A pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Little Teashop in Tokyo by Julie Caplin, and sharing my review: published by One More Chapter on 11th June, it’s now available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Do you remember how much I loved Jules Wake’s Notting Hill in the Snow last year? I certainly do – here‘s my review again, and it thoroughly deserved its place in my Books of the Year list. I suspect most people will already know that Julie Caplin is Jules’ alter ego: it took me far longer than it should have done to discover how beautifully she writes, and although I really wanted to try one of her Julie Caplin books in the Romantic Escapes series, the timing always seemed to be wrong for me. So when I spotted that Rachel was planning this tour, I grabbed the opportunity – it might be Book 6 (sorry Julie!), but they all stand alone, and I was really keen to find out why they keep gathering such fantastic reviews. And it was set in Japan – a destination that’s been on my wish list for such a long time (and might need to stay on that list for rather longer than I’d planned…) – so it looked absolutely perfect…
Grab your passport and escape to a land of dazzling skyscrapers, steaming bowls of comforting noodles, and a page-turning love story that will make you swoon!
For travel blogger Fiona, Japan has always been top of her bucket list so when she wins an all-expenses paid trip, it looks like her dreams are coming true.
Until she arrives in vibrant, bustling Tokyo and comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart ten years ago, gorgeous photographer Gabe.
Fiona can’t help but remember the heartache of their last meeting but amidst the temples and clouds of soft pink cherry blossoms, can Fiona and Gabe start to see life – and each other – differently?
I always think it’s rather a masterstroke to make a book’s main character a photographer – it offers the opportunity to linger on images, to see them from different angles, to sometimes step back from the action and observe. The author uses that opportunity to wonderful effect in this book: I might not have visited Japan, but I certainly feel I have now, and I might just take this book along with me as a guidebook when I finally get to travel there myself.
I liked the way it included the traditional and the tourist meccas – the cherry blossom, the tea ceremony, the traditional dress, the temples and Mount Fuji, but also modern Japan with its virtual reality, fast (and silent) trains, robots and karaoke. Should romance not be entirely be your cup of jasmine tea, you could very easily enjoy this book for the travel alone – and the way it introduces you to Japanese culture and the daily lives of its people. And the food… friends who have visited have told me it’s the thing they liked least about their experience, but they plainly didn’t have a Gabe to take them to the best places.
I will admit that the romance maybe didn’t entirely work for me at first, although I did warm to it as the book unfolded. Fiona and Gabe (her substitute mentor on her Tokyo trip) have history – a small incident, a misunderstanding when she was his student a number of years ago, has had a disproportionate impact on her life. It’s so disproportionate that he neither recognises her nor remembers the incident until he’s spent quite a long time in her company.
And my goodness, he is a miserable sod – to start with his every interaction with poor Fiona is tinged with boredom and rudeness, and it’s rather difficult to see how he’s become so beloved by the Japanese family that she lives with. But I did like the way that things developed – her warmth and enthusiasm rubs off, he sees her as a woman rather than a nuisance, and what begins as a relationship with very little promise warms up to become a romance against the odds that I really believed in.
Fiona herself? She’s a really intriguing character – lacking in confidence, feeling over-large and awkward, her hair tightly tethered, her emotions kept strictly in check, but with a palpable excitement about having been offered this trip of a lifetime. She blossoms quite wonderfully over the course of the book – braver, stronger, funny and warm – and I grew to really like her once she was able to put the events of the past to rest.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about this book was the family Fiona lived with – three generations of women beautifully drawn, with love, three fascinating characters, gently showing the cultural shift from traditional to modern through the dynamic of the family. Fiona’s experience of family is rather different – a needy and dependent mother who she’s allowed to stifle her for far too long, and I liked the way that story worked itself through too. And the story’s ending – that’s the point at which the romance really worked for me, thoroughly lovely and beautifully handled.
I really enjoyed this book – travel and romance, a fairly uncomplicated story, and it really doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that. And it’s more than enough – I loved it.
About the author
Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands, taking journalists on press trips to awful places like Turin, Milan, Geneva, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam and occasionally losing the odd member of the press in an airport. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to eat amazing food, drink free alcohol, hone her writing skills on press releases and to research European cities for her books.
She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for One More Chapter.
Under her pen name, Julie Caplin, her thirteenth novel, The Little Teashop in Tokyo was published in ebook and paperback on 11th June.
For Julie Caplin
For Jules Wake