The Cosy Tea Shop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts
This is a book of following dreams, a unique building and romance. Ellie is a young woman who is fed up with her job, and takes a huge risk. Her self doubt is touching and realistic, as she panics that her dream will prove to be a step too far. This is a contemporary book of the opportunity to fulfil an ambition of opening a tea shop, making a living from a hobby, having to manage a business. At the same time, there is the first time living away from home in an unusual place, a castle with some issues. The characters introduced are fascinating, ranging from a reticent Lord Henry who actually owns the castle through Doris the gossipy waitress, through to the lively Gemma, cheer leader in chief. The story is very effective in depicting the initial struggles of opening a business, as Ellie realises that ordering supplies, managing staff and maintaining the cash flow is as important as being able to bake wonderful cakes. This is a witty and light read in some ways, with a strong plot and elements of danger. A castle is a wonderful setting for a romance, but will a secret from the past and a grim future be a sufficient recipe for a happy ending?
The book opens with Ellie attending an interview to take over the leasehold on the tea rooms in the castle near Newcastle where she lives and works. She learnt to bake from her beloved late grandmother, treasuring her cookery books and additional recipes. She has a small inheritance which will pay for the leasehold for the first few months, but is sadly lacking in qualifications and experience for taking on the business, facts which she tries to conceal in the interviews. Faced with the elderly Lord Henry and and the uncommunicative Joe, a manager of the Castle and farm, she decides to bring a choffee cake as proof of her abilities to cook if nothing else. When she resigns her boring job in an insurance office in order to take up residence in the castle, she realises that she will be leaving her close family in Heaton. That is before she has to clean, stock and open the tea shop, work long hours making sure that her cakes are freshly made, and get two waitresses to work well with a new system. This is before her encounters with Joe become far more than merely business like, and the questions of a relationship become overwhelming.
This is an easy and enjoyable read, which I found especially attractive as I know the areas in which it is based. The characters are extremely well drawn and the setting is well realised, in a castle which is described so well it is easy to visualise. There are set pieces which stand out, as well as descriptions of place which are particularly vivid. I recommend it as an enjoyable and light read which can be enjoyable in so many ways.