It's a Rip-Roaring Sea Adventure with a Lady Pirate in 'Cinnamon and Gunpowder'

It's a Rip-Roaring Sea Adventure with a Lady Pirate in 'Cinnamon and Gunpowder'

Thursday, 1 October, 2020

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.


This weekend, run away with a band of dangerous pirates for adventure, romance, and crazy-delicious food. When you least expect it, you’ll get punched right in the feelings, and it will be very nice, indeed.

It’s 1819 and the captain of the Flying Rose — Mad Hannah Mabbot, lady pirate extraordinaire — busts into a luxurious dinner party and absconds with the chef. Via an elegant note sealed with wax, Mad Hannah informs the ‘Caesar of Sauces’ that she will spare his life, so long as he prepares a gourmet meal for her aboard ship every Sunday.

The fiesty, red-haired captain has high standards for her crew — opium use is forbidden; punishment is both swift and severe. She’s demanding and enigmatic, as a woman aboard a ship populated by callous and calloused men must be.

Meanwhile, the chef works miracles with the meager supplies available in the galley’s pantry. When not in the grip of nearly paralyzing fear, he makes sun-dried tomatoes, crushes chocolate with a cannonball, soaks walnuts in ale, and even nurtures a sourdough starter — kept in a tin box under his clothing for warmth — through a violent battle so he and the Captain can enjoy real bread at sea.

The food helps minimize some of the tension, but they are still kidnapper and captive. Mad Hannah clearly has secrets, and the somewhat prissy chef is ostracized by the rest of the men. It takes several almost-fatal adventures for him to resign himself to his fate and, in that resignation, find his courage.

Along the way, we meet the motley members of the crew, a traveling circus of ‘every hue and size’ with ‘bullrings through their noses, with turbans large enough to hide a samovar, with gold thread braided into their hair, with scimitars lashed to their hips…’

As the larger-than-life capers careen toward a very satisfying conclusion, we get to know the people behind the pirate personas. That’s when this rip-roaring, seafaring adventure reveals itself to be moving story about family, loyalty, acceptance, and justice.

On my way across the deck, I passed a dozen or so men taking their ease. They smoked, scratched scrimshaw, threw knives at rats, and one of them played a maniacal tune on a gourd instrument with keys made of hammered metal. Even as they lounged, they scanned the horizon for a corsair ship named La Colette, which, it seemed, had made a considerable impression upon them. It was clear they did not wish to encounter the ship again. — Eli Brown

Cinnamon and Gunpowder

by Eli Brown

This historical adventure (336 pages) was published in June of 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The book takes you to a 19th-century pirate ship. Melissa read Cinnamon and Gunpowder and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it. is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel


Top image courtesy of Zoltan Tasi/Unsplash.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

From a luxury cruise to battered warships and open seas to exotic ports, the ocean is a compelling setting for stories of big adventure, quiet moments, human vs. nature, and the drama sparked by close quarters aboard ship.
It's never smooth sailing when the Honorable Phyrne Fisher is involved — but it is always a lot of dangerous and delicious fun. Dine on this delightful shrimp salad while catching up on Phryne's high seas adventures.
The Tom Collins is the ultimate highball, a combo of gin, simple syrup, lemon, and bubbly water. This classic is effervescent and refreshing — the ideal go-along for a literary thriller set on a retro luxury liner.
It's anchors aweigh on these literary voyages that promise excitement of both the physical and emotional variety. You'll meet a lady pirate, a WWII freighter captain, the passengers of a luxury liner, Ishmael, and more.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.