I can’t remember when I first heard of this book; it may have been simply through being a fan of both Wrede and Stevermer. I wanted it. A lot. But it was out of print. (*cue tragic music*) I turned to eBay, and as I recall I paid over $25 for my paperback copy. I was dismayed by the price – and dismayed when its condition was such that the seller should have been heartily ashamed of him/herself. But regardless of what it looked like, it was mine and I got to read it and I had a wonderful time. It was worth it.
And then, not too long after, it was reissued in paperback and available for about a third of what I paid. (*cue “sad trombone” sound effect*)
C’est la guerre.
I read it only that one time, but it’s always been on the radar for a reread, so when I saw it offered by Open Road on Netgalley I pounced. I have become rather fond of Open Road – almost every book I have had from there has been (or might become) an old favorite being given the respect and digital exposure it deserves – and my fondness for the company grew a little more as I settled in to once more enjoy The Enchanted Chocolate Pot.
The short version: What fun. What tremendous fun.
The longer version (c’mon, this is me, I don’t do short except in height):
S&C is an epistolary novel written as a game, as a series of letters between Patricia C. Wrede (in the character of Cecilia) and Caroline Stevermer (writing as Kate). They were real letters, sent through the actual post office, with the story revealing itself as they went along, and if anyone out there ever wants to try this I’m in. When they realized that the Letter Game had turned into something that could be a book, they went through it to edit and tighten and clarify it, and the rest is history. Nothing was planned; each response had to deal with what came before it with whatever surprises had been sprung, and move the story forward. The spontaneity shows – it’s unpredictable and fresh and fun (I might have mentioned that), and if there are rough patches due to the manner in which it was written it rolls along so merrily and quickly and enjoyably that they barely register.
Kate, in London with her beautiful sister Georgianna for their first Season, stumbles into a garden which should not be where it is and is offered a cup of chocolate by a grey-haired lady holding a striking blue chocolate pot. Kate refuses – wisely, considering the hole a stray drop of the beverage eats in her dress – and writes the whole episode to her cousin Cecy wondering whyever this woman would think she was actually someone named Thomas in disguise! The strange lady is after this Thomas’s magic, which involves that chocolate pot intimately, and it soon becomes clear that the lady is not alone. And soon, thanks to Cecy and Kate, neither is Thomas – whether he wants them or not, they become his allies along with his friend James, newly acquainted with Cecilia. And so it begins, an adventure which unfolds in the correspondence between these two clever, affectionate cousins.
The ladies have said that when they put all the letters together they needed very little editing to make it all flow as a story (just the occasional back-fill of details that were invented on the spot at later dates). I believe it; these two are natural storytellers. They handle Regency language deftly, and riff off the familiar to create their own magic-infused version of the period.
And come on – any book that embraces hot chocolate as its central focus has to be wonderful. Still five stars, I’m happy to say.
- Author Spotlight: Patricia C. Wrede (siripaulson.wordpress.com)