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Cinnamon and Gunpowder

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A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship

The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, 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. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. 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. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food.

318 pages, Hardcover

First published June 4, 2013

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About the author

Eli Brown

5 books162 followers
Eli Brown's middle-grade novel, ODDITY, follows Clover Elkin, the no-nonsense daughter of a frontier surgeon as she tries to protect the secret magical object he's left behind. Booklist called it "...a richly imagined blend of Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron and Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass."

Brown's culinary pirate novel, CINNAMON AND GUNPOWDER, was a finalist for the California Book Award, a San Francisco Public Library One-City One-Book selection, and an NPR Book Review Staff Pick.

Brown’s first novel, THE GREAT DAYS (Boaz Publications), won the Fabri Prize for Literature. Publishers Weekly called it “…a harrowing, convincing look into the heart of cult life that should linger with readers.”

A Yaddo fellow and featured reader at Litquake, Brown earned his MFA from Mills college. He lives with his family in Northern California where the squirrels bury acorns in his garden and cats bury worse.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,521 reviews
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16k followers
December 15, 2013
I described this book to my mother. “It’s about a chef who gets kidnapped by pirates. He has to cook a gourmet meal for the pirate captain once a week. And this pirate captain, mom, she is AWESOME!”

My mom smiled knowingly, “Oh. And then they start getting it on like rabbits!”

I faltered for a moment, stalling while trying to explain. “No! It’s not a romance-romance. I mean, they do develop a relationship but it’s…not a focus in the novel.”

My mom seemed to understand, giving a confident nod. “So how does a teenager become a pirate captain?”

My brain stalled again. “No, um, the chef and Mabbot are middle-aged.”

This time, it was my mother was the confused one. “What are you doing reading this?”

She has a point. This isn’t my usual blog-reading fair. Not romance and no teens? Yet as soon as I saw this book on the publishing line up, I couldn’t resist getting it and I’m so glad I did.

This book was amazing. No-holds-barred, completely fantastic. I loved every minute of it.

No detail is spared and the level of research used in this novel is astounding. Obviously the biggest fascination for me was the seemingly-insurmountable task Wedge is faced with once a week. Preparing a gourmet meal on a pirate ship where food is scarce, basic and the kitchen rudimentary at best. Yet Wedge is a genius and his resourcefulness both in cooking and trying to escape was more than admirable. It was fascinating!

But obviously the biggest draw for me was the construction of the characters. Wedge, a pudgy, middle-aged, chef pitched against Mad Hannah Mabbot. She’s brilliant, fiery, passionate, endlessly-capable, fierce, blazing, outlandish, charismatic. If you can tell I loved her, good. Kids, when I grow up, I want to BE The Shark of the Indian Ocean, Mad Hannah Mabbot, Back-from-the-dead Red. I seriously need to start working on a badass pirate name like that. The journey they go through as Captain Mabbot chases The Fox, the King of Thieves, and evades the grimly determined Laroche while aiming to bring down the Pendleton Trading company is action packed, blood-soaked and utterly enthralling.

The writing is detailed and so incredibly nuanced. Wedge’s personality shines from every page as the fussy, prudish, cooking-obsessed Catholic man who has the world and his Regency-era appropriations torn down around him. The result is a much better person. Don’t be deceived. There are no alpha-males with rippling muscles, or chest-heaving women needing to be saved. Captain Mabbot would kick an alpha male in the teeth, tie him over a churning ocean and laugh madly while she robbed him blind. Wedge can only really beat a steak into submission, but he’s smart and passionate and lovely. Eli Brown has given me everything I wanted in a novel. A diverse cast, a delightful, realistic break from traditional gender roles and a gratingly beautiful human touch.

This book eats lesser pirate tropes for breakfast. Respect it’s authoritah or Captain Mabbot will have you keel-hauled.

This book was given to me for review purposes. I received no gifts, favours or money for this because why anyone would want to pay money for my reviews in beyond me.

You can find this review and others like it on my blog, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
692 reviews3,242 followers
December 13, 2017
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a culinary delight served with eccentric pirates, treacherous waters, and a wild-haired, fiery-tempered female pirate Captain.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,582 reviews2,310 followers
July 3, 2013
This becoming woman sitting across from me was as grisly a villain as ever walked the earth, and yet I was more at home in the quiet of her parlor and the comfort of a good meal than I had been since my ordeal began. Taste and talk---these were the privileges of the living. I could refuse to make conversation and bring out the monster in her, or I could pacify and live long enough to escape.

When Chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by pirates, he finds himself the recipient of an odd request from the ship's captain, the dread Hannah Mabbot:

You will, of a Sunday, cook for me, and me alone, the finest supper. You will neither repeat a dish nor serve foods that are in the slightest degree mundane. In return, I will continue to keep you alive and well... Should you balk in any fashion you will find yourself swimming home, whole or in pieces, depending upon the severity of my disappointment.

Well. Who could refuse an offer like that?

And the fun begins, as "Wedge" attempts to create pleasing culinary concoctions out of the limited stores available aboard the ship, all in an effort to satisfy "the fiend," as he calls her, and save his own skin. Over time, he comes to learn that his pirate captors may have more integrity than his previous, much admired employer.

This book is pure, rollicking fun from start to finish. There is plenty of bloody pirate action as the ship takes off in pursuit of the mysterious Brass Fox while at the same time being chased by a wealthy man with a grudge. Here's a great combination of high-seas adventure and the pleasure of watching a persnickety chef learn to grind his spices with a cannonball.

Let's see YOU do that, Wolfgang Puck!
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
470 reviews767 followers
August 7, 2016
My treat for finishing Hamlet was this 2013 swashbuckler by Eli Brown, my introduction to the Southern California author's work. Brown's second novel earned a spot on my 2015 reading docket by boasting the best title, logline and cover design I've laid eyes on in a while. These were the equivalent of meeting a woman with a warm laugh, a love for books and an appetite. (I apologize for turning this review into an eHarmony ad.)

Title: Cinnamon and Gunpowder. You have my curiosity, sir.

Logline: "The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail." Now you have my attention.

Cover design: Mark Stutzman. The illustrator also designed the iconic 1993 Elvis Presley stamp for the U.S. Postal Service. A book cover with a full background can be found at his website gallery.

The novel is the diary of Owen Wedgewood, chef to Lord Ramsey, a major shareholder in the Pendelton Trading Company. Wedgewood, a widower whose wife Elizabeth and newborn son passed away recently, throws himself into his work, which on August 18, 1819, takes him with his employer to the seaside town of Eastbourne.

No sooner than basil-beef broth is served than Ramsey's dinner party is raided. Entering the story is a hulk named Mr. Apples, two short Chinese twins named Feng and Bai, and their leader. One of Brown's gifts are his fanciful descriptions, which can be delicious:

Then entered a pillar of menace, a woman in an olive long-coat. Her red hair hung loose over her shoulders. She sauntered to the middle of the room, her coat opening to reveal jade-handled pistols. Using a chair as a stepping stool, she walked upon the dining table to Lord Ramsey's plate and stood there looking down, as if she had just conquered Kilimanjaro. No one dared tell her, apparently, that tall women confuse the eye.

Even I, who know only what I read in the dailies, recognized her at once. There, not twenty feet from me, was the Shark of the Indian Ocean, Mad Hannah Mabbot, Back-from-the-Dead Red, who had been seen by a dozen credible witnesses to perish by gunshot and drowning, and yet had continued to haunt the Pendelton Trading Company routes, leaving the waters bloody in her wake,

Wedgewood is bound in hemp and rowed to Mabbot's ship, the Flying Rose, anchored a mile off the coast of England while the British Royal Navy is busy searching the Indian Ocean for her. Wedgewood is held for two days before receiving a letter from the captain. Mabbot proposes that he prepare her a fine supper each Sunday. If the cook refuses, he'll find himself swimming home, whole or in pieces, depending on Mabbot's mood.

Brown makes a number of key decisions at the top that I did like. Wedgewood is the furthest from Errol Flynn or a shirtless he-man as he could be. Sorry, ladies. He reminded me of Louis C.K. on occasion, or if you took five years to finish high school, maybe Seth MacFarlane. He's no sea faring man but a land lubber completely out his element.

While the crew are served by a prattling, scab-covered cook named Conrad, Wedgewood is assisted in his gourmet assignment by a mute cabin boy named Joshua. Brown fills the novel with top notch research, be it the operation of a 19th century mutineer's sailing vessel or the meals the captain's personal chef is able to improvise, some of them, to mouth watering effect.

Then I set myself to the main meal. I mashed a cooked potato to a paste and dried it on the hot bricks of the hearth. Meanwhile I prepared the rice. Around my neck I wear a leather cord and a pewter locket filled with saffron, the favorite spice of my lost Elizabeth, rest her soul. When the potato was dry, I powdered it further with my fist and used it to bread the filleted cod, adding black pepper and salt. I sauteed onions in lard, then fried the fish quickly, until the potato crumbs were golden, finally seasoning with a squeeze of lime juice.

In contrast to her traveling circus of a crew, Mabbot keeps herself clean and carries herself with nobility. Wedgewood considers her to be a tyrant and criminal and plots his escape, but accepts the captain's invitation to dinner and conversation. He learns that Mabbot has spent two years chasing the Brass Fox, the King of Thieves, who the crew believes knows the location of a great treasure. They're hunted by a corsair ship, La Colette, captained by Alexandre Laroche, a naval engineer whose ship is loaded with innovative weapons and who holds a personal grudge against Mabbot.

Brown flavors the novel with fanciful chapter titles and subtitles, a rare treat in fiction which I always enjoy, especially when they're as well written as the ones here. 6. Dining with the Devil. In which I earn a pillow. 15. Dead Man's Stove. In which we lick our wounds and Joshua tells his story. 19. The Culinary Uses of a Cannonball. In which trust is betrayed.

There was a moment that made me laugh out loud during Wedgewood's first dinner with Mabbot in which the captain's pet rabbit, Kerfuffle, unnerves the cook by staring at him while his equilibrium is still trying to adjust to the rolling of a ship. Through seven chapters, Cinnamon and Gunpowder is good humored and fun without devolving into pirate jokes or silliness.

Unfortunately, the novel takes a turn in Chapter 8 that it never recovers from. It concerns the reveal of the villain, the Brass Fox. In the first of several surprises thrust on the reader, the King of Thieves turns out to be . Brown has real difficulty painting the Brass Fox, Lord Ramsey or even Frenchmen as bad guys, pursuing characterizations that are more complex, if you like that in your adventure romances, or obscure if you don't.

Weak villains = weak plot. Mabbot's objective is revealed to be . Granted, that's a quest that might be a first in a swashbuckler, but it seriously calls into question Mabbot's capability as a captain. Worse, it's boring. I'd hoped Wedgewood's culinary adventure would somehow intersect with Mabbot's, and for the pair to generate a lot more sparks than the author commits to.

At the risk of divulging spoilers, half way through the novel, a major character is grievously injured in a manner more appropriate to a horror novel or dark thriller. The tone of the piece starts rocking and rolling like a yacht with a broken mast in the North Sea.

The descriptions remain vivid and enticing throughout, but after seven chapters, the novel turns into a mush.

-- Brown seems more comfortable handling Wedgewood as the central character in the piece. Mabbot becomes a supporting one, a low down dirty shame considering how much more exciting she is.

-- The author's take is too romantic to work as pulpy adventure, too stoic to work as a smut-filled sexcapade.

-- The ending, which Brown makes the very best of with his facility as a writer, is very anti-climactic.

Two and a half stars knocked back to two stars. I paid $9.99 for the Kindle version. Buyer beware: This is way too much money, in my opinion, for a novel that needed work to become something great.
Profile Image for Emily.
687 reviews1,994 followers
April 22, 2015
This book is a hilarious, whimsical novel that features two of my favorite things: pirate queens and FOOD. Captured by the red-haired Mad Hannah Mabbot, Shark of the Indian Ocean, personal chef Owen Wedgwood must now spend his weeks cooking her feasts in a ship's galley with the barest of larders. He's short on supplies and has none of the implements that a self-respecting French-trained chef would require, so he's forced to improvise:

While I was searching vainly for a rolling pin, it occurred to me to try a cannonball. I have to admit it works well enough for pirate pasta.

Owen narrates the novel, and his tone is pitch-perfect; he's a sort of swashbuckling Jeeves. He's dry and (sometimes unintentionally, it seems) laugh-out-loud funny. As an upstanding Christian gentleman, he thoroughly disapproves of Mad Mabbot, which makes their shared scenes the best in the book. Mabbot is clever, intelligent, and ruthless, and she inspires undying loyalty in her pirate crew. In short, she's a badass pirate queen, and her juxtaposition with the dour Owen makes for a great matchup.

Eli Brown also more than matches Brian Jacques in the fictional feast department (did anyone else sometimes think about becoming a vegan woodland creature when they were younger?). Owen's creations sound delicious, even when he's turned a homing pigeon into braised squab. The language around food and eating was equally great:

After only a few minutes of intoxicated burps and happy rocking, Mabbot eyed the brandied mango tart as a pugilist eyes a rival. She carved herself a slice and, with the very same knife, which she wiped quickly upon a towel, reached between her shoulder blades and cut the uppermost tethers of her corset to make more room.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder has its weaknesses: Hannah Mabbot is so sympathetic a character because she's thoroughly modern, under her jade-handled pistols; the plot barrels along, but the book can sometimes drag in places; and elements are so ridiculous that they beg disbelief. Of course, that's part of the fun of the book. If you're in the mood for a fun read with unforgettable characters, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Grace A..
361 reviews38 followers
September 9, 2022
A pirate story, where the main POV character was a captured cook, Owen Wedgwood. He started as a chef for Lord Ramsey, then captain Hannah Mabbot showed up, killed Ramsey in cold blood and kidnapped Wedgewood. Every Sunday he was expected to create culinary delicacies for Mabbot. While Wedgwood was cooking, he was also planning his escape and longing for a time he will be free of his bonds. The more time he spends aboard Mabbot’s ship, the less his desire to flee. It was the middle of the ocean and most places they dock are worse than being on the ship.
This read was okay. Not too hot and not too cold. 3 stars.
Profile Image for Carrot :3.
253 reviews74 followers
January 22, 2023
Just like Owen, I entered a new, busier but exciting phase of life with this book.

With very little time to read daily, I found reading even a few pages of this book comforting. I loved reading about Owen’s frustrations and of course, his ‘hate’ for Mabbot.

I started this for a food themed readathon and boy were the descriptions of the food amazing! I’ve never tried a single thing mentioned in this book but it didn’t stop my mouth from watering. I loved how passionately the food was described. Also the small epiphanies our character gets through the cooking were great.

I love me some badass women. The line- kidnapped by a ruthless lady pirate, drew me to this and it did not disappoint. Oh how I wish I went down in history as a mad pirate like Hannah!

The only reason I gave this book 4 stars is me. I dragged this book on for two months which removed some zing, plot wise.

Total time spent: 10h 40min. (Blame my sleepyhead for taking this long)
Profile Image for Christy B.
342 reviews196 followers
June 4, 2013
I need to preface this review with the statement that lady pirates are most likely my favorite all-time historical subject. I study and read about them, I watch TV and films with them, I even create my own lady pirate characters for stories. I love them.

So, the fact that this book contained a fierce red-headed lady pirate captain, I was all over it, so to speak. There was the fear that I may be disappointed (it's not like books about lady pirates grow on trees) because this book was written by a male author and told from the perspective of a man. I feared, because I thought the lady pirate may be some unrealistic male fantasy. Alas, no! Captain Hannah Mabbot was a realistic pirate and a fully fleshed out character.

The bare bones of the story is this: chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by Captain Hannah Mabbot after she kills his employer. He gets to keep his life if he cooks one fancy meal a week for her. So, Wedgwood must improvise with the ingredients found on a pirate ship. And I really loved how he worked around getting the ingredients that he got. He had to plan ahead and make deals, it was quite interesting to watch.

But Captain Mabbot isn't just dilly-dallying around eating food, she's after the elusive Brass Fox, with whom she has a mysterious score to settle.

We see all the characters through the view of Wedgwood, and it was quite fascinating to read how his perspective of everyone, and of pirating in general, started to change throughout the months. Of course, the best thing to watch was how his view of Mabbot changed. How she went from a one-dimensional ruthless pirate, to a full formed person with strengths and weakness, goals and fears.

Pirating was not glossed over here, and was not seen as romantic. I thought the book really captured the grittiness of pirating.

I could literally sit here and write paragraphs about Mabbot, but I just have to say I was really impressed. Like I said, it's not everyday a book about a lady pirate comes out, so I have to read what I can get. The fact that I wasn't disappointed in the least, makes me very, very happy. She's everything I love in a lady pirate: the fact that she was really no different from a male pirate. She was realistic, and that's all I wanted.
Profile Image for Gavin.
849 reviews384 followers
December 7, 2015
This turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. I think it was most likely a victim of my false expectations. I was expecting a fun and hilarious historical romance romp. What I actually got was a weird historical fiction with a touch of fantasy and a tiny bit of romance.

Mad Hannah Mabbot, the notorious pirate captain, is a terror on the high seas and a thorn in the side of the prominent Pendelton Trading Company. During a raid where she kills a high ranking Pendelton official Lord Ramsey she decides to kidnap his cook. That cook is Owen Wedgwood. She gives Owen a simple choice, cook her a Sunday meal fit for a Queen each week or suffer the same fate as his former master.

My main issue with this was the lack of humor and romance. It was a fairly dark read at times as the pirates were not the most moral of characters you will ever encounter. It also painted a fair picture of life in the 1800s, which was pretty bleak for a lot of people! I did warm a bit to both Mabbot and Owen towards the end of the story, but they were hardly the most likeable characters I've ever read about.

All in all this recovered from a bad start to solidify into a fairly average read.

Rating: 2.5 stars.

Audio Note: James Langton did a decent job with the audio.

Profile Image for Danielle.
396 reviews64 followers
August 6, 2014
Read This Review & More Like It At Ageless Pages Reviews

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a hard book to review because it’s a hard book to define. Part adventure, part food writing, and part romance, this epistolary novel is as complex as the dinners Wedge creates, as beautiful as the love that grows, and as bittersweet as the ending. Tears weren’t expected in a story about a chef creating new meals for a group of pirates every week, but they came all the same.

I was madly, head-over-heels in love with Hannah Mabbot from 2% into the book when she broke into a dinner party, stepped onto the dining table, and then delivered the greatest line in bookdom:

“‘Tell the devil to keep my tea hot. I’m running late.’ Then she fired point-blank, without mercy or provocation, into [Ramsey’s] defenseless body.”

Done. Eli Brown now owns my heart.

Mabbot loots the house, taking Ramsey’s chef, Wedgwood, in the pillaging. She’s decided a captain should have some perks over the rest of a crew, starting with a gourmet Sunday dinner. This sets up a wonderful take on the traditional Scheherazade story, with Wedge tasked to cook a completely unique meal every week in exchange for his continued breathing.

The first quarter or so mostly revolves around Wedge’s desire to escape. It does a good job of setting the scene and introducing the crew, but I was left desperately longing for more Mabbot. Wedge is mostly alone and apart from the other crew members, though he does find himself teaching Joshua, the deaf cabin boy, to read. However, after an escape attempt leaves him in worse straits than before, and yet simultaneously in the captain’s confidence, he’s able to start, if not accepting, acclimating to a pirate’s life.

This is where the action really sets in and it’s quite exciting. Ship battles featuring solar death rays and horrific storms. Flayings, a saboteur, lost limbs, explosions, women disguised as men, long-lost relatives, prison-breaks... It really swashes the buckle. Mabbot, being chased by the late Ramsey’s hired hand, (hoping to catch and deliver her to England before his crew realizes their money went with the dead,) is on a very personal quest to catch the Brass Fox and destroy quite a lot of opium along the way. The circuitous journey; winding through England,West Africa, India, the South China sea, Macau, and out to the Americas; brings treasure and triumph, even a stove for Wedge, along with bloodshed and loss. The descriptions of the locales and locals, while not always politically correct by 21st century conventions, are not to be missed.

But it’s the love in between the action pieces that really sets Cinnamon and Gunpowder apart. The narrator describes every meal with utter reverence, somewhere between lust and religious devotion. If anything, I could have done with a few more meals just for the breathtaking way each layer of flavor is described, building on the last. The continued ingenuity of Wedge in the kitchen was almost more exciting than any pirate confrontation.

There’s romantic love, too, and familial, that evolves and builds and feels very natural. And like the love inside, the book is very bittersweet coming into the final confrontation. Without spoilers, I’ll say when it ended I was so happy with a great read, but I felt as if my heart was broken, too.

However, I don’t want to leave this review on a sad note, because Cinnamon and Gunpowder is more than a tearjerker. It’s also witty and vibrant and a little crude. Instead, I would like to leave you with Owen Wedgwood: Christian, widower, and overall goodly man’s advice on how to extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation.

“There is, no doubt, a proper and Christian response to such an offer, [to join a massive homosexual orgy,] but I was so shocked that my only thought was to excuse myself as quickly as possible. ‘Ah yes, right! Do go on without me. I have a sudden case of the shits.’”
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
June 3, 2013
This extremely inventive novel takes place in 1819 on the high seas, when Owen Wedgewood, chef to Lord Ramsey, is kidnapped by the notorious pirate Hannah Mabbot. After killing Lord Ramsey, who was at dinner, Mabbot eats some of the food on the table and falls in love with the cooking skills of Wedgewood. It is his narration we follow and a well written one it is, in short Wedgewood is a wordsmith, his prose is a wonder. Mabbot promises not to kill him if he makes her a sumptuous dinner every Sunday. This is a little hard to do as the provisions on a pirates ship are not exactly meant for the gourmand.

So what follows is a grand adventure, yes there is killing, this is a pirate ship after all but there is a purpose and reason behind Mabbot's sailing of the seas. As Wedgewood cooks for her, and the details of these dinners are amazing, they talk and learn things that leads them to a tentative trust. This is such a book of contrasts, we have a pirate ship with the regular salty characters of lore contrasted with Wedgewood and his impeccable speech and dry wit. We have rats and bugs in the flour and other disgusting tales of food goods and then once again there is Wedgewood cooking sumptuous food that he manages to get food for. I also love that the pirate is a woman and one I was willing to follow from the English Coast through the Sunda strait to China.
Profile Image for Fuchsia  Groan.
162 reviews197 followers
June 14, 2018
Entre pólvora y canela es una novela complicada de clasificar. Ambientada en el siglo XIX, con el telón de fondo del comercio de esclavos y del opio, no es desde luego una novela histórica, aunque algo de eso pueda tener. Lo cierto es que con el punto de partida que se puede leer en la sinopsis es difícil resistirse a probar, y todo lo que viene a continuación engancha totalmente: los dos carismáticos protagonistas, Owen Wedgewood, el estupendo narrador, y la temible pirata Hannah Mabbot, la Loca; la improbable relación que se crea entre ellos; el resto de la tripulación y sus secretos; las aventuras marineras; algunas pinceladas históricas; la trama algo increíble, incluso diría que con un punto levísimo de fantasía... imposible no pasar un buen rato.

Venganza, amor, secretos, humor, piratas y comida, ¿qué más se puede pedir?
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,394 followers
June 4, 2013
Eli Brown’s infectious romp of a novel has a thoroughly modern sensibility dressed in the garb of yore. It is the early 1800’s and Owen Wedgwood is chef to Lord Ramsey, one of the chief shareholders of the Pendleton Trading Company in England which trades opium for tea, silk, silver, and spices in Asia. Enter Hannah Mabbot, pirate extraordinaire, defender of the underdog, and avenger of the exploited.
”Then entered a pillar of menace, a woman in an olive long-coat. Her red hair hung loose over her shoulders. She sauntered to the middle of the room, her coat opening to reveal jade-handled pistols. Using a chair as a stepping stool she walked upon the dining table to Lord Ramsey’s plate and stood there, looking down, as is she had just conquered Kilimanjaro. Her boots added inches to her already long frame…There…was the Shark of the Indian Ocean, Mad Hannah Mabbot, Back-from-the-dead Red…”
Hannah kills Lord Ramsey for his greed and sins against humanity, and takes Owen captive on her pirate ship, charging him with concocting a gourmet meal for her once a week on pain of his life.

Author Brown’s delicious confection reminds us what we loved about stories of old, and adds that sine qua non of righteous vengeance to sustain our sensibilities. It may be that readers are especially susceptible to feats of culinary desperation because we are too busy reading to shop, so finding Wedgwood creating real cuisine from weevily flour and rancid lard is positively inspiring. Some sea captains for large sailing vessels in my family surprised me with the news that those aboard ship rarely partake in the (obvious to me) fresh seafood surrounding them, as they are not fishermen but sailors, but one of the Japanese sailors aboard the Flying Rose, Mabbot’s pirate ship, always has a line dragging from the aft rail, saving Wedgwood more than once in his search for a main course.

This is escapist fun of the best sort, effortlessly inventive, reminiscent of childhood summers, yet with truths adults will recognize and may take to heart. Once, Mabbot must throw overboard the treasure she has looted from Pendleton ships in order to speed her progress away from danger:
”The men will be bitter for having lost their silver, though it saved their lives. It is a complicated thing. With money in their pockets they become lazy and contrary. Heavy and slow, as does the Rose itself…A small part of me is glad to be rid of it. When my men are hungry, with death upon their heels, they work hard and never complain and enjoy their own company. They sing every night.”

And, on the pain one feels when a close friend or lover dies:
”I’ve had this pain. To tell you it will go away would be a lie. It will never go away. But, if you live long enough, it will cease to torture and will instead flavor you. As we rely on the bitterness of strong tea to wake us, this too will become something you can use.”

And on the sanctity of eating the flesh of animals:
”I thought I would take pleasure in skinning that watchful rabbit, but now that it was still, it engendered in me a tenderness for all fragile flesh. I sharpened a knife until it shone, then skinned and cleaned the rabbit, trying to make each cut a gesture of respect. Loathe to waste any part of the animal, I set brains and hide aside for tanning…As I progressed deeper into the body I felt a mystery revealing itself to me and began to pray, not with words but with simple cooking, a prayer not for the soul of the rabbit exactly but for the generous blending of its life and Mabbot’s. She had fed and loved it and now its flesh would become hers and mine, and in this way I understood that all beings lived only to feed each other as even the lion lays down for the worm. In the striations of the rabbit’s muscle I saw eons of breath and death.”

And finally, we have a love story. It has a prudish man’s restraint, told in the voice of Wedgwood, who denies for ever-so-long his interest in Mabbot and in being at sea with pirates. But lord knows how we all love conquering the inhibitions of prudish men—and how much more satisfying and telling it is for the woman to be the instigator. If men are permanently “on” for sex, their sexual proclivities have less value, as it were. ‘Barky holes of trees’ as John Barth (The Sot-Weed Factor) has written, would do as well. Women, more discriminating perhaps, tell us more by their choices.

A fine choice for a summer read. This book deserves to be widely enjoyed for the sheer fun it offers. It is something apart from the usual, and one must always take note of derring-do.

Profile Image for MomToKippy.
205 reviews80 followers
March 18, 2015
What happens when a cultured and devout British chef is captured by pirates and forced to live among the heathen brutes led a by fiery red haired freckled female captain? Well you end up with nail biting adventure, desperate attempts at gastronomy, fantastic imagery and a bit of romance. The novel sports eloquent and descriptive language, written in a tone and verbiage appropriate to the early 1800s. The author's knowledge of sailing and ships is amazing. The chef's evolution among the pirates is an interesting one and one begins to wonder who the real pirates are? The pierced and tattooed motley crew and their highly feared female captain or the commercial traders that share the same high seas trafficking opium and slaves under the guise of silk trade and doing away with any who dare to object. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? As the story progresses this is quite an interesting and thoughtful twist.

The telling of this story from the perspective of the proper and prim British chef written in diary format provides such an interesting and humorous contrast to the garish and lewd events that he describes. (We are talking about pirates here.) This approach actually highlights the idea that the differences among people are minimal. In fact, it turns out that those who are heartless and souless may be those who appear the opposite on the surface and the "pirates" are in many ways soulful, caring and loyal and dedicated friends. How clever of the author to turn things upside down for us like this to make a point. There are many tender and heartfelt (believable) moments. The farther I read along the more I realized how complex and creative this work was.

Some quotes about food:

"We set to it. The scents that had so inspired my cooking, just hours before, deferred temporarily to the textures of the meal. The croquettes tsked and whispered when bitten into; inside, the delicate fingers of crabmeat parted reluctantly, like lovers holding hands. The squabs were indecent in their steamy terrine. The mole slid off the meat and sent dark rivulets under the tongue."

"What can be said about that pie? Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of the body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness. The angels, who know no hunger, have never been as satisfied."

About grief:

"I've had this pain. To tell you it will go away would be a lie. It will never go away. But, if you live long enough, it will cease to torture and will instead flavor you. As we rely on the bitterness of strong tea to wake us, this too will become something you can use."

About love:

"She laughed too and we laughed together, and I felt something important slip from me. Once gone, I could not exactly say what it had been, only that I had been holding on to it ever since this horrible story began, as a man hanging form a cliff clings to a stalk of nettle; that bitter weed had kept me alive. Now that I had let go, I was falling and would not be the same."

Best of historical adventure fiction with a nod to the foodies among us with a touch of romance and humor. Very unique and enjoyable. (Just a note- quite a bit of violence and tragedy for those who may be squeamish like me - somewhat offset by the humor.)
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,211 reviews453 followers
March 28, 2020
This probably deserves more than 2 stars just for its inventiveness. It simply wasn't the book for me. A mis-match between reader and novel. I don't really appreciate swash-buckling adventure, but for those who do, it may be right up your alley.
Profile Image for Wyndy.
177 reviews69 followers
April 2, 2020
A purely escapist read featuring a trained personal chef kidnapped by a ruthless pirate. A fantasy read in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean, but with a badass lady pirate. 3 full stars for the stellar food and cooking descriptions.
33 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2013
A chef is kidnapped by a beautiful, red-haired female pirate captain and forced to cook her gourmet meals. There are so many ways this book could have gone wrong, but it avoided the pitfalls to be a very fun, exciting and at times serious read.

I was afraid the book would be fluff, falling into cliches of the misunderstood and noble pirate who would not actually harm anyone, and the prissy, pampered chef. But it wasn't long before those cliches were jettisoned like so many cannonballs. (Though here I would have to say that I wish some of the side characters would have been a little more fully-developed, as they did tend to be a bit cliched.) The book does not shrink from the violence of a pirate ship and the harsh realities of life on one. While Wedgewood (the chef) does grow and change through his experiences, Mabbot's motivations, plans and character are slowly revealed through the course of the novel. In a way, the novel is the story of Wedgewood finding himself as he discovers Mabbot's true self.

But of course, that's not all it is. It is also an historical novel about the British empire and the tea trade, and about life on a pirate ship. I was surprised by the amount of research evident in the book about sailing and pirate life, the parts of a ship, daily routines and pirate justice.

Of course, this is also a story about culinary delights, and the feasts Wedgewood concocts in the hold of the ship are intricately and lovingly described.

The farther I got in this book, the faster I read as I got caught up in the adventurous chase and wanted to know how the story would end. Without spoiling the ending, I will say I found it satisfying.

(I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this book on goodreads)
Profile Image for Libros Prestados.
416 reviews765 followers
June 6, 2018
2,5 estrellas.

No es tanto culpa del libro. A mí no me gustan las novelas marineras en un principio y un autor tiene que escribir las descripciones de los barcos y la navegación y las refriegas navales y los abordajes de una forma especialmente amena para que mi cerebro no se desconecte, y la verdad es que Eli Brown no lo ha conseguido. Que estoy segura de que los aficionados a las novelas de piratas no verán problemas, pero a mí no conseguía entretenerme del todo.

Por otra parte, es una típica novela de aventuras. De búsqueda del tesoro, en cierto sentido. Mezclada con un libro de recetas que, si soy sincera, me ha abierto el apetito en algunos momentos.

El protagonista es un poco plano y anodino. La tripulación pirata (incluida la capitana) se asemejaban un poco a los personajes de la película "¡Piratas!" en cuanto que intimidaban lo mismo (poco). Pero como esos personajes también son, algunos de ellos, entrañables a su manera. No mucho. No diría que la profundidad de los personajes es lo mejor del libro, pero dan el pego lo suficiente.

El contexto histórico (justo antes de la Primera Guerra del Opio) y lo que trata de denunciar la novela tienen interés, aunque no lo suficiente para contrarrestar mi poca afición a las descripciones sobre tipos de nudos y peleas a cañonazos. Pero de nuevo, no soy muy aficionada al género, así que es necesario tomarse mi opinión con un punto de escepticismo.
Profile Image for Cody.
301 reviews66 followers
January 1, 2018
"With this meal I surrendered to the mystery of my days and vowed never to look askance at love of any kind, nor to defy it. For the world is a far more expansive and mystifying place than can be said."

What an adventure! When I first saw the cover to Cinnamon and Gunpowder I thought, "hmm...it looks like those old erotic books I almost get tricked into buying at the biannual book sale each year." Reading the cover jacket convinced me it might be intriguing and happily with each paged turned that was confirmed. Set in 1819, master chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by infamous pirate "Mad" Hannah Mabbot after witnessing the killing of his employer at her hands. Forced to become her own personal chef on her ship the Flying Rose, Wedgwood must cook an exquisite meal each Sunday for Mabbot or meet a terrifying end by her. It's an interesting and somewhat hilarious concept, and a well executed one at that. There are deeper story elements here, but I won't spoil them.

Wedgwood makes a good protagonist. He's a humble Englishman of a professional nature, preferring order and views the world as black and white. Mabbot is the other side of the coin. She's eccentric, theatrical, charming and prefers the finer things in life i.e. expensive food, wine, and clothing. Her and her crew are very akin to Hans Gruber and his group of thieves with their take over of Nakatomi Plaza, and I couldn't help but continue to make the connection between the two. What's more, the supporting cast is vast and mostly compelling, particularly Mabbot's crew. It was the little details for example involving Mabbot's second in command, the brute yet loyal Mr. Apples, and his affinity for knitting pieces of clothing for his fellow crew mates, or the young deaf cabin boy Joshua who Wedgwood takes under his wing that make the story abroad the Flying Rose fun to read. It's the rapport that Wedgwood builds with Mabbot and her crew from their travels from England to Asia that really bring this story to life.

Beware: don't read this book on an empty stomach, because Wedgwood will narrate what he cooks and his words are enough to wet most readers appetites. Eli Brown has done a good writing this book. Quite the multilayered adventure!

Rating: 4.5/5
Profile Image for Suzanne.
420 reviews212 followers
April 26, 2015
Recipe for Fun
*Take one rather priggish and rigid chef, Owen Wedgewood, kidnapped from the scene of his employer’s murder, rendering him rather traumatized;
*Add one saucy lady pirate, the infamous Hannah Mabbot, who’s chasing another pirate for reasons no one but she knows, while being herself pursued by an inventor seaman determined to destroy her with innovative weaponry;
*Sprinkle in an assortment of motley pirates who crew Mabbot’s ship The Flying Rose and a young mute cabin boy who becomes, eventually, a chef apprentice and surrogate son to Wedgewood;
*Mix in adventure on the high seas, opium drug trade, corporate malfeasance, and cook until Wedgewood is basted, simmered and stewed with new experiences, transforming him into something else entirely.

“It’s for you,” I objected.

“Why? Have you poisoned it?”

“Suddenly, I was ravenous. Not having touched food to my tongue all day except to sample, I allowed myself to enjoy the first real meal since my capture. I had removed the fillet from the pan while it was still glassy in the middle and it had continued to cook by its own heat to a gentle flake. Between the opaque striations, wisps of fat clung to the crisp potato breading and resolved upon the tongue like the echo of a choir surrendering to silence. The saffron warmed all together as sunlight through stained glass blesses a congregation, while the shrimp sauce waved its harlot’s kerchief from the periphery.”

Owen, our first person narrator, recounts the tale of his capture by Mabbot and his assignment to create a sumptuous Sunday dinner for her each week, despite the fact there is no proper kitchen and the food on board is barely edible, let alone the makings of a gourmet meal. If he fails, he will become chow for the fishes himself, so the mandate to create what amounts to pretty much a miracle on a weekly basis adds to the tension while Owen plots his escape. Owen vows:

Though I have no weapons, nor friends, nor money, nor hope of help, I swear that I will learn the scope of her mission. As an egg spoils from the tiniest crack, I will pierce the pellicle of her mystery and ruin her plans.

Owen misses his old civilized life cooking for the head of the Pendleton Trading Company, is still mourning the death in childbirth of his young bride and their baby, and is appalled by Mabbot’s barbarous methods against her enemies, but also in her human resource management techniques. But his resourcefulness, ingenuity and artistry help him survive as he gradually learns more about his captor’s mission. The reader is always a bit ahead of Owen’s understanding that all may not be as it initially appears to him. There is piracy, and then there is piracy.

And there is food: the creation of a great meal as an act of artistry; the enjoyment of it, sensual; and the sharing of it, a bonding experience. And all the time, Owen’s growing awareness of the complexities of the world around him adds to his self knowledge and ability to transcend past tragedies.

Please be forewarned: nearly every metaphor, simile and analogy used by the narrator presses into service a food or cooking term. Readers inclined to sniff haughtily about “gimmicks” may be offended, but I was impressed by the sheer consistency, number and variety of the culinary tropes and thought it was clever and fun. And that was what I was here for.

It was fun, but it also far exceeded my expectations, in story, character and the quality of the prose. This was so much better than it had a right to be, given the silly title and chick-lit cover. I heartily recommend it to cooks and pirates and readers wanting a pleasant surprise.

Profile Image for Dana Stabenow.
Author 93 books1,869 followers
July 15, 2022
An adventure novel, a history lesson, a love story, a cook book, and a whole lot of fun. Really well written, with no sentimentality mucking up the narrative. These are not pirates with hearts of gold ("TO THE BOTTOM!"), and Owen Wedgewood is such a whiner and so determinedly blind to what is going on around him that I felt the sixty pages after Mabbot makes an entrance worthy of Darth Vader could have been edited down to ten. But after that, the action makes a slam-bang-pow! reappearance and Wedge gets his consciousness raised and how.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
674 reviews300 followers
June 7, 2013
First of all, lets talk about this cover. It's gorgeous no? The colour, the artwork, the smoking gun, and the badass female pirate with her chef. I love it. It sets a tone for the book.

Okay, this book was an imagery feast for me. Brown really created quite the visual adventure with the beautiful contrast of gritty and dark pirate life with the comforting feeling that could only be brought on by enjoying a deliciously cooked meal (seriously, don't read this book on a hungry stomach). He spares no expensive when it comes to the description of how these culinary delights are made and with equal fervor, the swashbuckling action and violence on the high seas. As a lover of food and awesome action, I really appreciate the gorgeous details (if this was a movie, the cinematography would probably have me swooning haha). One of my favourite part of the book is watching Wedge try to create the Sunday gourmet meal with the mix and match of ingredients that he could muster up, be it trading things for whatever is found in the fishing nets, or defiantly snatching herbs from Mabbot.
The small sacrifice to this great descriptive story however was the flow of the plot which felt very stagnant at times. The adventure is told in the voice of Wedgwood, and for a while, I found him kind of whiny and prudish but the longer he stayed aboard the Flying Rose, the more I could see his perspective change. A big redeeming point for me was Wedge's relationship with the deaf cabin boy, Joshua. I loved how much they were able to learn from each other. The love story of this tale, truth be told, isn't much of a grand love story, but a very subtle long-time-coming sorta romance. In this game of love Wedge had no chance against Captain Hannah Mabbot, in spite of, or rather maybe because of her strong, bold attitude. Mabbot was a wonderful character that wasn't just a one-dimension pirate, but a true badass, flaws and all that makes her well fleshed out.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, though I feel it might not be a book for everyone. It's a bit hard to pick up if slower, descriptive books isn't your style. But if you have the time, it's a wonderful, nitty-gritty no hold barred epic pirate adventure with the added fun of tantalizing cuisine that'll have you wishing you've kidnapped your own chef.
{*Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. Original review at Bookmunchies
Profile Image for Kris - My Novelesque Life.
4,626 reviews190 followers
October 6, 2018
Written by Eli Brown
2013; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (318 Pages)
Genre: shistorical fiction, adventure, cooking, sea


When ruthless pirates take over his Master's house and murder him Chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by their Captain, Mad Hannah Mabbot. She loves luxury items and so spares Owen's life if he can make her extravagant meals once a week - never repeating a recipe. Wanting to stay alive he uses the crude materials around him to make his own masterpieces.

In between those Sunday meals, Owen looks for a way to flee the ship. He starts to get to know all the major players on Mabbot's crew and that there are rules for being on a pirate ship. Mabbot becomes obsessive in catching up to the infamous Brass Fox which seems to be her Achilles's heel . As Owen attempts to make marvelous meals and form an escape plan he starts to also get close to Joshua, a deaf cabin-boy and he must rely on the scary Mr. Apples if he wants to live through this ordeal.

This novel (and author) was no where on my reading radar. In one of my Goodreads group (historical fiction group) our theme for our group read was Culinary History - to which this novel was nominated and won. The cover had me intrigued from the beginning - a stunning red-headed pirate holding chef hostage - what's not to like. I started the novel and bam - I have just traveled to 1819 on a pirate ship with scrumptious meals. I enjoyed not just the writing (humour and drama) but also the descriptions of the meals that Owen makes, the ship and how it runs, and the characters (you can imagine them right in front of you). The plot reminds me of an old adventure story like The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas) - a swashbuckling romp. I highly recommend this novel to historical fiction readers, for sure!

My Novelesque Life
Profile Image for Wendy.
540 reviews148 followers
March 30, 2017
At the sentence level, this book is gorgeously written. The main character is a creative cook and the cooking scenes evoke all the senses, and the imagery put me right it the middle of the action.

Much to my disappointment, the story and characters fell flat for me. Partly, I found the tone confused--it swings from grimdark torture to over-the-top silliness that didn't all seem to belong in the same novel. It wants to be one of those lyrical, quirky plotless novels, but it didn't have enough emotional depth or character complexity to draw me in, nor could the lack plot and stakes keep me interested in where the story was going. Mainly I tuned in for some gorgeous food descriptions and reasonably interesting nautical action, but the narrator Wedgewood rubbed me the wrong way with his excessive sniveling, and Mabot the badass lady pirate never really earned her reputation on the page. The romantic chemistry between those two was forced and I struggled to connect with their feelings. I also get annoyed when characters in historical fiction exhibit overly-modern attitudes and fail to grapple with issues--like the opium trade, slavery, racism--in a meaningful way beyond anachronistically stating how obvious it is to them that opium, slavery, and racism are bad and anyone who practices these things are the villains.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 27 books5,589 followers
February 5, 2016
A very unusual book, at times humorous, at other times tragic. The descriptions of food, and of Owen attempting to cook with limited ingredients in an ill-equipped galley, had the air of a fairy tale. The author made things that I'm sorry, I absolutely would not touch, sound like the most mouth-watering feast imaginable. But contrasted to that was the reality of life on a pirate ship: dirty, nasty, full of bugs and rats and deprivation. I really was not sure if he was going for contrast, or it was just kind of uneven. I also felt that Owen's transformation was a bit too sudden, from trying to escape to . . . well, not trying to escape. But I loved the ending with all my heart.
Profile Image for Tina .
569 reviews28 followers
April 2, 2020
I lead my book club on quite an adventure when I chose this one. Two of the gals in the group might throw me overboard for choosing this bleh pirate novel. I best redeem myself quickly. I don’t want to walk the plank. One gal might throw me a rope for helping her escape COVID and her current toilet paper and Rotel tomato shortage. Fingers crossed that I have the goods to barter with. I like my group and would like to be invited back!

You see, I had high hopes for this one based on a recommendation from a trusted friend. So, this month I offered my fellow book nerds Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Title has a nice ring to it, yes? Off we went on a swashbuckling culinary journey at sea that was both unique and a bit predictable. Owen, the chef, is held captive by Hannah Mabbot, the pirate, and is forced to make trifle out of tripe, so to speak, for Mabbot on a weekly basis. Lots of building of the story, while sailing around many countries, to finally get to some blood and guts battling before tidying up the story in the epilogue under sunny skies in Martha’s Vineyard. The End.

Alas, not one of my better choices of books. Still trying to figure out what all the hype around this novel is about. Well, that’s all folks. Gotta go find those Rotel tomatoes now for bartering with W!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
312 reviews150 followers
January 12, 2016
I love cooking and better still eating. To me a pleasure equal to the above two is reading about them. So when I read the blurb of this book I jumped into it. And I should say it has certainly quailed my hunger regarding the foodie aspect. It was indeed delicious!

Apart from the food references I loved the rather unusual plot. A personal chef is kidnapped by a female pirate - The Mad Mabbot- the terror of trading ships. He is forced to cook for her in exchange for his life and so the tale begins. From hatred his feelings change to admiration and then love. But even before Owen Wedge ( the chef) started having thoughts about Mabbot I fell in love with her. She had style , wit, power, passion and was fighting for a cause she believed in. What a spunky heroine ! I loved the parts where her bonding with her son is portrayed . She is just like any other mother. All in all a satisfying read. But I took off a star because towards the end I thought the story had steered off its path and the numerous references to a ship's structure which had my head whirling.
Profile Image for LemonLinda.
858 reviews87 followers
May 21, 2021
Started out with this one feeling fairly mediocre about it. It is not really my genre and I did not like the brutal killings but it definitely grew on me as I read and I ended up liking it a lot and overlooked the gratuitous violence. I guess pirates are by nature somewhat brutal.

And the food passages more than made up for the other parts I did not like as much. The writing throughout elevated the book to a level above my initial expectations, but the descriptive writing of the culinary delights took it well above what I had originally thought it would be.

Read as part of the Novel Ideas 2nd Book Voyage. Turned out to be quite a fun read!
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