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The Lady Brewer of London    by Karen Brooks order for
Lady Brewer of London
by Karen Brooks
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2020 (2020)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Karen Brooks, author of The Locksmith's Daughter and The Chocolate Maker's Wife, beings readers another historical novel featuring a talented woman attempting to control her own destiny while facing constant crises and seemingly impossible odds ... The Lady Brewer of London.

We meet Anneke Sheldrake in 1405 England, daughter of a prosperous trader, currently at sea. Her brother Tobias is voyaging as squire to Sir Leander Rainford, and two younger twins (Betke and Karel) are at home with her, under the supervision of an older (and very unpleasant) cousin, Hiske. As the story opens, a messenger arrives with terrible news. Her father's ship is lost at sea. Even worse, the family is left without assets (including their home).

Unwilling to go into servitude to Hiske (with a similar fate for the twins), Anneke takes on a debt to Lord Rainford to start brewing ale (she has inherited recipes and a magical touch from her dead mother). Her success in producing an excellent product brings with it the enmity of the powerful friary, whose Abbott forces local businesses to buy his inferior ale. The monks don't welcome competition. Hiske also continues to do damage to Anneke's business and reputation.

After Tobias and Sir Leander return, the latter intervenes to help. Matters improve for a while and Anneke even takes on more staff. But someone close to her is in the pay of the Abbott and hits back viscously. There are deaths and the brewery is burnt down. A A damaged and desperate Anneke flees with those closest to her to London and starts all over again - this time in partnership with Alyson, a spirited and knowledgeable brothel owner.

As Anneke deals with one disaster after another (and they keep on coming!) her relationship with Sir Leander evolves through misunderstanding, his marriage to a noblewoman, and a long separation. She keeps on brewing quality ale, which eventually comes to the attention of the King Henry. Overall, the Lady Brewer of London is a gripping rollercoaster of an escapist read!

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