Review: The Lady Brewer of London by Karen Brooks

Title: The Lady Brewer of London

Author: Karen Brooks

Published: 10th November 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss


My Thoughts:

When Anneke Sheldrake’s father is lost at sea she is horrified to learn that she and her younger siblings have been left with nothing. Desperate to keep what remains of her family together, she strikes a bold bargain with her father’s employer and, armed with her late mother’s family recipes, daringly chooses to go into business as a brewer of ale. Despite being ostracised by most of her family and friends, and repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the local Abbot and his cronies whose monopoly of the ale trade is threatened, Anneke’s brew steadily wins favour amongst the community. Just as success seems within her reach, Anneke is targeted in a malicious attack that razes nearly everything she holds dear. Forced to flee for her life, Anneke is nevertheless determined to begin again and finds an unlikely ally in a London brothel owner. With courage and hard work, Anneke, taking the name Anna de Winter, slowly rebuilds her life and business, until the horrors of her past once again threaten to destroy her.

A saga of betrayal, love, tragedy, courage and triumph, The Lady Brewer Of London is an ambitious historical drama by author, Karen Brooks.

Anneke is strong protagonist, with spirit and convictions uncommon for her time. Despite harrowing personal tragedy she finds the strength to rise above it and carry on, refusing to be cowed by her persecutors. Her courage, loyalty and determination are admirable qualities and ensure the reader is firmly on her side, willing her to triumph.

Anneke’s loyal cast including her sweet sister, Betje, the brash Alyson, and the dashing hero, Lord Leander Rainford, are eminently appealing. The villains, including Anneke’s spiteful cousin, a raft of spiritually corrupt monks, and her inescapable enemy are infuriating and often terrifying.

Though set in medieval England, the story begins in ‘The year of Our Lord 1405 in the sixth year of the reign of Henry IV’, I didn’t get a true sense of the period. It seemed not that much different from Georgian or Victorian times, though to be fair it mattered little as the details were consistent and the setting well grounded. I was surprised at how interested I was in the history of the brewery industry, and I finally discovered the difference between beer and ale. (I don’t drink either so had never thought about it before)

The writing is articulate and the first person perspective works well. The pacing was reasonable but I did feel the story, at well over 500 pages, was too long overall. I was tempted to skim at times, particularly as the plot was, though well thought out, generally predictable, with the second half of the story essentially mirroring the events of the first.

Nevertheless, The Lady Brewer of London was a satisfying read and I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy the drama and romance of sweeping historical fiction driven by a strong heroine.


Available from HarperCollins US

Or your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko

* Published in Australia as The Brewer’s Tale *

Also by Karen Brooks reviewed at Book’d Out

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claire Louisa
    Nov 20, 2020 @ 23:22:59

    It looks like you read it first back in 2014 and the second time was better. I wonder why they changed the name?



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Nov 21, 2020 @ 00:45:44

      I know, I got a few pages in and thought, ‘I’ve read this before’, kept reading for a bit longer and was certain I had, This is the US version which is a new release (via edelweiss) and a new title, the original Australian release was in 2014. Since it was an ARC, and it’s been 6 years, I skimmed it. I didn’t feel the need to add anything to my review as such, so just republished it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


  2. Carol
    Nov 21, 2020 @ 04:41:14

    Ugh! Too long! It better be really good if it’s that long!



  3. Verushka, an editor (@SydneyEditor1)
    Nov 21, 2020 @ 21:52:58

    From your review, I think I would like Anneke, but gosh, I would need the pacing to be spot on at this length. Still though Anneke, and the premise would deifnitely grab my attention.

    Liked by 1 person


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  5. Grab the Lapels
    Nov 25, 2020 @ 04:18:22

    Oh, no! I had thought about reading this one based on the brewery angle, though I must confess I didn’t realize it was an Australian book.

    Liked by 1 person


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