It is interesting how a certain sub-genre presents itself to you as a reader. I have not been a historical fiction reader throughout my reading life. However, I read several historical fiction novels over the past couple of years. Beginning with the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay like Children of Earth and Sky, A Brightness Long Ago, and the Sarantine Mosaic Series (Sailing to Sarantium & Lord of Emperors) and I recently finished The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli. I love reading novels about art, music, food, books and how those things helped shape a society in the story. Well, I add The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King as my latest addition to this neighborhood of books.
The Chef’s Secret was inspired by the life of Bartolomeo Scappi in 16th century Italy during the height of the Italian Renaissance. Scappi was a chef of several popes during his time. King chose to tell a story including some known facts about his life as well as imagined possibilities that made the novel a fascinating read.
Bartolomeo died in 1577 and leaves his estate to his nephew, Giovanni Brioschi. Giovanni was Bartolomeo’s apprentice and successor to becoming a chef for the popes. He received Bartolomeo’s journals with instructions to burn them. However, Giovanni decided to decode his uncle’s journals and learned about a secret world that will change everything in his life.
Scappi’s life was a lot of more colorful than Giovanni ever knew about his uncle. And the secrets he uncovered about Bartolomeo could bring a heavy price into his life. Illicit Love, Murder, Deception and the definition of family were all brought into the light by Giovanni.
King tells a fast-paced, readable story that captures the flavor of 16th century Italy and creates a solid protagonist in Giovanni. I enjoyed my journey into this world and wanted to stay long after I finished the book. The Chef’s Secret is one of my favorite reads of 2019 and I highly recommend this excellent novel.