Monday, 12 June 2017

Book Review - The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett - Chances Fortnight

And as my last review for Chances Fortnight, instead of reading an author that I was taking a chance on, I thought a book about Second Chances would be rather fitting instead! 

Amazon UK
Title: The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square
Author: Lilly Bartlett
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 23rd June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

One chance isn't always enough…

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They'll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who's in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it's when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

I think I may have enjoyed this second book in the Carlton Square series even more than the first one.  I loved the idea of the Second Chance Cafe, in that it gives vulnerable youths a chance to learn some skills and get valuable on the job training.   

This can easily be read as a standalone book, however if you have read the first one you are in for even more of a treat, as this is set 2 years later, Emma and Daniel are now married with toddler twins and are trying their hardest to cope, and that is before Emma's cafe is fully set up. 

Of course first Emma has to hire some trainees, and that is hilarious, given the selection of candidates on offer. I probably shouldn't laugh as its also incredibly realistic, but the interviews were amusing. 

I've always thought that Michele Gorman, aka Lilly Bartlett is brilliant at writing female friendships, mothers and realistic characters, and she really does herself justice in this book, as I loved the various characters, and cafe customers. 

I loved seeing more of Emma's family and her East End neighbours, its such a close community, and that really comes in handy during the story. The cafe has a real struggle on its hands, as its clear someone in the neighbourhood wants it closed, and the motivation behind it kept me guessing the whole way through.   There are many acts of sabotage to keep everyone on their toes. 

The two trainees that Emma hires at first a polar opposites, there is Joe who wants to be a CEO one day, but hasn't quite twigged he needs to work his way up and learn the smaller jobs first, and Lou, who at first is really hard to get to know, but by the end of the book was one of my favourite characters. 

Then there are the three rather distinct groups of people that frequent the cafe, there are those using it as an office space, plugging in everything from standard office equipment to nose hair trimmers. Then there are the teenagers, friends of Lou and Joe, that society would tend to misjudge just on appearances. The other group are mothers with their children. There is a play area set up, and the only problem with the mothers is that the pushchairs get in everyone's ways.  

The Second Chance Cafe is a story of young motherhood, a new business owner,  friendships, supporting your community, giving people second chances, a business rivalry and its incredibly well written and highly enjoyable to read. 

Thank you so much to Lilly Bartlett for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

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