Today I’m really excited to be hosting the blog tour for The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square, the new book from Lilly Bartlett.
Disclosure: I received a copy of The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square for review. The opinions below are my own and unbiased.
Earlier this year, I reviewed The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square, the debut novel from Lilly Bartlett (click here to read my review). Lilly is the pen name of one of my favourite romantic comedy authors, Michele Gorman, and now she’s back with the second Carlton Square novel.
You know that I don’t like to give away spoilers in my reviews. But I don’t think I’m giving away too much if I say that this second instalment catches up with Emma a couple of years after her ‘Big Little Wedding’. She’s now living with her upper-class husband Daniel and their twin babies. Emma is also busy setting up ‘The Second Chance Cafe’ in a closed down pub.
Emma’s goal is to run a cafe with a lovely community feel, which also helps local at-risk teens. She will employ teenagers on a six-month training contract, giving them a second chance. But not everyone agrees with Emma’s altruistic goals, and she’s got a battle on her hands to convince the locals.
The first Carlton Cafe book delivered a wonderful mix of humour and romance. If you enjoyed that, then you will definitely love The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square. Obviously it features the main characters from the first book, Emma and Daniel and this time they are getting used to married life with their twin babies.
Of course, it’s not all a bed of roses, and Emma has all the usual doubts that new mums go through. She’s also got little twinges of resentment about the freedom that Daniel still enjoys. Like when he sleeps through the night or goes out for drinks after works. Emma is trying to balance motherhood, works and domestic bliss, and that’s never easy.
Lilly Bartlett’s books contain a healthy dose of realism to balance out the romance. And that’s one of the reasons why I love Michele Gorman’s writing.
I also love the characters that she creates. As well as Emma and Daniel, The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square also brings back some of the other characters from the first book. So we learn more about Carl and Elsie, who have their own heartwarming love story to share. We also find out more about Mrs Ishtiaque, who has valuable lessons about marriage and motherhood for Emma.
There are new characters to get to know as well, like the Italian coffee seller, hipster home-worker Leo and Emma’s nemesis Barb. Plus of course Joseph and Lou, the street-tough teens who Emma takes on as her first trainees. I think teenagers tend to get a hard press, especially teenage boys. So I love the fact that this book shows the softer side of even the toughest teens.
I did wonder where Emma and Daniel’s marriage was heading, because it looks a little shaky at times. Which is quite normal for new parents, especially new parents of twins who are also setting up a new business! But as you’d expect, there’s a happy ending to The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square. And let’s face it, I think we’d be disappointed if a romantic comedy didn’t end well!
Whether she’s writing under her own name or as Lilly Bartlett, Michele Gorman is one of my favourite rom-com authors. I loved this book, and I’m already looking forward to her next one!
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?
The perfect blend of romance and realism from one of my favourite rom-com authors: 8.5/10