The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King
A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.
When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.
As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.
With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.
Today is my stop on the blog tour for the sumptuous book, The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King! It’s a wonderful book, so make sure you enter the giveaway for it and King’s first book a Feast of Sorrow-the info for the giveaway is at the end of the post!
Medieval history has always been my favorite time period, which is why I minored in medieval history while earning my degree. I also love my historical fiction to be based on real people and real events―throw in the fact that Italy is my favorite place in the whole world, so to say I was over the moon when asked to read and review The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King would be an understatement!
I just spent 2 weeks this past April in Italy visiting Rome, Florence, and Venice, and King’s writing immediately propelled me back through the streets of Rome and Venice only this time with a renaissance flair as King recreates the life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the most renowned Italian chef for the Popes, and creates a life for him full of mystery, forbidden secrets, forbidden love, and lots of sumptuous food (I was starving while reading this!).
The book begins in 1577 at Scappi’s death when he leaves his entire estate and last name to his nephew and apprentice, Giovanni. He also leaves a box of diaries with the express order that Giovanni burn them without reading them because the knowledge inside is dangerous! Thank goodness Giovanni is curious about his uncle’s writings because the diaries are the key to many secrets, many that are coded and have to be broken, and tales of murder, violence, intrigue, love, and oh the food!
The plotting is flawless and the characterization is on point. The research of the time period is impeccable and as I said, I was immediately transported back to Italy by King’s descriptions of Italy, its way of life, and its amazing culinary masterpieces. King weaves the secrets throughout the book expertly leaving the reveal of the mysteries until the end.
The Chef’s Secret is a fast-paced, extremely well-written novel that will keep you turning pages. Devouring them I should say! If you love historical fiction, then I highly recommend this one!
~Thank you so much, Amy, at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour!~
**Thank you Atria Books for the gifted copy. All opinions are my own.**
Praise for The Chef’s Secret
“King’s characters are drawn as lovingly, as sensually as the food and the Vatican world she describes, and the plot itself — part secret-code mystery, part love story — moves like a well-paced meal.” (Boston Globe)
“King supplies all of the elements historical fiction fans expect in a juicy Renaissance tale, including luscious meals, erotic interludes, and deaths by poison and blade. This rich tale should satisfy the appetites of fans of historicals.” (Publishers Weekly)
“In The Chef’s Secret, Crystal King serves up a delectable read stuffed with passion, danger, and a plot worthy of Dan Brown. This fast-paced, engrossing novel brings Renaissance Rome and the Vatican to life through the eyes of a famous papal chef. You won’t be able to put it down.” (Stephanie Storey, author of Oil and Marble)
“A veritable feast for the senses, The Chef’s Secret is part mystery, part love story, and all sumptuous sixteenth-century Italy. This tale of one of the world’s first celebrity chefs—Bartolomeo Scappi, a DaVinci of Renaissance cuisine—sent me on a quest to know more, and to my kitchen to experiment—a sign of a great historical novel. Readers will delight in a plot as juicy as Scappi’s braised beef!” (Heather Webb, international bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris)
“The Chef’s Secret is a sumptuous buffet, serving up a love story (two of them!); mystery and suspense so thick you could cut it with, well, a chef’s knife; and such a vibrant panorama of Ancient Rome you’ll feel you’ve walked its streets and inhabited its kitchens. Anyone who loves history, food, a great story—read this novel! Warning: it will make you hungry.” (Jenna Blum, New York Times and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family)
“Crystal King’s The Chef’s Secret is a fabulous immersion in the world of Renaissance Italy, full of passion, intrigue, secrets, danger, and of course food. Come hungry!” (Melodie Winawer, author of The Scribe of Siena)
“With adventure, engaging characters, and an absorbing mystery, King expertly blends fact with fiction, intrigue, and a powerful love story. Well written and perfectly paced, The Chef’s Secret is a fascinating immersion into sixteenth-century Italian life, an introduction to the world’s first celebrity chef, and a reminder of the power of food to influence a civilization.” (Booklist)
“King twists in romance, mystery, cultural richness, and some zesty research. Scappi’s secrets are unveiled at a pace that simmers with intrigue…Mixed together with decadent banquets and sweeping historical detail, King has a recipe that entices the senses… vibrant in both visual and flavorful detail.” (Historical Novel Review)
About the Author
Crystal King is the author of THE CHEF’S SECRET and FEAST OF SORROW. A culinary enthusiast and social media professional, her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart-nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston.
Blog Tour Schedule
Wednesday, June 19
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Thursday, July 4
Review at Just One More Chapter
During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a set of a Feast of Sorrow and The Chef’s Secret! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.