Interview & Giveaway: The Secret of Chantilly by Laura Rahme

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I am very excited to be hosting Author Laura Rahme! She is currently on a blog tour and is getting rave reviews, so be sure to check out the book!

I hope you enjoy getting to know Laura!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Thank you very much, Amy, for having me on Passages to the Past. To tell you a little about me — I live in France, in the region of Brittany. This is the land of butter, crepes but also of Celtic druids, and the most sinful calorie-packed pastry in the world: the Kouign-amann. I’ve written novels spanning the 15th, 18th, and 19th century. I love travel and my books have been set in China, Venice, England, and France.

What inspired you to write The Secret of Chantilly?

I wrote The Secret of Chantilly out of a love for food and France.

I wanted to depict France’s gastronomy through the eyes of famous chef, Antonin Carême, the man who codified and established French cuisine as we know it today. Carême’s life is so extraordinary, so colorful, that while writing, as I walked in his shoes, it dawned on me that he had lived a fairy tale and that there was a man who had accompanied him all throughout this journey. That man was Talleyrand, a powerful French statesman who developed such a maligned reputation that he also came to be known as the limping devil. I wrote partly because I had a desire to spend some time with the mysterious Talleyrand.

What research did you undertake when writing The Secret of Chantilly?

I like to believe my research started in childhood when I first dipped into French pâtisserie. It continued as a teen when I made crushed praline out of roasted almonds and blended it into a cream to garnish my pastry puffs. It turns out that praline is a recurring flavor in Carême’s cooking.

Carême’s own publications on gastronomy were valuable for insights into his works, his ethics and yes, even his psychology. They helped me discover the mind-blowing range of cakes enjoyed during his times.

But this novel is not just about cakes. It took me three years to research its setting, its diverse characters, and the times in which they lived. The authority on Talleyrand these days would have to be French historian, Emmanuel de Waresquiel. His books were fantastic. Aside from devouring biographies and essays on Antonin Carême and Talleyrand, I studied the history of the Château of Chantilly and books on the Congress of Vienna.

A wonderful highlight of my research was a long awaited visit to the château of Valençay in Indre. This is a lesser known château in western France, not far from the Loire valley. It was owned by Talleyrand and there is something about the place; it has so much soul. During my visit, I followed a corridor from the dining room into Carême’s underground kitchens and it really felt like stepping back in time. I’ll never forget it.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Secret of Chantilly?

My wish is for readers to have a good time reliving France’s history through delicious food. I would love them to feel inspired by Carême’s unique journey and to even relate to it. Despite his genius, he is such a human character and even his flaws are endearing.

It would delight me if readers who previously did not know of Talleyrand came to appreciate his efforts toward world peace and developed a curiosity about him. Talleyrand is still much maligned and often those who speak badly of him actually know very little of his life.

What was your favorite scene to write?

It was a pleasure to write every scene in this book but I was particularly moved whenever Talleyrand came alive as a character.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

I wrote The Secret of Chantilly in first person, allowing Carême to tell his own story, give his own account of events, and share his views on Talleyrand. It was more intimate and suited the theme of friendship. The greatest difficulty was how to share crucial or political knowledge to the reader that Carême could not have known, or could not have written himself. In the end I opted for an alternate omniscient narrator who slides in and out on rare occasions and provides a third person account of the events. To be honest, I struggled with it, but in the end I think it’s charming and reminds me a little of historical narrators in old French films.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As a child I loved comic books, especially Conan stories and Vampirella. I remember wanting to create comic books at the age of five (and own a cape), but I did not seriously take up writing until my early thirties.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

I can write at all hours. I tend to enter these dramatic flow periods where my husband finds himself utterly ignored. Routine wise, I need to balance hours at my desk with a two-hour nature walk.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

As writers, we struggle with our social media vice. But we overcome. As in all creative pursuits, writing demands continuous self-motivation, grit and discipline. We are tough cookies!

Who are your writing inspirations?

My favorite authors are Victor Hugo, Wilkie Collins, Alexandre Dumas, Guy de Maupassant and Sheridan Le Fanu. Having said that, the writer whose life I most envy is Graham Greene. Living in Capri and the South of France sounds like a dream!

What was the first historical novel you read?

The Knight of Maison Rouge by Alexandre Dumas. It is set during the French Revolution and recounts the carnation plot to free Marie-Antoinette from the Conciergerie, weeks before her death. I read it when I was eight years old. It was the first time I had heard of the young dauphin, Louis Charles, and of his heartless imprisonment in the Temple prison. It greatly influenced my novel, Julien’s Terror.

What is the last historical novel you read?

I just finished Althéa ou la colère d’un roi. It is a historical novel by French novelist Karin Hann. Through a fictional female character, it revisits Nicolas Fouquet’s tragic imprisonment. It was fascinating and well-written.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I lived my early childhood in Senegal until I was eight.

I used to want to be a spy; the closest I got to that career trajectory was police training. I fell on my face from climbing a two-meter wall and decided to call it quits after receiving the job offer. I have since compensated by writing spies and espionage into my books wherever possible.

My grandfather, who was far more exciting than I am, was descended from a long line of Breton sailors, three of them honored with the Knight of the Legion of Honor. There was a Saint-Malo corsair who gave the English grief. There was also a naval commandant who under Napoleon III’s orders, accompanied admiral Fébvrier Despointes in the 1853 expedition to claim New Caledonia.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I love time traveling and historical research. Every day is a discovery.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

While I enjoy all historical periods, I tend to gravitate towards the 18th and 19th century.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

It is rare when I remove my writer hat... Historical research is my default behavior when idle. Even travel sparks the imagination and spurs on writing ideas.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I have written the first draft of a historical crime set in 70s and 80s Senegal. I am really excited about that book!

The Secret of Chantilly by Laura Rahme

Publication Date: November 28, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

"In my story, there was such a prince. And never in my wildest imagination would I have predicted that I would come to live with him, in his château."

PARIS, 1792. Antonin Carême is eight years old when he is left to fend for himself in a city about to enter the darkest days of the French revolution. The imaginative boy who yearns for a fairy tale come true soon discovers his talent for pâtisserie.

When he meets the mysterious Boucheseiche, maître d’hôtel for Napoleon’s minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Carême’s world is turned upside down. Boucheseiche promises that one day, he will reveal to him the secret of Chantilly.

Appointed chef at the château of Valençay, Carême falls under the spell of the enigmatic Talleyrand. He is soon swept up in his own fairy tale – a whirlwind of princes, princesses and châteaux, with pâtisserie and scandal along the way. Then comes Napoleon’s downfall and everything changes. Can Carême place his trust in the elusive Talleyrand, that limping devil for whom no one seems to matter?

Orphan of the Terror, genius crippled by self-doubt, it will take years for Carême to finally discover the secret of Chantilly.

This is the story of a child who defied his birth to become a legend of French gastronomy and of the unimaginable friendship between two men from entirely different worlds.

From the streets of Paris to the château of Valençay, from the congress of Vienna to the dazzling ballrooms of France’s richest man, Carême recounts adventures colored with spice, humor and tenderness, but always rich with France’s history, its heritage and its great culinary art.

Available on Amazon

About the Author


Laura Rahme is a French-Australian author based in Brittany, France. Born in Dakar, Senegal and inspired by her Lebanese, French and Vietnamese heritage, she has a passion for covering historical and cultural ground in her writing. She has written,

The Ming Storytellers (2012) - a historical novel set in China's Early Ming Dynasty.

The Mascherari (2014) - a historical mystery with supernatural themes set in 15th century Venice.

Julien's Terror (2017) - a French Revolution psychological thriller/mystery which pays homage to her Breton origins.

Calista (2021) - a Victorian gothic horror mystery set in 19th century England and Greece.

The Secret of Chantilly (2021) — a real-life fairy tale set in France featuring the first celebrity chef, Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833) and one of France's most influential figures, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.

In 2020, Laura announced that she is working on a historical crime novel set in her birth country, Senegal. The Silence of the Pirogue will explore 70s and 80s Senegal, a world she has lived.

Laura plans to craft two sequels to The Mascherari - Malefica and The Master of Cologne.

With Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Engineering (Aerospace Avionics), she balances a 20-year career in Tech with her great love of telling stories.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 6
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Tuesday, December 7
Review at With A Book In Our Hands

Wednesday, December 8
Excerpt at Reading is My Remedy

Thursday, December 9
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss

Friday, December 10
Review at Novels Alive

Saturday, December 11
Review at Jessica Belmont

Sunday, December 12
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Monday, December 13
Review at Bookoholic Cafe

Tuesday, December 14
Review at Bibliostatic

Wednesday, December 15
Review at MTM Reads

Thursday, December 16
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Friday, December 17
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
Interview at Passages to the Past


Enter to win a copy of The Secret of Chantilly by Laura Rahme!

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on December 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Secret of Chantilly


  1. Thank you for making it open to all. Appreciated.

  2. I have heard so much about Careme from a pastry chef friend. Any book about him will end up on my bookshelf. Thanks for your review.


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