‘The Chocolatier’s Wife’ by Cindy Lynn Speer is a tale of mystery, adventure and romance. On William Almsley’s seventh birthday, the identity of his future wife is revealed. The ritual, performed by a wise woman every year since his birth, is supposed to choose his best match. His mother is appalled to learn the best match for her son is a hag from the north.
‘Tarnia, a place of cruel and wild magic, was the last place from whence one would wish a bride. They did not have Wise Women there, for anyone could perform spells. The Hags of the North ate their dead and sent the harsh winter wind to ravage the crops of the people of the South.’
Tasmin Bey, the ‘hag’, has just been born, hence the seven-year delay and her family is equally disturbed to learn her future husband lives in the south. Apparently, rumours of feasting on the dead are not solely the preserve of the north. Regardless, the two children correspond throughout the years and gifts and stories are exchanged as they prepare for their marriage. These letters form the basis of their friendship and hold clues to the mystery that lures Tasmin south before William formally sends for her.
Eschewing the family trade to strike out on his own, William buys a shop and embarks on a new career. He wants to make and sell chocolates. His aim is simple: to make people happy. When he is accused of murder, Tasmin’s family celebrates as she is no longer tied to the stranger from the south. Tasmin packs her bags and travels south anyway. She feels she knows William, through his letters and believes he is incapable of murder.
As William and Tasmin work together to prove his innocence and solve the murder, they discover their friendship is something more. In a society where arranged marriages are the norm, relationships can still be quite convoluted. Theirs is not. As the mystery deepens, so do their feelings for one another.
Cindy Lynn Speer has captured many voices in her novel and set them in a well-crafted world. The book works as both a mystery and romance, with the developments in both moving at a good and believable pace. There is a lot of humour in the story as well. I laughed out loud several times. I also cheered each success and booed each failure. In other words, I became quite involved. ‘The Chocolatier’s Wife’ is an enjoyable read and I would be interested in further adventures of William and Tasmin.
(pub: Dragonwell Publishing. 278 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.95 (US), £10.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-98383-208-9. Ebook: Price: $ 5.95 US, £ 3.96 (UK). ASIN: B008KPDM0M)