Secrets of the Chocolate House (Found Things #2) by Paula Brackston
Read: 16th – 21st October 2019
Publication Date: 22nd October 2019
Quote from Secrets of the Chocolate House
“She [Xanthe] had come to accept that she and Samuel could never be together.
What she had felt for him, and he for her, she believed to be real, but she knew those feelings had been heightened by the danger surrounding the circumstances in which they had met.”
My Overall Rating: 4/5
Plot: 3/5 – Flow: 4/5 – Character Development: 5/5 – World Building: 5/5
Secrets of the Chocolate House is the second novel (approx 320 pages) in Ms Brackston’s new series – Found Things. It is a beautifully written tale set in Marlborough (a town in Wiltshire, England) that spans the ages – quite literally – that would sit quite happily in the literary fiction genre while dipping its toes in the historical, ghost and time-travel genres too.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that I write about how the story was told rather than the plot itself, which means that my reviews don’t contain spoilers of any kind or reveal any plot twists, so here’s what the official blurb has to say about the story:
The second novel in a bewitching series “brimming with charm and charisma” that will make “fans of Outlander rejoice!” (Woman’s World Magazine)
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.
After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.
But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.
While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.
This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed?
So, before we get into what I thought about this book, I want you to know that I was given an unedited digital version of this book for free from the publisher (St Martin’s Press) in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence or affect my review in any way; these are my words, I’m giving you my honest opinion here.
Although historical fiction isn’t my usual choice of reading material, I have read a couple of Ms Brackston’s historical mysteries now and really enjoyed them. Ms Brackston captivates me with her beautiful and descriptive use of language. The prose she uses is intelligent, eloquent and very reminiscent of a historical novel; the words chosen and the sentence formation, while still managing to set the scene beautifully in one’s mind is never overly long or heavy.
I liked the way that this intriguing tale was told from Xanthe’s perspective, our female protagonist, and that we learnt a little bit more about her gift. As my regular followers will know, I always enjoy a story more when the lead female character is intelligent, resourceful, resilient and has plenty of gumption; in this tale Xanthe Westlake, her mum, Flora and Mistress Louisa Flyte from the 17th century had these traits. I enjoyed seeing Xanthe’s character grow in both her knowledge and her inner strength during this adventure, although she hasn’t reached her full potential yet in this book.
I felt that the sad scenes, tense scenes, mysterious scenes and romantic ones were all written particularly well giving us a good balanced plot, with a sprinkle of humour also thrown into the mix.
Although this is a work of fiction, the attention to historic detail and the care that was obviously taken when writing her characters made Ms Brackston’s world and the people in it feel very real to me. I enjoyed the fact that this foray into the past is not a rose tinted one; life was harsh, political and religious views could be fatal to one’s health and the rules of etiquette numerous. Although I feel that a bit of licence is permitted to aid a fictional tale, too much can turn it into a mockery; Ms Brackston hit the right balance for me.
Secrets of the Chocolate House brought out many emotions while reading; it made me rage with indignant frustration, put a soppy smile on my face as well as had me on the edge of my seat holding my breath. I loved the way that the story kept me guessing in both present day Marlborough and in the 17th century.
OK, so here’s where I mention the niggles that lead to my overall rating being 4 stars rather than 5.
I think that I have already mentioned in other reviews, historic fiction isn’t my preferred genre, this is mainly due to the constraining etiquette the characters are forced to live by and, as such, it took me a while to shake off my frustrations and read this story without my modern sensibilities screaming. I have read some reviews that complained about Xanthe’s reluctance to stay in the past but I felt that this was one of the book’s strengths; I certainly couldn’t go back to that era!
While I appreciate that Xanthe has grown since her first foray into the past, I did get frustrated with her handling of certain situations in this book, both in present day Marlborough and the 17th century.
It’s important to remember that this is only the second book in a new series and I liked that Ms Brackston left enough teasers to continue in subsequent books. BUT. My main gripe is how this book ended; definite cliff-hanger and I’m not a big fan of those.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It has everything that I look for in a good story; a mystery or thriller aspect, a sprinkling of romance and a nice balance of gentle humour with the added bonus of being within my favourite genre – paranormal.
I would recommend this book to fans of mystery stories, historical fiction and paranormal tales as well as readers of YA novels too as there is no explicit sexual content and only a handful of expletives, having said that, some of the beliefs, customs and laws of 17th century England may cause offense to your modern sensibilities.
So, has my review of SECRETS OF THE CHOCOLATE HOUSE (FOUND THINGS #2) encouraged you to find out more? I really hope it has. Just click on any of the links below to check out the book yourself or to find out more about the author.
(I am part of Amazon , The Book Depository, Foyles Book Shop, Audible and Waterstones affiliate programmes, which means when you use those links to buy a copy of this book, I will get a (very) small % from the sale.)
Paula Brackston (aka PJ Brackston) is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter, The Winter Witch and The Midnight Witch.
Paula has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. In 2007 Paula was short listed in the Creme de la Crime search for new writers. In 2010 her book ‘Nutters‘ (writing as PJ Davy) was short listed for the Mind Book Award, and she was selected by the BBC under their New Welsh Writers scheme.
Paula lives in Wales with her partner and their two children.
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Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to read my review. I hope that my review has tempted you to add this book to your ever growing TBR pile. 😉