I’ve always been rather proud of being a Choc Lit Star… if you love the books they publish as much as I do, it might be something you’d like to do too, and I’ve added some details below to tell you how. But this month it’s been REALLY exciting! I’ve had the immense pleasure and privilege of being a secret pre-release reader of the new Yorkshire Romance from Jane Lovering, Little Teashop of Horrors – and now you can read it too! It’s available from today on kindle, at just 99p for release day, and you’ll find it here on Amazon (also available on iBooks and for Kobo). See that gorgeous cover? I helped choose it. See the owl? That’s Skrillex, and I’ll tell you more about him later.
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 tearoom 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!
There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.
Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy? Because Edmund could leave her with much worse than a broken heart…
It won’t surprise anyone that Choc Lit really didn’t have to twist my arm up my back to get me to read this one – I’m a totally unashamed fan of Jane Lovering’s writing. It’s always a teeny bit quirky, romance with perfectly judged humour that has you laughing out loud at times, but often with a surprising edge of darkness. And this book – well, I’m delighted to tell you that it’s up there with her very best.
This story is told in two clear and distinctive voices. I loved Amy from the very beginning, as she worried about what the future held for the tearooms at Monkpark Hall, while squirting buttercream flowers on cakes, sweating in her too-tight Edwardian costume. There’s some great banter between her and “friend” Julia – do you know, although Julia’s a bit larger than life (though, it has to be said, not larger than poor Amy…) I rather liked her too, although there were moments when it would have been totally acceptable to dislike her intensely. We learn more about Amy as the book unfolds – who hurt her so badly, why she has such low self esteem, why she’s working in a tea room when she has management qualifications – and her story grabs you by the heart.
I particularly loved Amy’s relationship with her ailing grandmother, who returns from her “club” daily (the day centre) to renewed speculation about who’s been in the house in her absence, tweaking the curtains and rearranging the teaspoons. Amy’s gran is a Yorkshire pensioner through and through – blunt, rude, total beyond anyone’s control to make her conversation socially acceptable – but also a wonderful portrait of a much loved old lady with a slowly deteriorating grasp on reality.
The second voice is Josh – very much an outsider, caring for his beloved birds of prey (he flies them for the visitors at Monkpark Hall) far more than he cares for himself, a damaged soul who draws warmth from his encounters with Amy. His story unfolds slowly too, as he responds to Amy’s approaches – there are dark edges in all sorts of places in this lovely book, and there were times when his story and his desperate sadness really made me want to cry.
The story itself is a real page turner – as the lives of the two main characters unfold, the background story is one of greed, deception and villainy that threatens Monkpark itself and everyone who lives on the estate or works there. But this is a book by Jane Lovering – so there is that perfect balance I’ve mentioned so many times before with those incredibly funny scenes, moments and one-liners she writes so very well. The setting is wonderfully done too – Monkpark Hall with all its quirks and back staircases, with the glorious North Yorkshire scenery that surrounds it and gives succour to Josh in his reflective moments.
I said I would, and I really must mention Josh’s birds – every one a real character that we get to know well, involved in interactions that move the story on. Skrillex the owl – damaged in a road accident, and in need of as much loving care as his master – is just wonderful, and the star of one excellent nail-biting scene in the book when… but no, you must read it!
I always love Jane Lovering’s writing, and read this book in one self-indulgent weekend reading session. It’s a great story, beautifully written in her own inimitable style, with characters I guarantee you’ll grow to love every bit as much as I did. Highly, highly recommended.
If you enjoy Choc Lit’s books, and would like to become a Choc Lit Star and help choose titles, covers and spread the Choc Lit love, email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.