Reviewed by Emma Crowley
The perfect escape to the country…
Recently single and tired of the London rat race Amanda is determined to make her dreams of setting up an idyllic countryside boutique come true, and the picturesque village of West¬field is the perfect place to make a fresh start.
Local vet Ben is the golden boy of West¬field, especially to resident gossip Agatha Mayweather, who is determined to help Ben get his life back together after his wife left.
When a chance encounter outside the ‘chic boutique’ sets sparks flying between Amanda and Ben, Agatha is itching to set them up. But are Amanda and Ben really ready for romance?
Recently someone commented to me what is it with books lately where our heroine is giving up the city life or running away from something to start afresh in the country? Well this did make me stop and think yes they are actually right. This type of book seems to be becoming a whole new genre in itself in the last few months but I do have to admit I like this style of book as normally they are nice and easy to read. Yes they can be a bit predictable but sometimes I just want a book that takes me away from everything for a few hours and that won't require endless deep attention to keep up with the plot. The Chic Boutique on Baker Street by Rachel Dove falls into the category I have mentioned above and I am glad to say it was a truly lovely book with a fantastic, varied cast of characters and a fabulous setting of Westfield. Yes the overall plot was very easy to foresee but I didn't mind that so much as all the goings on made for a quick engaging read and I spend a few happy hours lost in the story of Amanda.
The Chic Boutique on Baker Street was the winner of the 2015 Flirty Competition with Prima Magazine and Mills and Boon so I thought to myself if this book had won a prize it must be good and have something that makes it stand out from all the rest. A cute cover combined with a snappy title that just begs read me now I knew The Chic Boutique on Baker Street would be the book ideally suited to my mood at the time. Although the opening line was a bit worrying when our main protagonist is contemplating whether a strip of ribbon would be strong enough as a makeshift noose. But thankfully the chapter then moved in a more positive turn as we start to become familiar with Amanda as she embarks upon a new life changing adventure.
Amanda is a woman running away from it all, a woman who has been hurt both personally and professionally. She has reached the end of her tether and needs out from the rat race. For so many years pressure has been heaped upon her from all sides not least her parents both of whom work in law and forever longed for Amanda to do the same. Feeling she had no choice she went down the same route as her parents and found herself working in a city law firm, the daily grind continously wearing her down. Always struggling to remain on top of things and be seen as the best woman for the job. So why when we meet Amanda has she recently moved to the village of Westfield in the glorious countryside to set up an upcycling/restoration shop called A New Lease for Life (ingenious name by the way considering the theme of the book). Let's just say men and relationships don't have always have a habit of working out the way we wish them to. There was also something else eluded to as the reason for Amanda escaping. I had a fair idea as to what it could be but wasn't fully certain as to what had gone down. Amanda was a character clearly hurting and needed a place to heal and finally do what she wanted career wise. Working as a lawyer was not to be her destiny. Fabrics and creating were a love she had kept hidden. But now she may just have the opportunity to fulfil a life long desire.
Ben was the local village vet who also was hurting from recent events in his past. Unfortunately an incident with a sandwich board outside his dog grooming business meant himself and Amanda didn't see eye to eye from the beginning. Both Ben and Amanda were great characters and over the course of the book provided us with plenty of laugh out loud moments.
Rachel Dove had a nice, simple flow to her writing and there were no lulls or dare I say boring moments at any point in the story. OK so she did tease things out a bit but it would have been no fun to read a book where everything was plain sailing, even at times when the actions of characters did prove to be very frustrating. Again maybe it was the impatient side of me coming through I really did feel for Amanda when she said 'there must be more to life than feeling the need to conceal half of your personality every day'. I think most of us do that in some form or other at some stage in our lives and I could see with a little bit of gentle persuasion and a nudge in the right direction Amanda would let this go and embrace whole heartedly the person she was truly meant to be. I certainly enjoyed watching this unfold over the course of the book.
Ben and Amanda both get off on the wrong foot. They view each other as annoying and hard to deal with yet there is a vague spark ignited between the pair and as a reader you are rooting for a positive, happy outcome for the pair considering the troubles they have endured romantically in the past. Really Amanda and Ben needed their heads banged together to gain some sense, there were so many misunderstandings and miscommunications. Innocent comments meant they rubbed each other up the wrong way and only lead to more stand off’s between the pair. Just as you thought they were getting closer one or the other would have a weird look or take something up the wrong way and they would then be awkward around each other or misinterpret what had been said. Truly they were the most frustrating duo and I think their fellow villagers felt the same and wanted to sort them out as losing Amanda or Ben from the village would be a true loss when the village is really starting to come to life. I loved how the 'older' residents of the village stuck together and put their little mischievous plans into action. For once in a book they did not come across as meddling and interfering rather they had love, happiness and friendship as their main goal and ambition. They wanted to see love's young dream come to fruition.
Normally in books similar this the Agatha Mayweather character would be seen as the hate figure in the village out to ruin everyone's fun with her prim and proper ways, allways opposed to anything that would enhance or benefit the village. So it was a delight to find the lady of the manor even though regimented in her ways and organisational skills had beneath it all a heart of gold. She was warm and welcoming and always wanted to help others. Amanda really appreciated the fact that Agatha took her under her wing and gave her the boost and start she needed to begin to relax and enjoy village life and put the recent past behind her. Agatha together with Dotty, Grace, Hetty and Marlene formed a tight little unit who could achieve anything whilst gossiping over a cup of tea and a ball of wool. A knit and a natter can achieve anything! The women weren't adverse to a little match making for Agatha too as they wanted her to have happiness and not become lonely after the death of her beloved husband. Her two gorgeous hounds or children as she liked to call them could only provide so much love but the group knew there was love waiting for Agatha right under her nose if only she could open her eyes to see it. Agatha's storyline was just genuinely lovely and heart warming and restores your faith that love is always out there for everybody no matter what stage of life you are at.
The Chic Boutique on Baker Street really is a wonderful read which you will race through in a couple of hours. You'll be eager to know the outcome as to whether Amanda finds happiness in Westfield or will the past rear it's ugly head once more? The 'silver knitting brigade are a delightful addition not to mention the animals dotted throughout that Ben tends to. I'm always a sucker for a cute animal in a book which then adds extra comedy value. I can see why Rachel Dove won the competition with this book as it was an enjoyable, fun read from beginning to end. Hopefully there will be a lot more to come from this author in the future as she seems to have a the ability to tell a brilliant story. I'll certainly be on the look out for her next release.
Many thanks to Harlequin(UK)/ Mills and Boon for my copy of this book to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.