off, Wedgwood has already been kidnapped and has started a secret diary to capture his life on the pirate ship run by infamous Captain Hannah Mabbot. He hopes that his records can eventually be used in the trial against the crew when they are caught. Wedgwood has spent much of his career as the chef of Lord Ramsey, one of the chairmen of the Pendleton Trading Company (which is obviously inspired the East India Company). Wedgwood has great respect for Ramsey, and like most in the UK, sees only the positives of the prosperity that Pendleton has brought to the British Empire, blaming things such as the opium epidemic on the weakness and laziness of men. As a result, he is not happy to witness Ramsey’s murder by pirates, only to be forced on board with them by the same woman who delivered the fatal shots to his former employer: Captain Hannah Mabbot.
Mabbot has been waging war on the Pendleton Trading Company, and she decides to take the unwilling Wedge along with her as her personal chef. If he wants to live, he must serve her delectable meal every Sunday, regardless of the difficulties of fresh supply on a ship. She also forces him to dine with her for each of his creations, allowing him insights in her mind. While he clings to his views of Ramsey, the Empire and the Pendleton Trading Company, the reader gains sympathy with her viewpoints rather quickly (especially if they already have a passing familiarity with history). She has seen firsthand the exploitation and destruction of communities, the starvation of Bengali farmers as they are forced to grow poppies, and the effect of the introduction of opium on the people of China, all at the hands of the Pendleton Trading Company. Many of her crew share her views and equally long for vengeance, especially the Chinese twins Feng and Bai.
However, the company is not the only mission on Mabbot’s mind. She also is in pursuit of the Brass Fox. At first Wedge is not even sure if the Brass Fox is a what or a who as legends and myths surround the Fox. Is it a great treasure, or is he a former lover of Mabbot’s? Basically, the crew has come up with any and every explanation one can dream up.
Overall, it took a few chapters for the novel to really entice me since Wedge did resist his new employer and status far too long but it’s not something that can be held against the novel. It makes sense that a homebody chef who has long been devoted to his employer isn’t going to immediately jump for joy when joining the pirate life or be ready to change his entire mindset when finally confronted with the dark truths behind the United Kingdom’s prosperity and how it was built on the backs of others. Most of the dishes sounded intriguing but being on a ship, Wedge had to rely quite a bit on seafood so I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the majority of them. I get rather picky about seafood though I will eat some.
Bingo Square: Delicious!