Author: Anthony Capella, 2010.
Genre: Historical Fiction. 17th century France and England. Food.
Other Details: Trade Paperback. 406 pages.
"Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal." - Voltaire
As I wandered through my local library my eye was captivated by the intriguing title and lovely cover art for this historical novel. Its story centres on the 17th century royal courts of Louis XIV and Charles II and the invention of ice cream.
It is told in two narrative voices. The first is Carlo Demirco, a fictional character who is a master of the fashionable new art of creating flavoured ices. Originally apprenticed at the court of the Medici in Florence, he steals the secret recipes of his master and flees to France where his skills as a confectioner bring him wealth, a position at court and the admiration of many women. The second voice is the only woman who appears immune to Carlo's charm: Louise de Keroualle, a young French noblewoman from an ancient but improvised family. She is lady-in-waiting to Henrietta d’Orleans, the beloved sister of Charles II and sister-in-law to the King of France.
When Henrietta dies suddenly, Louise and Carlo are both sent to London; their services intended as a gift to the grieving king. However, Louise is also charged with a secret mission to become Charles' mistress and influence his political decisions with respect to a more favourable relationship with France as well as for him to fulfil his secret promise to his sister to convert to the Roman Catholic faith. Meanwhile, Carlo's ambitions are more humble as seeks to impress the English king by creating an entirely new confection - a true iced cream.
This was a very light read, filled with luscious descriptions of various ice creams as well as the extravagances of these royal courts. Woven into the story are plenty of historical events and personages, court intrigues, religious and political machinations with a touch of romance and eroticism. After finishing it I am certainly interested in reading more of Capella's novels, which are described as gastro-romances. It also made me want to find out more about Louise de Keroualle and her role in English history.
Anthony Capella's page on 'The Empress of Ice Cream' - includes conversation with the author, historical background, downloadable excerpt and ice cream recipes.