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 it 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?
Published June 23rd 2017 by Harper Impulse (UK)
Back in 2010 I read and enjoyed Michele Gorman’s debut novel, Single In The City (Review here) but this was my first time reading one of her books under pen name Lilly Bartlett. The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is the second book in the Carlton Square series (the first being The Big Little Wedding In Carlton Square) though I don’t feel that joining the series here affected my enjoyment of this one. In fact, it stands up very well in its own right – although it has made me want to read TBLWACS just to see how Emma and Daniel come be together!
I thought this book was absolutely charming! It’s filled with warmth and heart and I loved the messages behind it. Emma’s decided to open a cafe which will train and provide opportunities to disadvantaged teens – what was unexpected was the genuinely lovely community feel as diverse groups and characters come together. Mums with babies, hipsters wanting a place to work on their laptops, elderly customers with memories and stories to share and a group of streetwise youth all find a common place to rub along together.
Opening the cafe isn’t without it’s problems. Emma’s new trainee seems troubled and is hiding something, yet Emma is unwavering in her belief that she has potential. I loved this relationship, and how with Emma’s support and trust in her, Lou was able to blossom. There’s also the little problem of sabotage, thwarting Emma at every turn as she gets the cafe up and running. But just who has it in for her and what do they have against the cafe? There’s also trouble at home, when Emma begins to feel like she is literally being left to hold the babies and resentments begin to bubble.
The theme trickling throughout this book is one of solidarity, working together and standing up for each other. It’s also of second chances, and let’s face it – we all need one of those at times. This book is generous, heartwarming, community spirited and restores your faith in humans. We all need a little help now and then, and when it’s offered and accepted things can turn out all right in the end. With that trademark wit I remember so well from Single In The City, Lilly Bartlett’s writing is fun, engaging and a delight to read.
(I read an ebook courtesy of the author)