Book Review – Secrets of the Chocolate House

Written By: Paula Brackston

Final Overall Rating: 6.6/10

Rating: 7 out of 10.

First of all, this review is purely derived from my own personal opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments; I am always up for a good discussion or to answer questions. 

Recommend Yes or No: 

If you made it through the first book, The Little Shop of Found Things, and didn’t hate it, then I recommend you read the next book, because it is better than the first novel (I can’t believe I wrote that sentence, because the following books in a series are hardly ever better than the first). The biggest improvement in this sequel is that there is an actual antagonist.

(Spoilers Below – Read at your own peril!)

Writing Style: 7/10

Brackston writes Secrets of the Chocolate House in third person and past tense. In this novel, there is an antagonist, there is a more dynamic plot, and there are a couple of unexpected twists. I love that Xanthe is more intentional in how she responds to the plot… It helped keep Xanthe in line with her character arche, AND helped me, as the reader, to have a smoother reading experience.  

In my review of Brackston’s first book, I mentioned that she did a lot of telling and not showing. In this novel she seems to remedy that a little, and focuses more on showing her audience the plot, characters, and setting. I still think she could do more showing, but I commend the improvement.

In Secrets of the Chocolate House, Brackston narrates an important theme – that women are strong and independent and survivors. Women do not need to compromise and even despite being hurled back in time to the seventeenth century, their internal will and ingenuity see them through.

Story: 7/10

When I started reading this book, I automatically assumed it was going to be a mediocre novel, but I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed how this novel utilized foreshadowing and plot twists. Soon into the story we meet Benedict Fairfax – a time traveling villain obsessed with wealth and power. Fairfax is determined to force Xanthe into marrying him, so that he might have control over her more advanced time travel abilities. But Xanthe is not to be bridled, and she overcomes Fairfax with a risky plan that both saves and endangers Xanthe and her loved ones. 

Character Development: 6/10

Xanthe is much more dynamic in this story. She follows the archetype of the Caregiver in that she selflessly tries to save those endangered by Fairfax’s obsession with obtaining access to her power. However, rather than submit to circumstance, Xanthe fights to find clever solutions to her problems while simultaneously honing her skills as a spinner. 

I also appreciated the development of villain. Fairfax’s motivations were simple, he had been in a situation where he was powerless, and now all he wanted was power. But his backstory and basic desires almost made him more believable. 

Fun Facts about Brackston:

  1. Brackston currently lives in Wales (Paula Brackston). 
  2. Before developing her career as an author Brackston attempted “working as a groom on a racing yard, as a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, and a goat herd” (Paula Brackston). 
  3.  Much of her inspiration is derived from her mountain adventures (Paula Brackston). 

Favorite Quote from Secrets of the Chocolate House:

“For secrets hid among the long shadows of the dwindling day, in the dark copses atop the stout hills, within the stone walls of the old farmhouses, beneath the flagstoned floors of the ancient churches (Brackston, 1).”

Final Takeaways: 

You do not need to compromise your character to find and be successful in the world.     

Works Cited: 

Brackston, Paula. New York: St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2019. Print. 

Paula Brackston. “About.” http://www.paulabrackston.com/books/. Web. 

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