It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.
When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother's family once prospered: brewing ale.
Armed with her Dutch mother's recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father's aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well.
Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring.
Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?
A compelling insight into the brewer's craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.
From its very first page, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by author Karen Brooks. It is about a young woman, who through the death of her father, finds that she is to lose not only the only home she has ever known, but is penniless while still having to care for her younger siblings. She recalls her Dutch mother's old beer and ale recipes that have been handed down through the generations. Throwing caution to the wind, she approaches her father's employer and landlord and convinces him to give her a chance to pay the rent on their estate for six months so that she and her family have somewhere to live. It is a huge risk but she is optimisitic and sets up her brewery.
Ale is strictly controlled and a group of nearby monks have control of the entire market through threats and intimidation of ale house owners, and suppliers. It does not take long before they make their appearance at Anneke's brew house bent on destroying her. Incredibly kind and wise, Anneke fights battle after battle to keep her enterprise afloat despite the protestations from her brother who is a squire to the landlord's sons.
The author has done an outstanding job learning and describing the brewing process. She has weaved these details into a marvellously gripping, intricate plot that has plenty of twists and turns. Just when you think things cannot get any worse, bang - another blow. The character of Anneke is realistic and highly likeable - a strong heroine who never gives up and faces adversity head on.
This is a rather long novel, so be prepared to cozy up with it for several days. Although there is a short span where the story does lag in some places, the story soon picks up again and builds huge momentum for a hold your breath ending! Well written, educational, and an awesome tale!