Originally published: 19 September 2019
Author: Laura Madeleine
Published by: Transworld
Genre: Historical fiction
Length: 384 pages
Reading dates: 29 November- 3 December 2019
Orphan Alejandra is a teenage girl and a talented cook, working in a brothel in Southern Spain in 1928 when she is wrongly accused of murdering one of the patrons and has to run for her life. She soon realises she will be safer if she dresses as a boy. Heading towards Gibraltar she meets socialite Arthur Langham when he knocks Ale over with his car.
Ale feels an connection to Arthur and manages to get some false papers and get on a boat to Tangiers in Morocco. Still pretending to be a boy, she manages to get a job working as a cook for Arthur in his home Dar Portuna. But she is not the only one with secrets to hide.
50 years later, a young writer, Sam Hackett comes across a writing case inscribed with the initials A L and inspired by the history of the object, starts to research the owner of the case, soon realising there is a mystery that needs to be solved. I really liked that the second timeline in the book was still in a historical setting, in the days where writers still wrote using typewriters and did all their research the old fashioned way, instead of using Google!
Laura kindly offered to send me a copy of this book and knowing it was historical fiction was enough for me to say yes. The dual timeline over alternating chapters works well – I enjoyed finding our what would happen to Ale while enjoying watching Sam discover the mystery at the same time.
The descriptions of the food were amazing – so vivid I could almost taste and smell the food Ale cooked. Each of the chapters set in 1928, started with a recipe for a cocktail (I love cocktails and they all sound delicious!) I really enjoy learning about different cultures and I felt I really could imagine what Tangier must be like. I’m not sure how much time the author spent there doing research but I was convinced she must have lived a significant part of her life there to capture it so well.
Intoxicating, exotic and mysterious, I loved this book and hope to read more by this author.
Pictured above is the wonderful bookstagram pack Laura sent with the book. It includes a special cocktail inspired by the book which I am drinking as I write this and I can confirm it is delicious! She also sent some Harissa, some Jasmine and Rose petals from the garden of Dar Portuna and some scented candles. A wonderful idea to send gifts inspired by the novel, thank you to Laura for sending these to me!
About the author:
Laura Madeleine is the author of The Confectioner’s Tale, Where the Wild Cherries Grow, The Secrets Between Us and An Echo of Scandal (2019).
After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeleine changed her mind, and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom.