What a book. I often find with historical fiction that it’s either a poorly disguised romance novel set however long ago, an unrealistic rendition of the era or a bad ass depiction of life in that era. The Brewer’s Tale is absolutely the latter.
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.
This book is set in an era when women were property of their men-folk, so a young unmarried woman setting up her own business, and doing incredibly well at it, is enough to turn everything on its ear. Karen Brooks has done a fantastic job of creating a strong, beautifully balanced female character that manages to do everything she needs to, overcome every obstacle, without leaving the bounds of what one could realistically expect to be achieved in that era.
Anneke Sheldrake is a wonderful character – she’s far from perfect, but that’s what makes her so appealing. The struggles she faces are as understandable now as they would have been then, even if the actual situations vary slightly. I can’t remember the last time there was a good ducking in the river, for example, but the bias and prejudice leading up to that is just as alive today.
I also appreciated the way the romance was woven through the book – I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, or ones that rely on romance too heavily to move everything forward, but this had the perfect balance the entire way through.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in history, and enjoys adventure, mystery, and a damn good story.
I received a copy of this book from Goodread’s First Reads.