The Chocolate Factory is Tasmanian writer Mary-Lou Stephens’s second historical novel with Harper Collins.
Set in 1920s Hobart, the story unfolds in the aftermath of WW1, as two ambitious women, Dorothy and Maisie, are building their careers (unusual for women of the time) at the brand new Cadbury’s factory near Hobart.
The two women become aware of a plot to steal the valuable recipe for Cadbury’s famous Dairy Milk Chocolate.
Maisie is the oldest daughter of a war widow with failing health. Her job at Cadbury’s supports her family so should she allow herself to be romanced by her charming colleague Frank, or tricked by a confidence man?
Dorothy is Maisie’s manager who worked her way up the ranks at Cadbury’s Bournville factory in England. After losing her husband in The Great War, Dorothy seeks a fresh start in the colonies and is devoted to her new career in Australia.
Gossip and jealousy confound Dorothy and Maisie’s personal and professional relationships while they wait for the factory’s housing construction to be completed.
Dorothy works to protect her trainees and comes to care deeply for returned soldier Thomas, who bears the emotional scars of war just like her beloved husband.
She finds herself risking her professional and personal reputation to protect his secret.
Can Dorothy and Maisie protect the precious Dairy Milk Chocolate recipe, help those they love and fulfil their own dreams?
It’s a compelling narrative and the author, Mary-Lou Stephen’s impeccable research gives the story genuine historical clout.
The reader learns how the Cadbury family were innovative around workplace relations: building an entire township around its factories, securing a loyal, inter-generational workforce and building an economic empire, on confectionery alone, during a global depression.
It was confectionery no one needed to survive and thrive yet Cadbury chocolate evolved to encode a message of delight and celebration for children and families, as well as a tradition of romance for adults.
Many readers will have made a nest for Cadbury Easter eggs, given or received a box of Cadbury Roses chocolates and this insight into the evolution of Cadbury in Australia will intrigue many.
The Chocolate Factory is a perfect companion to Mary Lou Stephens previous historical novel The Last Of The Apple Blossom and fans of Tasmanian literature will not be disappointed.
The Chocolate Factory is published by Harper Collins. On sale for $14.99 AUD from 31 January 2024.