Author: Jane Lovering
Published: March 2017 by Choc Lit
Category: Romance, Humour, Book Review
Secrets, lies, carrot cake – and an owl called Skrillex!
Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tea room they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!
The story focuses on Josh and Amy, with alternating chapters from each of their perspectives, two people with completely different backgrounds and experiences of life.
Amy runs a tea shop at Monkpark Hall with her best friend Julia, on behalf of the Heritage Trust. The Trust has appointed a new manager and Edmund Evershott has lots of plans for Monkpark Hall. The fate of the tea shop is anyone’s guess. It’s more than a job for Amy, she and her grandmother live in a cottage in the estate village, if she loses her job she and her grandmother lose their home. Amy’s life revolves around the tea shop and looking after her Gran, a blunt speaking lady who can be trying at times. She’s resigned to being plain, overweight Amy who pales into insignificance next to her vibrant, pretty and selfish friend. She’s kind and clever but lacks confidence in herself.
I checked my reflection in the cake cover. Yup. I still looked like the Human Cannonball in a daft hat, but, short of a fairy godmother with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Clinique products and a robust approach to corsetry, that wasn’t going to change any time soon. A momentary wash of powerlessness swept over my linen-capped head. I needed this job, more than just about any-one else employed by Monkpark, I needed to stay. Yet I was the one nobody noticed – the one with the gritted teeth, carrying out the everyday tasks behind the scenes to keep the cafe running smoothly, cooking, serving, cleaning up – relied upon; as necessary as a Hoover, and given about as much attention.
Josh’s story is much darker, and the shadows from the past have influenced the way he lives his life hugely. Flying his birds of prey for visitor demonstrations in Monkpark’s grounds and living in an old dilapidated caravan, he keeps himself fairly isolated apart from popping into the cafe for leftovers. He and Amy build a friendship of sorts but Josh does his best to hide his good looks with untidy hair, scruffy clothes and a stubbly face. Uncomfortable with most people and terrified of small, dark or enclosed spaces, he’s happiest with his birds. They accept him as he is and he can relax when he’s with them.
One of the things that made this story more realistic and enjoyable for me was the fact that a romantic relationship didn’t miraculously solve personal problems and issues, particularly Josh’s. He isn’t the likeliest of male leads but he’s a sympathetic character who grew on me quite quickly. There are mountains he still has to climb, although they are reducing in size.
The easy to read narrative flows well with warmth and quirky humour balancing out the darkness of the story. It covers quite a mix of emotions and issues including PTSD, friendship, fear and deception. A very enjoyable read.