Johnson imagines a backstory for Shakespeare’s The Tempest in this entertaining tale of mystery, romance, and shipwreck.
Recently orphaned, Elizabeth signs on as servant to the crabby benefactress of the Virginia Company, sailing with her from London to the newly founded Jamestown Colony.
A colossal tempest strands the passengers and crew near the Bermuda islands, rumored to be inhabited by spirits and cannibals, but upon going ashore they discover a tropical paradise.
When the ship’s cook falls ill, Elizabeth takes charge of feeding the castaways. Her experiments with native herbs and vegetables are such a hit that she is soon cooking up great feasts for the group. (Johnson includes some of her recipes–for dishes like oyster stew and baygrape jelly.)
When Elizabeth gives cooking lessons to her swarthy fellow cook, a romance, encouraged by the pair’s mysterious friend William Strachey, blossoms.
After William creates a play for the amusement of those stranded, Elizabeth–cast as Miranda–begins to unravel his true identity, and the bond they develop changes the course of her life.
Johnson may not be Shakespeare, but her tribute is nevertheless a well-crafted drama.
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