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From the internationally bestselling author ofThe Wedding Officercomes a novel whose stunning blend of exotic adventure and erotic passion will intoxicate every reader who tastes of its remarkable delights. When a woman gives a man coffee, it is a way of showing her desire. Abyssinian proverb It was a cup of coffee that changed Robert Wallis's lifeand a cup of very bad coffee at that. The impoverished poet is sitting in a London coffeehouse contemplating an uncertain future when he meets Samuel Pinker. The owner of Castle Coffee offers Wallace the very last thing a struggling young artiste infin de siecleEngland could possibly want: a job. But the job Wallis acceptsemploying his palate and talent for words to compose a "vocabulary of coffee" based on its many subtle and elusive flavorsis only the beginning of an extraordinary adventure in which Wallis will experience the dizzying heights of desire and the excruciating pain of loss. As Wallis finds himself falling hopelessly in love with his coworker, Pinker's spirited suffragette daughter Emily, both will discover that you cannot awaken one set of senses without affecting all the others. Their love is tested when Wallis is dispatched on a journey to North Africa in search of the legendary Arab mocca.As he travels to coffee's fabled birthplaceand learns the fiercely guarded secrets of the tradeWallis meets Fikre, the defiant, seductive slave of a powerful coffee merchant, who serves him in the traditional Abyssinian coffee ceremony. And when Fikre dares to slip Wallis a single coffee bean, the mysteries of coffee and forbidden passion intermingle...and combine to change history and fate. From the Hardcover edition.
Anthony Capella is a lover of all things culinary who lives in Oxfordshire, England. His previous novels, The Wedding Officer and The Food of Love, have been translated into twenty-two languages. He is at work on his next novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
Chapter One Who is he, this young man who strolls toward us down Regent Street, a carnation in his collar and a cane in his hand? We may deduce that he is well off, since he is dressed in the most fashionable clothesbut we would be wrong; we may deduce that he likes fine things, since he stops to look in the window of Liberty, the new department store devoted to the latest stylesor is that simply his own reflection he is admiring, the curling locks that brush his shoulders, quite unlike the other passersby? We may deduce that he is hungry, since his footsteps speed up noticeably as they take him toward the Cafe Royal, that labyrinth of gossip and dining rooms off Piccadilly; and that he is a regular here, from the way he greets the waiter by name, and takes a Pall Mall Gazette from the rack as he moves toward a table. Perhaps we may even conclude that he is a writer, from the way he pauses to jot something down in that calfskin-leather pocket-book he carries. Come along; I am going to introduce you. Yes, I admit itI know this ludicrous young man, and soon you will know him, too. Perhaps after an hour or two in his company you will consider you know him a little too well. I doubt that you will like him very much: that is of no consequence, I do not like him very much myself. He iswell, you will see what he is. But perhaps you may be able to see past that, and imagine what he will become. Just as coffee does not reveal its true flavor until it has been picked, husked, roasted and brewed, so this particular specimen has one or two virtues to go along with his vices, although you may have to look a little harder to spot them. . . . Despite his faults, you see, I retain a sort of exasperated affection for the fellow. The year is 1896. His name is Robert Wallis. He is twenty-two years old. He is me, my younger self, many years ago. Chapter Two In 1895 I had been sent down from Oxford, having failed my Preliminary Examinations. My expulsion surprised no one but myself: I had done little work, and had chosen as my associates young men notable for their idleness and dissolution. I learned very littleor perhaps it is fairer to say that I learned too much; those were the days, you will recall, when undergraduates chanted Swinburne as they rioted down the HighCould you hurt me, sweet lips, though I hurt you? / Men touch them, and change in a trice / The lilies and languors of virtue / For the raptures and roses of viceand the college servants still talked in shocked tones of Pater and Wilde. Among the monkish cloisters a mood of languid romanticism prevailed, which prized beauty, youth and indolence above all things, and the young Robert Wallis imbibed this dangerous doctrine along with all the other heady aromas of the place. I spent my afternoons writing poetry, and my father's allowance on silk waistcoats, fine wines, brilliant peacock feathers, slim volumes of verse bound in yellow vellum, and other objects essential to the artistic life, all of which were available on ready credit from the tradesmen of the Turl. Since my talent for poetry, like my allowance, was actually rather more meager than I cared to acknowledge, it was inevitable that this state of affairs would eventually come to a sorry end. By the time I was sent down I had exhausted both my funds and my father's patience, and I was soon faced with the necessity of finding a source of incomea necessity which, I am ashamed to say, I intended to ignore for as long as possible. London at that time was a great, seething cesspit of humanity; yet, even in that dung-heap, lilies grewindeed, they flourished. Out of nowhere, it seemed, there had come upon the capital a sudden outpouring of frivolity. The Queen, in mourning, had retired from public life. Released from her attention, the Prince began to enjoy himself, and whe