Thursday, 30 March 2017

Emma's Review: The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home. 

So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium. 

Luckily she soon makes friends, including a Grecian god-like neighbour, who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?

Amazon links: Kindle or Hardcover

So taking a glance at the cover for Trisha Ashley's new book The Little Teashop of Lost and Found you would be forgiven for thinking this is just another one of those tea/coffee/cupcake shop books that we are inundated with on what seems to be a weekly basis. Don't get me wrong I love these sorts of books, when done right, but I feel we are nearing that saturation point where a new topic needs to come along. So anything published with this theme from now needs to be that extra special to really capture my imagination and make me want to keep reading on. This book was certainly better than those I had read in recent weeks in this genre and I found myself halfway through the book before I had even realised it. 

The chapters are short and to the point and move the story along at a nice pace. Normally I find myself thinking would they ever just get to the opening of the teashop stage of the book? Here it didn't matter at all as I don't think the teashop was the entire focus of the story, rather there were three storylines running concurrently and for the most part I enjoyed them all bar one. The author did a good job of blending the three plots together and although I felt one really didn't hold my interest at all I think that's down to personal taste and it can be easily overlooked within the bigger ongoing picture.

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found opens with a brief prologue as a girl gives birth in a bedroom and knows she can't keep this baby and even if she did circumstances aren't in her favour. The baby is abandoned high up in the Yorkshire moors but luckily is found by a local farmer out searching for his missing sheep. Right through the entire story the moors and surrounding countryside feature heavily and almost become a character in themselves. They are the setting for a crucial event that sets the tone for the entire story and the Oldstone where the baby was found is a place where some characters go to seek answers. 

Fast forward many years later and we meet that 'foundling' Alice Rose. She had been adopted by a family – a loving father who told her magical tales as to how she came to be found slightly stretching the truth in the process and a mother who wasn't that nice and told some harsh truths upon the death of her father. When her father died of a heart attack when Alice was 18 her entire world collapsed and ever since then she has been running and never really stopped. Edie, a hotel owner originally from Scotland but living in Cornwall, takes her in and Alice works at the hotel and in the kitchens. When Edie retires Alice follows her to Scotland and for the most part she seems happy. But at the back of her mind is always that lingering question who was her birth mother and why was she abandoned and left to die on the cold, inhospitable moors? 

Personal tragedy strikes Alice and this is all within the first few chapters as we are given a brief history of how she became the woman she is today. With money in her pocket (money she would rather she hadn't required in the circumstances she did) Alice heads back to Haworth - the place where she was found. Something is calling her back there and the opportunity to buy a teashop and run her own tearooms proves too good to resist. The only problem upon arrival is that it is too good to be true from the pictures as what she was promised is not what she got and so she sets about renovating the teashop.

Even when we reached what could be termed the 'beginning ' of the novel when Alice embarks upon restoring the tearooms so much had happened to her and I was glad it wasn't all sweetness and light. Not that I would wish so much tragedy and misfortune on anyone. In a way it was like the novels written by the Bronte's whose home was nearby. They used the moors for inspiration and their stories were dark and brooding just like Alice's life was. Nothing was plain sailing for her but god was she one determined person and there were three clear goals in her mind. Establish the tearooms under a new name and make them a success, continue to write her book especially now she is going to be published and thirdly find some answers as to who she really is and why she came to be found on the moors by a farmer? Can she achieve all her aims? 

Well I certainly enjoyed reading how she went about this. At the beginning of each chapter, there were brief passages written by the now older woman who had given Alice up. They were terse and to the point and lacked any emotion whatsoever. It was more a presenting of cold hard facts rather than providing any reasoning or feeling behind her actions. I did wonder initially why was this put in? Did it not take away from the mystery element as to who Alice's mother really was? Yet the more I read the more I realised this wasn't the crux of the book rather one strand of many and the way it was presented in the book was really well done.

As I have mentioned I thought there were three strands to the book - the teashop, finding her mother and lastly there is the horror fairy tales that Alice writes. I would definitely say the brief paragraphs within chapters of the Sleeping Beauty horror story that Alice was writing were just not for me and I think other readers would feel the same. More so than with the pages from Alice's mothers viewpoint I felt these really weren't necessary and although I skimmed through them I really didn't take them in and they weren't my favourite part of the book. It just all seemed over the top and I get it was a form of escape for Alice when she was trying to juggle so many balls and come to terms with her misfortune and abandonment but the book would have been fine without their inclusion. 

One more minor gripe and apart from this I really did enjoy this book were some of the names of the characters and words used I had never seen before nor could I pronounce. Words just cropped up in sentences that if I had been bothered I would have looked up their meaning. The fact I didn't means I understood the sentence but felt in the overall context those words didn't need to be there. I wouldn't normally mention this but they really stood out but as I said these were my two minor complaints regarding the book and the positives for this story far outweighed the negatives and didn't take too much from the overall picture.

As well as Alice there was a fine set of supporting characters and soon she finds herself taken into the warm embrace of the Giddings family. I loved every member of this family, from matriarch Sheila to daughter Bel and the many in between, I could see why Alice fell so readily into their arms. They were all just so warm, inviting and supportive and I wanted to move in with them in to their rambling house. It was certainly a refuge and a place of sanctuary. They took Alice for who she was and wanted to help her with her quest to find her birth mother and also to establish a successful tearooms. Nile Giddings who runs an antique shop across from the tearooms maybe was the most aloof of the family but I could see he was battling with his simmering feelings for Alice. At times I wanted to say stop being so standoffish yet at others he was there when Alice turned around and needed him and I suppose all the little subtle things he did for her was his own unique way of showing that he cared but couldn’t exactly come right out and say it straight away. 

Tilda and Nell whom Alice inherited with the teashop were hilarious and oh so blunt. Nothing got past them and  they said what they thought with little cause for how they made others feel but I loved the way it was all done and I found them hilarious. As Alice battles on with keeping everything going and the opening of the teashop draws ever closer the reader does hope she has some sort of happy resolution and that the title of the book comes into play and what she has lost she will find and in turn she will have complete happiness. 

Towards the end I was reading along, enjoying the story and then boom a plot twist so deftly slipped in I had to go back and reread to make sure I had read it correctly. Bravo to the author it was brilliant, it had never even entered my head that it could have been possible. The Little Teashop of Lost and Found has now become my favourite Trisha Ashley book alongside The Twelve Days of Christmas. To discover will it become one of your favourites I suggest you get a copy of this book as quick as possible.

Many thanks to Rosie Margesson from Transworld Books for my copy of The Little Teashop of Lost and Found to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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