Publisher: Aria Fiction
Genre: Chick Lit
Second chances, new loves and scrumptious cakes, in this heart-warming novel. Perfect for all fans of Fern Britton, Katie Fforde and Cathy Bramley.
Following the tragic death of her beloved husband, Anna Hemingway decides it’s time for a fresh start. So Anna and her three-year-old daughter Ellie move to a picture-perfect cottage in the beautiful village of Little Somerby, and when she takes over the running of the village tea shop, Ellie and Anna start to find happiness again.
But things get complicated when Matthew Carter, the owner of the local cider farm, enters their lives. Throughout a whirlwind year of village fetes and ancient wassails, love, laughter, apple pie and new memories, life slowly blossoms again. But when tragedy strikes and history seems to be repeating itself, Anna must find the strength to hold onto the new life she has built.
This beautiful, life-affirming debut novel marks the beginning of the Little Somerby series, and promises to make you smile, cry, reach for a cream tea, and long for a life in the perfect English countryside.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Second Chance Tea Shop. I have my review and an extract to share today.
‘Are we nearly there?’ A small voice came from the back seat of Anna Hemingway’s car.
We’re getting there, Anna thought. ‘Just a couple more minutes.’
As she drove, she kept half an eye on the scenes that presented themselves. Although she had been a regular visitor to Little Somerby, the Somerset village where she grew up, since she’d left eighteen years ago it had changed little from her last visit, yet as a soon-to-be resident once again she looked about her with fresh eyes.
‘Will there be a swing in the garden?’ Ellie asked.
‘I don’t know, darling. We can always get one if you want.’ Anna spotted the church on the corner, gravestones covered in a crisp shroud of frost, surrounded by yew trees. On the other side of the road was the village pub, The Stationmaster, site of countless drunken nights and teenage liaisons.
‘Perhaps when we’ve settled in a bit.’
Continuing on she saw the Post Office and stores, now rather more organic and free range than she remembered. Next to that, the Village Hall, red-bricked and proudly declaiming its Temperance movement heritage. A little further on she passed the garage where she’d bought her first car, and then, the warm, inviting lights of The Little Orchard Tea Shop. She briefly glimpsed a couple of occupied tables through the bay window, and a shiver of anticipation went through her. Of all the decisions she’d made over the past few months, taking on a new job was the one that she’d agonised hardest about. But this move was intended to be a fresh start, a change to nearly every part of her life, and there was no doubt that managing a tea shop would provide plenty of change.
As she drove closer towards her new home, the sprawling land and buildings of the local cider farm – once a shed and a shop, now a thriving multinational business – loomed into view. Apart from the more dominant presence of the cider farm, so little in the village had changed; Anna found it difficult to believe that she had. But she was thirty-six years old, with a D-cup bra, a C-section scar and a three-year-old daughter. She was hardly the same hopeful girl who’d left the village to pursue education, a career, and later, love.
Love. Anna swallowed hard. They’d have been married ten years this spring. But she pushed that to the back of her mind; today was about taking the next step in her new life.
She felt a small stirring of excitement as she turned up Flowerdown Lane, which was a pleasant spot a little away from the main part of the village. Pippin Cottage was the last house on the right; one of only four houses. It was painted white with dark beams running from top to bottom. A curved oak door was set into the centre of the front of the cottage, protected from the elements by a slightly rickety porch. Three windows adorned the first floor and two further windows sat either side of the front door. The slate roof had been repaired extensively but still retained its aged charm. The front garden was enclosed by a stone wall with a rusty wrought-iron gate. At the end of the lane was an orchard of neatly ordered apple trees, their branches lying dormant now, but promising new life when the spring arrived.
Anna had chosen the cottage because it was close enough to the village to feel connected, but, being the last house on the lane, it also had a pleasantly secluded feel. She’d only viewed it once before putting in an offer, and she’d nearly been put off by the estate agent, who had been brusque to the point of rudeness while he showed her around, but she’d always wanted to own a cottage, and this one was practically the stuff of dreams. The fact that her absolute worst nightmare had come true, and allowed her the freedom to buy the place, was an agonising irony that tormented her, nearly two years on. The sharpness of loss pierced her heart once again and she had to draw in a calming, steadying breath.
‘Are you ready, darling?’ Opening her car door, she went to the back to get Ellie out. The little girl took approximately half a second to look around before she bounded through the garden gate and raced up the garden path.
‘Come on, Mummy!’ she called from the porch.
Anna pushed the car door shut and looked at her daughter hopping impatiently from foot to foot on the doorstep. It was time.
‘Well, as soon as you hear from them please can you get them to give me a ring?’ Anna pressed the end call button to the removal company and yet again cursed the fact she’d shoved her mobile phone charger in the last box that had been loaded onto the lorry. Only a few minutes behind her when they’d left, they still hadn’t turned up. Chucking the phone down on the lamentably empty kitchen worktop, Anna jumped as a deep bark rent the air, and, almost immediately, fuzzy black and white fur flying, a Border collie erupted from the hall into her kitchen. This was followed by an unmistakably outraged female voice. ‘Seffy! Come back here now!’
Despite the cold December day, Anna had left the dark oak door open to let in some light and a little fresh air, and as she made an abortive grab for the dog’s collar, she noticed its owner silhouetted in the door frame. Dark-haired, pale-skinned and slender, as she turned towards Anna and dropped her hand from the door, Anna saw a generous red-lipped mouth and the most startling blue eyes she’d ever seen. The girl was clad in dark jeans and an oversized striped jumper, combined with ballet pumps that were totally unsuitable for the December weather.
‘I’m so sorry,’ the girl’s voice was low, modulated and hinted at a public school education. ‘I tried to get him on the lead before we got to the gate, but he outsmarted me.’
Anna smiled. ‘No harm done.’ As soon as the collie saw his mistress he trotted obediently back to her.
Looping the dog’s lead through his collar, the girl smiled apologetically. ‘I’m Meredith. But most people call me Merry.’ She glanced back at the dog. ‘And this is Sefton.’
‘It’s nice to meet you,’ Anna said, reaching forward to pat the dog. ‘I’m Anna, and, somewhere in the house is my daughter Ellie.’
‘So you’re moving in today?’ Merry asked.
‘Yup, if the removal company ever get here. I’d offer you a cup of tea, but I don’t have my kettle!’ She glanced around the kitchen. The Rayburn – something else she’d always wanted in the kitchen of her dreams – squatted dull yellow and imposing against one wall of the kitchen, its top scrubbed clean. Anna was a keen baker and she was looking forward to learning how to cook on it, especially in light of the new job she was going to be taking on in a week or two. She hoped the previous owner had left the instruction manual, as she didn’t know where to start with it.
‘Thanks for the offer anyway, but I can’t stop. Seffy’s been bugging me for a walk all day and he needs all the exercise he can get. Whenever he sees an open door he takes it as an invitation! Sorry about that.’
‘It’s fine,’ Anna replied. ‘I’m sure he won’t be the last visitor!’
‘No, definitely not,’ Meredith rolled her eyes. ‘The local gossips will be on your doorstep in no time, so be careful. I’d install CCTV if I were you, or get a dog yourself to chase them off!’
‘Thanks for the warning. I’ll keep that in mind.’
‘Well, welcome to the village – hopefully catch up with you again soon,’ Meredith turned on her heel and wandered back out.
As she stood in the doorway, she saw the girl disappear up to the end of the lane, open the five-bar gate that marked the entrance to the orchard and walk through. If all the teenagers in the village looked like that, Anna reflected, then things really had changed over the time she’d lived away.
A buzz from her mobile interrupted her thoughts. Walking back to the kitchen, she found a message from the movers blaming a pile-up on the M5 for their non-appearance. Anna winced and locked her screen again, willing her thoughts not to wander. In the meantime, she figured she’d look in on her best friend Charlotte, who lived two doors down. Charlotte had texted that morning demanding to know exactly when Anna was arriving. The fact that she would be living so close to her oldest school friend was another reason she’d swiftly put an offer in on Pippin Cottage. Anna had the feeling she was going to need friends and family around her in the next few weeks and months. Guiltily, she realised she’d not texted Charlotte back. She really must get a grip and crack on with things. After all, she’d arranged to meet Ursula Rowbotham, the owner of the tea shop, at six o’clock and it was edging up to three o’clock now.
First, though, she decided to set up the Rayburn, which ran the central heating as well as providing the main source of cooking in the kitchen. There had been some wrangling between solicitors about the Rayburn before the exchange of contracts, but she’d been assured that it would be serviced and fuelled before completion. As she turned knobs and fiddled with switches, however, she quickly realised the huge iron beast wasn’t going to work. That’s all I need, she thought. No furniture, no broadband and now no bloody central heating! Biting back her irritation, she punched out the estate agent’s number on her mobile. After a brief exchange, one of the agents assured her they’d contact the previous owner and get someone round as soon as possible, so Anna decided to cut her losses.
‘Come on, Munchkin,’ she called to Ellie, who was spinning around in circles in the empty living room. ‘Let’s go and find Charlotte and Evan.’ Taking the slightly dizzy toddler’s hand, she closed the old front door behind her and went in search of her best friend.
I have to start by gushing over this absolutely beautiful cover, doesn’t it just scream springtime?! I adore it and what’s inside is just as sweet and lovely. Anna is a widow and trying to start a new life for herself and her three year old daughter, Ellie. She moves to the quaintest little village to run a tea shop and though I know it’s not real, I would still really like to visit it myself! There’s something about all these sweet shops, bakeries and tea shops that always pop up in books set in the U.K. that always appeals to me.
Though Anna has no intention of dating anytime soon, she meets Matthew who runs a local cider farm and can’t fight their growing connection. I really liked that this wasn’t one of those books where two people meet, fall in love instantly and everything is utterly perfect, they experience a few bumps in the road. Anna is quite mature and guarded so she takes her time in her new relationship which was very refreshing and appreciated. It follows Anna’s life over the course of a year and is broken up into sections based on the season. I loved experiencing the village through Anna’s eyes and seeing how it looked and felt during all the months of the year.
This was an uplifting read about getting a second chance at not only love, but at life in general. Ellie and Matthew’s teenaged daughter Merry really stole the show and were a great added bonus to the story. This was a light, easy read full of whimsy and hope, one that kept me flicking the pages rapidly as I was so hopeful that Anna would find true happiness. She grows and evolves so much over the course of the book and watching her relationship with Matthew blossom was so sweet and romantic. Is there anything more endearing than watching a love story unfold?!
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to Aria Fiction for my review copy.
About the Author:
Fay Keenan was born in Surrey and raised in Hampshire, before finally settling back in the West Country. When Fay is not chasing her children around or writing, she teaches English at a local secondary school. She lives with her husband of fourteen years, two daughters, a cat, two chickens and a Weimaraner called Bertie in a village in Somerset, which may or may not have provided the inspiration for Little Somerby.