Today it is my absolute pleasure to be on the blog tour for The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett along side Christie Barlow at Barlow’s Book Reviews. I’ll be sharing my review with you shortly but in the meantime, here is what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
One chance isn’t always enough…
Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.
She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They’ll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.
This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who’s in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it’s when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?
We first met Emma and Daniel in The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square and to be honest they were two characters I grew to like instantly. Faced with impossible decisions in order to keep both families happy at their wedding, they made a brilliant couple with a seemingly unbreakable bond.
Fast forward a little while and they are now happily settled into the routine of married life. Daniel is still busy saving the world and Emma is busy looking after their young twins, Grace and Oscar. But that’s not all. With the financial backing of her new in-laws, Emma is about to open a brand new cafe on the same square that played host to their wedding reception. She plans to take on some of the local youth as trainees and give them valuable skills and work experience usually denied to them. Only someone isn’t too happy about a new cafe opening in the area, accusing Emma of being part of the ‘gentrification’ problem. It seems they will stop at nothing to get Emma’s little cafe closed down from engaging in a spot of ‘industrial espionage’, to full on ‘bloomicide’.
I really enjoyed the first book in the Carlton Square series and was looking forward to reading this next instalment. I have to say, it didn’t disappoint at all. Although the line up of characters may have changed a little, understandable given the drastic change in Emma and Daniel’s lives since the twins arrived, the new array of personalities that fill the pages certainly bring the story to life. From the competitive, the corporate and the almost hippyesque mums in Emma’s mother’s group, to the irrepressible Mrs Ishtiaque and her ‘ladies’ who frequent the cafe to help improve their English skills, each and every one added something to the text. And if you aren’t laughing at self monikered ‘PRofessor’, Joseph, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. There was even a love rival, of sorts, for Daniel, and not just the twins who Emma and the family adore. Really there was a little of something for everyone including some good old fashioned East-End attitude. We see less of the likes of Uncles Barbara and Colin and even Emma’s best friend Kelly but Mrs Delaney is still around, as is the Vicar, keeping his hand in around community affairs.
Now Emma and Daniel are going through the same challenges that any new family have when their lives are facing the upheaval of children. Add in the fact that their married life had barely begun when they arrive, and that they are facing double the trouble, it is no wonder that there is tension between the pair. Lilly Bartlett has captured this perfectly, the worn down frustration from Emma who feels Daniel doesn’t understand and confusion and bewilderment of Daniel who is trying his hardest but still not measuring up. I’ve never had children (eewww) but I am certain every parent ever can recognise the ‘symptoms’ afflicting the pair.
The story absolutely flows and I found myself fully engrossed in every page. There was plenty of staring from the cat as random chuckles escaped my lips. Just as Emma wanted to recreate the sense of home that she felt in her Uncles’ bar, so the author managed it in the pages of the book. I really felt like I knew these people well and the sense of community spirit, captured to perfectly in the first book was alive and well here. But I think that what I like most was the relationship which blossomed between Emma and one of her trainee’s, Lou. Lou was a seemingly spiky character but in reality had a heart of gold and all she needed was one person to believe in her. Luckily for her she found just the right place.
Another truly heart warming read which captures the value of family and friendship and all the fun and humour of the first book. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the author for the advance copy of The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square for review. If is available to purchase now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.
Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.
Make sure to check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour