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by Mary Hooper

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: July 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-58234-936-3
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Out of the frying pan, literally into the fire, the young London shopkeeper who witnessed the horrors of the Plague in At the Sign of the Sugared Plum (2003) returns to the City just in time to see most of it go up in the Great Fire of 1666. As she did previously, Hooper laces her tale with vivid historical and physical detail: Hannah goes from quarantine in a revolting “pesthouse” to a stay in a great manor; then while reopening her confectionary, she catches glimpses of the king, and of the period’s unruly theatrical scene. Meanwhile she’s riding an emotional rollercoaster as her beau, Tom, turns out not to be dead as reported, but working with a sinister quack styled Count de’Ath. Unlike the story, the fire starts slowly—but both build in parallel to a roaring climax. Readers not intimately acquainted with London’s districts will be lost as Hooper traces the conflagration’s course in exact detail. Still, those who stay the course will be rewarded with an exciting tale, enriched by a clear picture of life in Restoration London, and a protagonist able to shrug off losses, even of her treasured business, as long as her love life is looking up. (notes, recipes) (Historical fiction. 11-13)