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An Appetite for Violets

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,230 ratings  ·  285 reviews
That’s how it is for us servants. No one pays you much heed; mostly you’re invisible as furniture. Yet you overhear a conversation here, and add a little gossip there. A writing desk lies open and you cannot help but read a paper. Then you find something, something you should not have found.

Irrepressible Biddy Leigh, under-cook at the forbidding Mawton Hall, can’t wait to
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published December 2nd 2013)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Diane S ☔
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 the novel begins in 1772, when Biddy Leigh the 22 year old under cook at Mawton Manor is all set to marry her sweetheart Jem. Cooking is her passion and her ambition is to open her own place and prepare the food she wants to make. All the changes when they get word that their elderly master has married a much younger Lady Carina, who shortly descends on the manor.

What follows is an adventure, as Lady Carina takes Biddy on a mad romp to Italy. Of course things are not as straightforward as th
MaryannC. Book Freak
Ah, a delicious and delectable tale of Biddy Leigh, an under cook with a heart of gold at crumbling Mawton Hall.
Descriptive, engrossing with a cast of characters that add to the enjoyment of this fantastic read. Can't wait for her next book, Penny Heart.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1700-1750, suspense
The opening scene grabbed my attention right away and there is no way I wouldn’t immerse in the story just to find out what happened.

Like an ambitious recipe, the novel has many different ingredients: adventure, mystery, romance and gothic suspense. It is a geographical and gastronomical journey from Cheshire, England to Florence, Italy with a memorable and lively narrator Biddy Leigh. She is an under-cook at the Mawton Hall, whose dreams of settling down with her sweetheart had to be postponed
Michael Foley, an English author, has quoted about "servants" as:

“The perfect servant is the one who attends to all the master's whims - anyone can do that - but the one who anticipates the whims.”

Martine Bailey, another English author, has penned her debut novel named, An Appetite For Violets about the miserable lives of servants and how sometimes, by a simple stroke of luck, they are born with a new identity.

“That's how it is for us servants. No one pays you much heed; mostly you'
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing title, a lovely cover, a promise of history and mystery gave me high hopes for ‘An Appetite for Violets’, and I am pleased to say that they were met. More than met.

The opening sets up the story beautifully.

A man arrives at a villa in Tuscany, looking for his sister, the lady of the house. But she is gone; her whole household is gone; only her little dog, the dog he knows she never would have abandoned, remains. Downstairs he finds a dining table is laid for a feast. He climbs the s
Bailey’s first book is lively, well-researched historical fiction, seasoned with mystery and culinary tradition. Biddy Leigh, vivacious 22-year-old undercook at Mawton Hall, Cheshire, has humble dreams: mastering the recipes in her treasured handbook, A Cook’s Jewel, and someday opening a tavern with her sweetheart Jem. Meanwhile she wishes she could make perfect violet pastilles to please her new mistress, Lady Carinna. Everything changes when Lady Carinna announces her sudden departure for Tus ...more
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is this book flawless? Not completely. But my enjoyment of this saucy tale is certainly 5 star. And completely exceptional for the category of crossover genre. It's certainly historical fiction and yet chick lit to a degree. But entails a mystery and surrounds a good deal of cook book.

It all adds up to be absolutely delightful and even more surprisingly entrenched square within the period.

As opposed to other current fare in these modes, this Biddy is pure late 18th century. She has mores, sensi
I am excited about any book that presents me with a map at the outset. I know I am in store for some travel adventure. Even better that this is a gothic romantic mystery seasoned with historical recipes throughout that tie into the story. And the icing on the cake here is a generous helping of humor along the way.

As the story unfolds, it becomes more and more complex and mysterious. Told from the perspective of an undercook in the late 1700s, Biddy is a delightful character that one can not hel
Martine Bailey
Apr 26, 2014 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
The story of An Appetite for Violets: A Novel began when I was inspired by a kitchen at an English country house called Erddig Hall, near Chester. It has a beautiful kitchen built in the 1700s with arched Venetian windows and a scratched wooden table and lots of beautiful copper moulds. But more importantly it has a collection of eighteenth century recipes.
Some of these recipes were cook’s working papers, while others were leather-bound collections that would have been given to women on their f
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Biddy Leigh, the lead character of Martine Bailey's debut novel, works as the under-cook at Mawton Hall in Cheshire in the 1770s. Adorning each chapter opening are the recipes she consults and writes in a household book she carries on her adventures.

Written by an award-winning amateur cook, An Appetite for Violets fits as “foodie fiction,” a mini-genre that compels reviewers to pull culinary metaphors out of their cupboards and serve them up for readers’ delectation. (See? It's almost too easy.)
Rebecca Mascull
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martine Bailey’s first novel is a tour de force set in eighteenth-century Europe. Its heroine is plain-talking Biddy, an under-cook at an English mansion. We are brought into her world through a cookery journal named ‘The Cook’s Jewel’, full of recipes jotted down through the years by a succession of women. When a new mistress arrives at the house, Biddy is soon drawn into intrigue and the heart of a mystery, the roots of which are not fully revealed until the very end of the book. There are man ...more
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love old recipes and this story revolves around them. The book is beautifully plotted and conceived. The late 1700s is such an interesting time period in terms of cooking, notions of class distinction and the burgeoning role of public spaces for formerly private activities. This is just a wonderful book with a mystery, a murder, a poisoning, some sexual shenanigans and financial misbehavior all wrapped into a traveling tale of food and lodging from England to Italy. I haven't enjoyed a book th ...more
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Biddy Leigh is young under-cook at Mawton Hall in 1773, where her ambitions are no higher than marriage to Jem Burdett and opening a local tavern. However, her plans and dreams are interrupted by the sudden arrival of a carriage one day, bearing Sir Geoffrey’s new young wife, Lady Carinna. No sooner has Lady Carinna arrived than she is eager to leave again, for her Uncle’s villa in Tuscany, taking the famous jewel belonging to the previous Mistress of the house, the ‘Mawton Rose,’ and as much mo ...more
Yvonne Harlech
This novel has a refreshing narrator in the form of Biddy Leigh – an opinionated, ambitious yet endearing 18th century under-cook who dreams of a better life. The book lives and breathes the Georgian period, with a touch of Gothic mystery. Biddy Leigh’s diary is full of colloquial idioms and keen observations about life and food, with personal comments about her mistress, Lady Carinna and her privileged yet oppressive world. The household embark on a Grand Tour of Europe, aptly described by Bidd ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delicious dream of a book. Adventure, romance and recipes.
For a first novel this is a great success, a thoroughly enjoyable read with many twists and turns - just as I like it.
Martine Bailey is definitely an author to watch out for.
Biddy Leigh has been chosen to accompany her new mistress from England to Italy, few others from the household have been chosen, the rest have been given their leave. Biddy has been the under-cook in Sir Geoffrey's household, learning her skills under, Mrs. Garland, the cook. None among the staff quite understand how Sir Geoffrey came to marry the new "Lady Carinna" or why he has removed himself from England to his estate in Ireland, though it does seem odd.

Mrs. Garland gives Biddy 'The Cook's J
I simply loved An appetite for Violets. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It also was different than anything I've read. This is a debut novel by Martine Bailey. I even learned a lot from the Acknowledgements at the end. Like- her former teacher reminded the author that she was writing this story at the age of ten and needed to get it finished! Bailey had Biddy speak in a Lancashire dialect remembered from the author's late grandfather's reminiscences.
The story is that o
Louisa Treger
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Undercook Biddy Leigh only wants to marry her handsome sweetheart and open a tavern. But when the master of Mawton Hall takes a much younger wife, Biddy is forced to accompany her capricious new mistress to Italy. With only her native intelligence to help her, and “The Cook’s Jewel,” a scrapbook of recipes and remedies in which she records her own observations, Biddy finds herself caught up in an increasingly dark and secretive world, where nothing is as it seems.
Biddy is one of my all-time fav
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Biddy Leigh is an under-cook at Mawton Hall in England, 1772, and her only ambition is to marry her childhood sweetheart and set up her own tavern, but when her elderly master marries young Lady Carinna, Biddy is caught up in a world of scheming secrets and lies. She is forced to accompany her new mistress to Italy where she is asked to assume her Lady's identity and is introduced to an entirely new way of life. The one constant is her life is the Journal she writes in daily containing thoughts ...more
Sheila DeChantal
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I honestly am gushing over this surprise book. Gushing because it is brilliant and captured my attention from the start. Surprising because I chose to read this book for my interest in the recipes woven within it and was not expecting to find an excellent read as well.

The recipes were not as I expected. They are recipes for the times… the 1700’s and a cook who made do with what she had available to her, while interestingly enough, (a cure for illness is burning a piece of toast in the fire, then
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
I really enjoyed this historical novel of a young undercook who travels to Italy with her mistress and takes part in intrigue and cooking! Set in the 1770s, this is the story of a young girl who finds favor with her mistress and sets out on a trip that takes her from England to Italy, stopping in France along the way. Biddie Leigh is a cook...she lives and breathes cooking and thinking about foods and flavors so when she gets to travel to France and then Italy, she is amazed by all the recipes s ...more
Sandra Danby
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
The beginning: it is 1773. Kitt, a brother who seeks his disappeared sister, arrives at an Italian villa to find it abandoned, the dinner table laid with forgotten cakes and sweetmeats. You think the story will be about Kitt’s sister Lady Carinna but she is a bit-player. The real story belongs to her under-cook Obedience, Biddy, Leigh, forced to accompany her mistress on a Grand Tour to the Continent.
After this first short section at the Villa Ombrosa, the story starts at Mawton Hall in 1772 wh
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books, 2018
First off, the cover: absolute perfection!
This book was a lot of fun. The recipes are just so fascinating by themselves and then you add a wonderful character like Obedience Leigh. I liked her so much and her good heart was just refreshing. I'm really enjoying these foodie books with mystery and a spark of a good fire.
If you love food and darn near worship it and would never imagine a day without your menu planned out in your entire life, this book is for you.

I guess I'll have to try BURNED TEA
TammyJo Eckhart
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Set during just a few years in the 1870s, this novel primarily follows the life of Biddy Leigh, an English cook whose life changes in dramatic ways while she accompanies her master's new wife on a desperate journey. Most chapters are started by a recipe that Biddy is noting in a book she uses to inspire and track the new cuisine she encounters. The descriptions of the world, the characters, and the especially the food prep demonstrates that author Martine Bailey is an excellent researcher and co ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This lovely read has it all: adventure, drama, cunning, genuine characters, love stories, a mystery, and recipes! Biddy Leigh, under cook at Mawton Manor in the 1700s, loves to cook yet knows full well that her status as a servant limits her future. Things change when the master's new bride (decades younger than the master!) arrives. Lady Carinna decides that she absolutely must go to her husband's manor in Italy - and takes the servants with her.

But there's something amiss in the lady's manner:
Victoria Conlan
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been sitting at the top of my to-read pile for months, and kept getting by-passed for others (mostly because it was a signed copy, and I didn't want to damage it in my bag!). After a rocky start, I am sad I did not start it earlier, as in the end I really enjoyed it.

I have marked it as a 4-star, but it was a bit of a roller-coaster ... it started as a 3-star, as I really did not bond with any of the characters for quite some time. The swapping and changing the viewpoint as the narr
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-book, won
***I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway***

And I am glad of this book I have written for you, my curious reader, this memorial of love that celebrates the dishes of the dead.

Such as amazing story. It was great historical fiction and it was a great mystery, but what it really left me with is a whole different perspective on food and the way we come about the dishes we eat. In this book there is a recipe book that is handed down from woman to woman with each adding her own. Those recipe
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm a fan of good historical fiction, where the research is deftly woven into the story, and you feel immersed in another time and place. 'An Appetite for Violets' delivers everything that I want from the genre: engaging characters, a genuine feel for the period, free of anachronisms, and a romping plot. The thread of cooking which runs through the book adds an extra dimension to the history, as does some of the archaic language ('receipt' instead of 'recipe'). We get caught up in Biddy's search ...more
Lucienne Boyce
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. It's got a great opening which sets up the mystery beautifully, it's got fantastic atmosphere, murder, secrets, true love - and recipes! The heroine (who narrates the tale) is an appealing character who isn't cowed by her status as a servant. Aspects of the eighteenth century are very well evoked, and overall it's a very enjoyable read. Disclosure: I was a beta-reader for this novel prior to publication.
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Man, this was fun! A page-turning historical foodie mystery, set in the late 1700s. We follow Biddy Leigh, a sassy cook who has a curious mind and a passion for cooking, as she travels with her new mistress, the demanding young Lady Carinna, through Europe for some mysterious purpose. There are twists! Romance! Interesting, slightly disgusting old recipes! I loved it and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it.
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Martine is a keen reader who enjoys crime, mysteries and the gothic. Her debut, 'An Appetite for Violets' takes sharp-witted cook Biddy Leigh on a murderous trip to Italy. Its mix of crime, gastronomy and social history was described by Fay Weldon as creating a new genre, ‘culinary gothic’. ‘An Appetite for Violets’ was picked by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the year’s top ...more

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Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
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“That's how it is for us servants. No one pays you much heed; mostly you're invisible as furniture. Yet you overhear a conversation here, and add a little gossip there. A writing desk lies open and you cannot help but read a paper. Then you find something, something you should not have found...” 2 likes
“I was thrown together with Florence, or 'Florawns' as she was called, a pert girl of nineteen who worked in our kitchen and was sent out to help me. First, I followed her to a butcher where fat sausages hung from the ceiling like aldermen's chains, and I could choose the best of plump ducks, sides of beef, and chops standing guard like sentries on parade. Once the deal was done Florence paid him, gave me a wink and cast a trickle of coins into her apron pocket. So it seemed that serving girls will pay themselves the whole world over.
The size of the Paris market made Covent Garden look like a tinker's tray. And I never before saw such neatness; the cakes arranged in pinks and yellows and greens like an embroidery, and the cheeses even prettier, some as tiny as thimbles and others great solid cartwheels. As for the King Cakes the French made for Twelfth Night, the scents of almond and caramelled sugar were to me far sweeter than any perfumed waters.”
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