Friday, 16 September 2016

Emma's Review: Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

It’s time to get toasty by the fire with a glass of mulled wine and a slice of chocolate yule log sprinkled with a little romance. Welcome to Christmas at the Little Village Bakery. 

Snow is falling in Honeybourne and Spencer is bringing home his American fiancée Tori for a traditional English Christmas with all the trimmings. But when his hippie mum and dad meet her high-maintenance parents, sparks of the wrong sort start to fly. Then Spencer bumps into his first love Jasmine and unexpected feelings come flooding back. 

Millie is run off her feet with Christmas orders at the Little Village Bakery and new baby Oscar. Thank goodness her cousin Darcie is here to help her. Although she does seem to be rather flirty with Millie’s boyfriend Dylan. 

Will Darcie ever find true love of her own? And is marrying Tori a terrible mistake for Spencer if his heart is with someone else? 

Amazon Link: Kindle 

The cover alone would want to make you pick up the second instalment of Tilly Tennant's Honeybourne series - Christmas at the Little Village Bakery. I adored the cover for book one and this new cover is no exception summing up all the festive fare on offer in terms food at this time of year. It just inspires that Christmas feeling that comes but once a year yet we look forward to this period of giving and indulgence for many months. I felt the first book in the series The Little Village Bakery released in June of this year was a very good read with a few surprising twists yet it lacked some focus on the bakery as mentioned in the title. I realise our main character Millie was only settling into the village and trying to establish a new life for herself and to reopen the bakery but that little bit of magic was missing for me. So yes I started this new book with some slight trepidation as I really wanted that Christmas spark and feeling to be present here and would have been bitterly disappointed if it had not been. Clichéd though it may sound right from the very first chapter I got a good feeling about this book that lasted straight through to the end. I think this book was far better than the first and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. 

This new story focuses mainly on Spencer who had featured briefly enough in book one. He did have an important storyline yet now he is allowed to come to the forefront and let his troubles with American born fiancée come to the fore all based around the wonderful setting of Honeybourne and Christmas. For fans of Millie don't worry she is still here and we can see how she is getting on now but I enjoyed how a different character was given the opportunity to shine whilst at the same time we were still updated about old familiar favourites. Writing a series like this I do think it is important not to always focus on the one character throughout instead letting various characters into the light so we can get to know them.

Right from the opening scene as Spencer and Tori walk through the snow covered lanes to the village bakery run by Millie and her partner Dylan I was hooked into this story. The scenes, settings, characters and not to mention food and baking were all so on point that I had rich, vivid images in my head and wished Honeybourne was real so I could pay a visit. As it is winter and the festive season is approaching the book fitted in very well with the time of year as people are bundled in their warm coats out walking and enjoying hot food and delectable treats from the bakery. There is a sense of anticipation as to what is to come but of course it's never plain sailing in the run up to Christmas Day. Spencer has returned from America for the holidays with his new fiancée Tori whom he met at the school he was working in as part of an exchange program for a year. Spencer is very happy but the only stumbling block is an issue many people may be familiar with and that is both sets of parents haven’t met each other. Coupled with this is the fact that neither himself or Tori can decide where they want to live once they get married - America or Honeybourne? As you can imagine Spencer experiences a myriad of emotions throughout this book and is faced with indecision and opposition throughout. Now that he is back home on safe beloved territory old feelings for a certain someone begin to raise their heads and he is left wondering what does he really want? Spencer had featured before as the best friend of Dylan and I was delighted to see a continuation and development of his storyline and for once in a book of this genre a male character was given prominence and the male point of view was very well written. It had to have been otherwise I would have been longing for lots more of Millie but this didn't happen to me at all which is testament to the great writing of Tilly Tennant. Tori and Spencer battle with their emotions and respective in-laws and there was a lot of soul searching that needed to take place. I was never really sure of the outcome for this too but fervently hoped that Spencer would do the right thing and not upset another character in the process.

Of course Millie had to feature again in this book she couldn't be forgotten after so much time was invested in her in book one. Here she is slightly more mature and settled working in the bakery alongside Dylan. Although sleep deprivation is an issue with son Oscar, Millie wasn't the sole focal point of this story but still her caring, compassionate side shone through and she was always there to offer a listening ear or a few kind words to any of the characters that needed it. She never turned away nosy Ruth who is an excellent addition to the series in the fact she drives every resident of the village up the walls but she is used to perfection when needed. Millie is struggling trying to make the bakery a success and raise Oscar but definitely Dylan has grown up and we saw a much stronger side to him willing to step up and help his family and others when needed. I think I much preferred him in this book as gone were the playboy antics and he only had Millie as the centre of his world.

One new character introduced was Darcie, a cousin of Millie's, who comes to help out in the bakery and with Oscar. It mentions she was from Millrise and I know this was a different series written by Tilly. I've never read it but do wonder had Darcie featured in this series? She comes to Honeybourne a bit lost, lacking in confidence and her heart is soon all over the place. I hoped she would keep her feelings to herself and find happiness in another place. She was a character who never really came to the forefront not through lack of writing but because that was her nature. She was always there in the background ready to step in and care for Oscar or help in the bakery or on one of the shifts in the pub as organised by the villagers to help the owners. But she never unnecessarily pushed herself to the centre of what was going on but I enjoyed how we read of her viewpoint and learned why she was the way she was. I do have to say though the only minor fault I had with this book was the brief plot with Tariq. I understand it was there for two reasons and joined in with two other characters but it just seemed a bit random and sprang up out of nowhere and didn't add anything for me to the story. Apart from this I felt Christmas at the Little Village Bakery was a delight to read and would be perfect in someone's Christmas stocking this year.

If you haven't read book one the number of characters initially may be confusing but I felt I slipped a lot more easily into this story than I did the first as there was less setting up to do and I was familiar with who was who and what had gone before. Background information is supplied for new readers but to get a sense of the characters and their stories and just to soak up the atmosphere of Honeybourne it would be an idea to read The Little Village Bakery beforehand if only to further enhance your enjoyment of this new story.

All the characters seemed much more established in this book and at ease with one another yet as every good book needs there was tension and some problems to work through before any hopes of celebrating and a peaceful and happy Christmas. I liked how we had a few new characters to get to know but we weren't overloaded and people who had been in the background in the previous book stepped out of the shadows and we got to know them an awful lot more. There had been so much setting up to do in The Little Village Bakery that the storyline lost some of the magic I knew it could have had and it became a bit too broad. Here it was reined in and there was a tighter spotlight on the main storyline while little sub plots bubbled contently in the background. 

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery is proof that series or even authors deserve a second chance. I may not have enjoyed book one as much as I had hoped but this warm, engaging story more than made up for that. I had sensed from book one that there was much more to come and with the further development that took place both in terms of characters and settings merged with far tighter plot lines which all merged very well together I found this to be a perfect Christmas read with just that little extra bit of bite that was lacking from the first book. I wonder who the next story will focus on and what time of the year? The ending certainly set us up nicely for more. Will it be a brand new character or someone we have read of before? After enjoying this book as much as I did I will definitely be back for number three as Honeybourne and its residents have now captured a place firmly in my heart.

Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of Christmas at the Little Village Bakery to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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