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In the late 1600s, Carlo Demirco’s skill at creating ice creams has brought him from lowly beginnings in Italy, to the court of King Louis XIV of France.   There he meets the intriguing Louise de Keroualle, a lady-in-waiting from a noble but penniless French family.

From there, Carlo is sent to London, to work as confectioner to King Charles II.  Louise is sent as well, to become the mistress of Charles, thus furthering France’s political aims.  But while Louise works on seducing Charles, Carlo finds himself increasingly drawn to her, and is faced with the unpleasant situation of encouraging the relationship between the object of his desire and the English King.

I was looking forward to reading this, as I had previously thoroughly enjoyed The Various Flavours of Coffee, by the same author.  While I did like The Empress of Ice Cream, it did not captivate me in the same way.  The writing is descriptive and evocative, and the machinations and dealings of ministers both in France and England were well described.  The politics of the story were interesting, and made me want to learn more about the period, but I found I could not warm to Carlo or Louise.  Louise in particular always seemed like a distant character, and although the book is narrated by both Carlo and Louise, she never seemed fully fleshed out (although she was in fact a real person; Carlo is fictional, but has his basis in reality).  However, I did like the gradual change in her character – from the point of view of an observer, it was interesting to see her priorities change, and see how she justified her own actions to herself.

On balance, I think I would recommend this book, mainly for the political intrigue, and the descriptions of Carlo’s ice desserts, which are liberally scattered throughout the book.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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