Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Review: The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square

By Becky Gulc

Michelle Gorman (The Curvy Girls Club, Match Me If You Can, etc.) has written a series of ‘cosy romcom’ novels under the pen name of Lilly Bartlett, all with lovely engaging covers. I was fortunate enough to be sent her two novels in the ‘Carlton Square’ series, The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square and The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square. There was only room in my suitcase for one of these when I went on holiday, so I picked the one which appealed most, which was the second book, The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square. Here is the synopsis:

Emma’s new café will be perfect, with its gorgeous strings of vintage bunting, mouth-wateringly gooey cakes, comforting pots of tea and quirky customers who think of each other as friends.
It’s a long road to get there, but as her business fills with freelancing hipsters, stroppy teens, new mums and old neighbourhood residents, Emma realises that they’re not the only ones getting a second chance. She is too.

But when someone commits bloomicide on their window boxes, their milk starts disappearing and their cake orders are mysteriously cancelled, it becomes clear that someone is determined to close them down.

Will the café be their second chance after all? (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

This was an enjoyable read. The writing flowed and was immediately engaging. I loved the whole premise of the café; it really was a second-chance café, giving trainee-ships to young people that may not get chances otherwise (Joe and Lou were great characters). It was uplifting, and I enjoyed experiencing the highs and lows of setting up the business with Emma, especially as a relatively new mum who is forever trying to get some sense of work-life balance. Whilst it’s Emma’s café, it very much feels like a community café, one that people quickly come to care about and respect. It’s certainly not straight-forward though for various reasons, from managing customers ranging from groups of mums to those wanting a quiet place to plug in and work through to the blatant sabotage going on. The characters are varied and there are the ones you will feel for and ones you just want to have a stern word with!

Whilst I’ve read plenty of second or third books in a series and not felt I was particularly missing anything key by not having read the previous novels, I do feel that I could have enjoyed this more if I had read the first book beforehand. This comes down to not connecting with Emma and Daniel as a couple. In this novel they are struggling a bit, managing small children whilst working hard and not really having time for one another. I’m afraid to say I didn’t warm to Daniel, he wasn’t a huge part of the novel, so this didn’t matter, but I’m sorry that he got on my nerves a bit (in part to do with how his accent was written out). Based on what I’ve read from reviews of the first novel, and what Emma herself has to say about Daniel, I’m sure if I read the first book I would have a different opinion.

A great writer and an engaging and thought-provoking story, but with hindsight I would start with the first book in the series.

Thanks to HarperImpulse for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lilly Bartlett:


Janine said...

This sounds like a book that I could really love.

Laurie Iglesias said...

Thanks for the great review. I’m glad you mentioned it might be a good idea to start with the first book in the series.