It’s a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for A Summer of Second Chances, the latest book from Carol Thomas, and sharing my review. Published by Choc Lit on 27th April, this lovely book – “a heart-warming romance full of love, friendship and four legged friends” – is now available in paperback and on all major ebook platforms. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.
I missed out on reading Carol’s first book for Ruby Fiction (Choc Lit’s other imprint), The Purrfect Petsitter – but I can still remember how much I enjoyed the sequel, Maybe Baby, when I read it in April 2019 (you’ll find my review here). Carol’s been my guest a couple of times too – to share news of her first book in May 2018 (you’ll find the post here), and again as one of authors behind Apricot Plots (you can read again here). Not a sequel this time, but a new standalone – and I was rather looking forward to this one…
Does first love deserve a second chance?
Ava Flynn sometimes feels like the clothes donated to her charity shop have seen more life than her, but ‘maximum dedication for a minimal wage’ is what it takes to keep her mother’s beloved wildlife charity, All Critters Great and Small, running – especially in the village of Dapplebury, where business is certainly not booming.
But when Ava’s first love, Henry Bramlington, returns to the village, suddenly life becomes a little too eventful. Henry escaped Dapplebury many years before, but now he has the power to make or break the village he left behind – All Critters Great and Small included. Can Ava trust the boy who ran away to give both her and her charity a second chance?
First day of sunshine in the garden (at long last!), and I really couldn’t have made a better choice of book to be reading. Ava runs the charity shop in the village of Dapplebury for her late mother’s wildlife charity – and there’s a nice little edge of sadness there, missing her mum, knowing how much it meant to her. But she doesn’t help out with the rescues – for reasons that become clear – and leaves that to her feisty friend Mary. But as well as the animals, the village could do with a little saving too – her other friend Gino, at the pub, is certainly ready to do his bit with the themed nights to hopefully attract the locals.
And then there’s Henry – heir to Dapplebury House, the new Lord Bramlington, back from his travels, ready to take on the challenge of revitalising the village that had been so neglected by his father. Ava and Henry were childhood sweethearts, forced apart by their families for reasons they never really understood – and when their paths cross once more, it soon becomes clear that the spark of attraction never died.
I always love books set in a community where the supporting characters are so very well drawn – there are quite a few wonderful “characters” in this book, bringing a lot of the gentle humour (Flo, who helps out at the shop, is simply wonderful – but not to be left alone to sort out the window display). The depiction of village life is so excellent – where people pull together and everyone knows your business, but long-buried secrets do still sometimes remain hidden. And, as you might expect from the author, some of the wonderful characters have four legs – Ava’s characterful springer Myrtle, Henry’s elderly chocolate labrador Granger, and the gorgeous litter of springador puppies that follow as a result of their meetings in the woods.
The romance really was everything I wanted it to be – a few obstacles to be overcome, some big misunderstandings, a bit of “will they – won’t they”, and a big secret uncovered along the way that really wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. Both Ava and Henry are just so very likeable – you really do hope for a second chance romance, but wonder if that happy ending is ever going to happen. And it’s a romance I found entirely believable and authentic – and that’s really helped by the way both their viewpoints are shared, perfectly done.
The humour in the book is so well judged, and at times really laugh-out-loud – but there are plenty of gently-handled emotional bits too, and a few nice touches of drama. The whole book had that warm cuddly feel that I always so enjoy – but with an engaging story to follow too, and a really satisfying feel-good ending. I’d rather like to return to Dapplebury, just to see how things are working out for everyone – this really was such a lovely read.
About the author
Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively Labrador. She has been a primary school teacher for over twenty years and has a passion for reading, writing and people watching. When she is not in school, chasing after her children, or stopping her dog from eating things he shouldn’t, she can be found loitering in cafes drinking too much tea and working on her next book.