Title: Cinnamon and Gunpowder
Author: Eli Brown
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Pages: 336
Book Source: Library


The year is 1819, and renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot, who announces that he will be spared as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider. But Mabbot, who exerts a curious draw on the chef, is under siege.

My Review:

I have never read a book about pirates before, not even “Treasure Island”. I’ve seen some movies, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Peter Pan”, but we all know reading the book is different than watching the movie. I was drawn to this book by the food descriptions I read in the book  jacket.

Books written with food and recipes as the central point, seem to draw me in. “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel or “Five Quarters of the Orange” and “Chocolat” both by Joanne Harris, are a few a few that instantly come to mind. So I had a strong suspicion that I would enjoy this book, and I did.

It was interesting reading about the pirate terms, and engaging in the sword and ship fights. I do think if it was a straight up pirate book without the heavy inclination towards the preparation of recipes, I would not have finished reading it.

Not to say that the pirate parts weren’t well written, because they were, but I just don’t think I’m into pirates. So this book was an enjoyable learning experience.

I enjoyed the reversal of roles with Hannah being the domineering pirate captain and Owen being more submissive and doing the typical (of that time) cooking of meals, that would normally be done by a woman, if on the mainland. Owen was resistant to Hannah’s charms from the beginning, constantly trying to escape. Hannah patiently waited, while enjoying something other than gruel, knowing that eventually Owen would loosen up.

Hannah never forced herself on Owen. Their sexual relationship, and then their love, came around slowly. I really enjoyed this style, since it’s vastly different from the usual romance books I read, where they are hot and heavy for each other the first moment they meet.

Because really, who has time for constant sex when you’re busy outrunning other pirate ships who are trying to destroy you?!?

This was a very descriptive book, especially when Brown was writing about cooking, but it was so tantalizing that I wanted to read every word. The making of food renewed Owen’s spirits, and brought him closer to Joshua, a deaf cabin boy. Owen had lost his own wife and child, and in Joshua he finds the child he lost.

There are other minor pirate characters that add more depth to the story. And of course you have Hannah and her crew continually fighting other pirates, the English government, the Chinese opium trade, and her most dangerous foe, the Brass Fox.

Besides the Sunday night dinners changing the relationship between Owen and Hannah, it also brings him closer to the rest of the crew, finally making him into a true pirate.

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