Little Teashop of Horrors – Jane Lovering
Secrets, lies, carrot cake and an owl called Skrillex!
Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tearoom they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!
There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.
Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy? Because Edmund could leave her with much worse than a broken heart…
Let me say upfront, that I really enjoyed this book. The characters are very relatable and very real. A couple are annoying, horrible, selfish, and downright revolting. They do not, however, take away from the fact that this odd, idiosyncratic romance is an absolute delight, and is a great anti-dote to the standard sickly sweet romantic tropes churned out ad nausea.
I found the title to be a little misleading; the ‘Little Teashop of Horrors’ led me to expect something very different. I’m not exactly sure what the ‘horror’ was meant to be, maybe it was the new boss…
Amy is a character that makes you want to shake her, but only because you are rooting for her to stand up for herself. The two people closest to her, her grandmother and friend Julia, are more concerned with themselves, and don’t appear to see the negative impact they have on Amy’s life.
Her Grandmother has brought Amy up within a confining set of rules and behaviours to the extent that Amy’s gentle character consistently buries her anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction. The behaviour and strictures are the product of Grandma’s generation, class, and upbringing, and from having lived and worked all her life within the small community on the estate. Though I wouldn’t put up with the tea-making shenanigans, Amy must also deal with the early symptoms of her Grandmother’s dementia.
Amy’s childhood friend Julia knows how to manipulate and sway Amy to get her own way. I found her to be selfish and ego-centric, and given what happened between them in the past, I would have questioned their friendship except that Amy is so used to burying any irritation or grievance, her life has become governed by other people’s wants and needs rather than her own. She sees nothing in herself that would be attractive to the opposite sex, or make her of more value to those around her.
Evershott is brilliantly drawn as one of those men who plays with the emotions of people he perceives to be ‘weak’, in order to get what he wants. His manipulation of Amy is almost textbook and very unpleasant. Gaslighting springs to mind. As the new boss who holds the future of the estate’s employees in his hands, and by extension their homes, he is in a position of power, and he uses it for his own ends, especially with Amy.
Josh is the unlikely hero of this tale, and by far one of the best characters in the book. He is a loner, a bit odd, and is plagued by his past. In Amy, he sees someone he can relate to. He is attracted to her but not sure what to do about it. His behaviour at one point is totally un-hero-like, and I loved it. None of that ‘man to the rescue’ stuff we are plied with repeatedly. The other great characters are Josh’s birds. They are such a refreshing addition, and I love their disobedience! The relationships between humans and birds are terrific – Skrillex is just a delight!
Written slightly tongue-in-cheek, it is gentle and warm with a most liberal sprinkling of humour. I read it in two sittings (I do sleep occasionally), and thoroughly enjoyed how the story panned out. Peopled by refreshingly real characters, this isn’t a fast-paced read, but it doesn’t need to be; the story unfolds around the characters and the romance builds naturally. Lovely!
Read and enjoy.