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Banquet of Lies

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Banquet of Lies (2013) Michelle Diener (Regency London)

Banquet of LiesSet in England in 1812.

After reading Death Below Stairs I wanted to re-read a favorite of mine that also features a woman working as a cook in historical Britain.

Every time I read this I love it a little bit more–there is just so very much this story does right and that I love.

Since her mother died, Gigi has wandered the world with her father, a renowned folklorist, and although she also has an interest in folklore, her true interest is cooking.

“What do you do with the recipes?” The woman looked genuinely interested now.

“I’m compiling a reference work of dishes from the cultures of Europe. But mainly I follow them.”

“Follow them . . .” Confused, the woman looked around the crowded room, as if the people swirling around them could help her. “How?”

Gigi smiled. “The usual way. In the kitchen.”

“You make the dishes?” The woman tapped Gigi on the arm with her fan. “With the servants?” Her voice was a squeak.

“With the chef who has accompanied us for the last ten years.”

“Ah.”

When her father is murdered she flees back to London and ends up hiding in plain sight–at the home of a young Lord who developed a taste for French cooking while in the Army. The position is perfect for her, however, problems arise when the butler takes a strong dislike to her.

Edgars started opening his mouth and she shook her finger at him.

“No, no, no. Just wait. There will be two conditions. One, my salary will be the same as a male chef’s. I am better than most of them, but I will accept the average salary. And two, I will not be paraded to his lordship’s guests when they insist on congratulating me for the meal. There is nothing I hate more than that.”

Heaven knows why he dislikes her.

One of the things I love about this story (besides the mystery, which is good) is that although Gigi was raised with wealth, her unconventional upbringing made this a reasonable choice for her to make. And being who she is (and how she was raised) she cares about those she works with.

She was far too thin, and Gigi wondered if she was being starved here. It hardly seemed possible, and she didn’t think Iris was someone who would stand for that, but the evidence couldn’t be dismissed.

“I don’t mind what I eat, Cook. It’s all good to me.” Mavis blushed at being spoken to directly, and fiddled with her straight brown hair. “Never had too much at home. Too many of us, see? Five brothers and two sisters. And me brothers, they took as much as they could grab. Never was much left for us girls.”

“We’ve been fattening Mavis up,” Iris said, and something in the way she said it made Gigi go very still.

If this was evidence of Mavis with more meat on her bones, she must have been a walking skeleton when she’d gotten here.

There’d been deep, cold anger in Iris’s voice, and she looked across at her. Their eyes met, and Gigi felt a sense of connection bloom, their mutual anger and horror at Mavis’s suffering binding them together.

When I think of this story, Gigi’s interactions with Mavis always jump immediately to mind. (I love how Gigi and Iris bond over their worry for Mavis).

And Gigi and Iris do have a fun relationship.

“You look like a beautiful Viking maiden. I can see you with a raven on your shoulder, riding into battle to choose who will fall and who will be spared.”

“Eh?” Iris stared at her, holding her ash-smudged hands away from her white apron.

“The Valkyries. From Norse legend. They rode horses into battle, and chose who was to fall and die.”

“Not sure I’d like to have that sort o’ responsibility.” Iris turned and rinsed her hands at the sink. But she seemed pleased, as if the story appealed to her, gave her a new view of herself.

I also love the many references to folk and fairy tales. (Of course I do.)

And I love that there are very good reasons for Gigi not to trust anyone except Georges. She needs to find someone to give her burden to, but she truly has no idea who she can trust.

And lastly, I love that things are not black and white.

There were rarely absolutely black villains in real life, her father was fond of saying. They were found in fairy tales to illustrate evil clearly, but most villains were colored in shades of gray.

And the food! So much cooking and wonderful food and it’s lovely!

Though today was the servants’ half day, the fragrance of something baking was too strong for there not to be something in the oven.

He opened the oven door, and the scent of vanilla clouded around him like a puff from a perfume bottle.

YUM!

And now I need to go back and re-read the rest of the series, jumping back to book one.

Publisher: Gallery Books
Rating: 9/10

Categories: 9/10, British, Female, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read, Romance     Comments (0)    



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