The Cook of Castamar

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Pub Date 04 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 11 Jan 2024

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The Duke of Castamar was once a noble figure who played a crucial role in his family's royal council. But ever since his wife's tragic death, he's been living in mourning, forgoing his noble duties.

Clara, born into gentility but hard-up since the death of her beloved father, has taken to solitude in her grief, rarely leaving the confines of her beloved kitchen. But she must find a way to make a living, which is how she finds herself travelling to the Duke's great home to work in the kitchen...

Clara attempts to hide her secret skills, but when she's greeted by the chaos of the Castamar kitchens, she cannot resist performing a makeover – much to the disdain of formidable housekeeper Ursula.

And when the Duke learns of Clara's talents, he soon finds himself falling for her. Meanwhile, there are people masquerading as his friends who threaten to bring him down... In a world of royal duties, sordid affairs and complicated politics, will there be chance for the unlikely romance to blossom?


The Duke of Castamar was once a noble figure who played a crucial role in his family's royal council. But ever since his wife's tragic death, he's been living in mourning...

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ISBN 9781803285603
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Average rating from 22 members

Featured Reviews

This book will not appeal to everyone but I absolutely loved it. This is a translated publication and I have found that there is a requirement by the reader to read a book like this within the context of the culture of the original author. This book is set at a time in Spain where the Royal Court, courtiers and grandees were very much the overriding cultural influence in the country. Hierarchy, status and outward appearances are paramount and drives the story throughout, Our heroine is the daughter of an eminent doctor who supported the ruling monarchy in the war against the Bourbons. Killed during this war, his wife and two daughters are cast off by his heir without money or status despite their genteel life up to that point.
Food is the theme here and the Clara finds herself working for the Duke of Castamar as his cook. Taught by her mother to excel at cooking, she comes to the attention of said Duke. This is the start of a very slow burning romance. Alongside this theme is a complex court intrigue which is unravelled gradually and is beautifully described. Superb writing, wonderful immersion into Spanish society which I found enchanting. But it requires patience. I am grateful to Netgalley and the publishers for a superb translation of the Cook of Castamar.

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Blockbuster of a book. Value for money with this read. Epic novel with about 15 hours of reading at normal speed.

17th century Spain, France, London. The difference between the upper noble classes and the servants of the day in the big houses. This book brings them all to light in an informative way.

A book for the holidays, really lets you get your teeth into it, along with a cookery lesson.

Thank you Netgalley for letting me read this book.

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I can understand why this book has already been made in to a Netflix mini-series. It is a great, old-fashioned, sprawling, historical epic set in the Spain of 300 years ago. The Duke of Castamar (Diego) is a Spanish Grandee, the highest level of noble, a regular at court and friend to the King and Queen. His new cook (Clara) is the impoverished daughter of a well-loved doctor who, unfortunately, died in the recent civil war.

The book is full of intrigue, heroes and villains, love and hate, gruesome deaths and wonderful feasts. It centres mainly around Diego, his friends and family, since Clara's sister and mother both now live abroad. The constraints of society in 1720's Spain are a key element of the book, which includes characters from all levels; whore to King.

This book is a must-read for all lovers of historical fiction. It is great that it has been translated in to English.
Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to review this book.

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Fabulous! I absolutely loved this story! It was so interesting to learn about the 15th Century Spanish nobility. The Duke of Castamar and Clara had integrity as people, but I also loved Gabriel’s character and how difficult it was to achieve acceptance as a Black man even within the nobility. The many intrigues of the Court reminded me of Dangerous Liaisons in several ways. This was an entertaining and engrossing read. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

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This book has everything for fan's of historical fiction - intrigue, plotting, romance and an insight in to the lives of nobility, their servants and the middle classes in 18th century Spain and it will make your mouth water with the food descriptions.

I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming Netflix series, I hope they do this book justice.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read The Cook of Castamar.

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Firstly, the cover of this book is simply stunning, huge credit to whoever designed it.

A great historical fiction novel, 18 century Spain and detailing the court of the Duke of Castamar, along with the new cook, Clara.

I felt as though the story transported me to the hot, steamy kitchens, amongst the dignitaries in the ballroom, so much so, I could have been there.

It’s quite a long book and one to enjoy when you have time, perfect for a holiday.

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An excellent historical fiction according to my heart: romance, intrigue, action.. A vivid historical background and excellent storytelling.
Loved it
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Eighteenth century Spain is the time setting for this book.
It begins its story as Clara Belmonte is travelling to the prestigious and noble house of Castamar, to take up the new position of assistant cook.
Clara is agoraphobic, travelling underneath hay bales so she cannot see the outside environment. If she is faced with going outdoors she has to wear a blindfold. Clara’s agoraphobia started after a series of devastating things that happened to her family, resulting in a totally different lifestyle.
Clara’s passion for cooking is immense and the book is peppered throughout (excuse the pun) with various dishes and courses she is preparing and cooking.

I found this fictional historical novel to be a good read. I read this as an electronic version and it was just over eight thousand words, so on the longer side.
I was drawn to it because of it being set in Spain in 1720 and the following few years. and my interest in all things from Spain.
The book covers honour and principles, vice, jealousy where you fit in life, it has it all. It is violent and bloodthirsty in places with revenge a theme at times.
An interesting story.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Publisher for an advanced e-book copy. Opinions about the book are entirely my own.

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Since the death of wife, Diego, the Duke of Castamar’s grief has been overwhelming. He no longer feels compelled to play the role of his family's royal council. Yet when his new cook, Clara arrives and takes over the Castamar kitchens, Diego cannot help but be drawn to her. After the death of her doctor father, Clara and her mother and sister must fend for themselves.
This book was very entertaining with many great attributes. The description of the food could have overwhelmed the story and yet there is so much going on, with plenty of villains plotting to bring down Diego, that it held my attention throughout. This is an epic story, told with all the splendour and vigour of the period, set in 18th century Spain.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Absolutely amazing,

"The Cook of Castamar" by Fernando J. Múñez has proven itself to be a delectable literary treat, blending historical drama, romance, and a rich tapestry of gastronomy that captivates the reader from the very first page.

Set in 18th-century Spain, the novel introduces us to the enigmatic Chef Hugo, whose troubled past and culinary genius have earned him a coveted position in the kitchens of the Duke of Castamar. As Hugo navigates the labyrinth of courtly intrigue, he forms an unlikely alliance with the withdrawn and grief-stricken Lady Amelia, creating a narrative that is both poignant and irresistible.

Múñez's writing is a feast for the senses, vividly describing the sumptuous dishes that emerge from Hugo's kitchen, each one more tantalizing than the last. The meticulous attention to historical detail transports readers to a bygone era, where the art of cooking is elevated to an exquisite form of expression. From opulent banquets to intimate meals, the gastronomic journey is as integral to the narrative as the characters themselves.

The character development in "The Cook of Castamar" is masterful, with Hugo and Lady Amelia emerging as complex individuals with layers of depth and nuance. Their relationship is delicately woven, evolving from a professional collaboration into a poignant love story that defies societal norms. The supporting cast is equally compelling, adding layers of complexity and intrigue to the unfolding drama.

The novel's exploration of power dynamics, class distinctions, and the constraints of 18th-century Spanish society adds depth to the narrative. Múñez skillfully balances the romance with the darker aspects of the historical context, creating a story that is as intellectually stimulating as it is emotionally resonant.

One of the novel's strengths lies in its ability to transport the reader to the heart of Castamar, immersing them in the sights, sounds, and, most importantly, the flavors of the era. Múñez's prose is evocative, conjuring images of opulent ballrooms, fragrant gardens, and, of course, the bustling kitchens where Hugo's culinary magic unfolds.

"The Cook of Castamar" is a literary triumph that seamlessly blends history, romance, and gastronomy into a compelling narrative. Múñez's ability to capture the essence of 18th-century Spain, coupled with his engaging characters and mouthwatering descriptions of food, makes this novel a must-read for anyone who appreciates a rich and immersive storytelling experience. Prepare to be transported to a world where passion simmers in both the kitchen and the heart, leaving readers hungry for more.

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I loved reading The Cook of Castamar and immersing myself in its world! This book was a revelation! It described life 18th century Spain so vividly and I enjoyed reading about the intertwined lives of the characters, the intrigues, scandals, heartfelt moments and their struggles. For a book almost 700 pages long, time flew by while I was reading it as the story was fast paced. I also enjoyed that food is an integral part of the book! I can't wait to watch the Netflix series to see the glorious food described in the novel!

I also loved the beautiful cover that instantly reminded me of the beautiful tiled storefronts and restaurants I saw when I visited Madrid!

I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys reading historical fiction, multicultural themes and foodies.

Thank you to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for the e-arc in exchange for an honest opinion.

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I found this to be an enthralling read. I particularly liked the character of Clara, she had expressed a set down in her social standing but was determined to make the best of her situation. It did help that she was a very talented cook and had been trained to deal with any occasion demanded of her in this field. There are many secrets and jockeying for position and power among the servants. The housekeeper was desperate to use any means at her disposal to keep her position. I was pleased Clara held her own but in a respectful way. The Duke of Castamar, Don Diego, had been a widower for a good number of years and now his mother was keen for him to remarry. There is plenty of scheming and secrets among the nobles as well. Some out for revenge. There is racial prejudice and undermining of women’s capabilities from some people. There is a romance or two and a happy ending for the main characters. These characters have stayed with me for some time after finishing the book. A great read that I would recommend. I received a copy and have voluntarily reviewed it. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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A 633 page entertaining historical novel taking us back to eighteenth century Madrid and the Castamar household headed by the widowed Duke. At the start of the novel we meet Clara who is about to take up work in the kitchen, having fallen on hard times. Clara has a fear of open spaces (a fact I seemed to forget regularly when reading this book) but within the intense atmosphere of a busy kitchen she thrives. That is, if she is allowed to, as the housekeeper Dona Ursula takes a dislike to her. For the first half of the book Clara feels like the main character but as the plot full of intrigue and manipulation develops others take precedence.
Central to all the skullduggery is an embittered Marquess who has befriended the Duke’s mother in order to wreak havoc and bring about the ruin of the family. The Duke has an adopted brother, Gabriel, who is black and was brought into the family by the previous Duke appalled by slavery. He fits in with the Castamars but the rest of society is not as accommodating which provides an interesting slant. There’s a number of other household staff and family friends who have their part to play as well as some low-lifes the Marquess uses to do his dirty work.
Translated from the 2019 Spanish publication by Rahul Bery and Tim Gutteridge this is highly readable. I felt initially it was going to be bogged down by kitchen preparation and lists of food as the plot is given time to build and when it does it is all rather effective. It does take a while to work out who is who with the third-person narration seeing things from a number of different characters’ perspectives. I did really enjoy it and its translation may be prompted by a 2019 twelve part adaptation which is now available on Netflix in the UK.
The Cook Of Castamar is published by Head Of Zeus in the UK on 5th January 2024. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.

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