REVIEW: Little Teashop of Horrors by Jane Lovering
Secrets, lies, carrot cake – and an owl called Skrillex!
Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tearoom they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!
There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.
Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy? Because Edmund could leave her with much worse than a broken heart …
Dear Ms. Lovering,
I’ll admit it was your name and the title of the book that made me just click “request” without even reading the blurb. Falcons and an owl – who helps save the day, raspberry crunch, Edwardian costumes and … it turns out, a whole lot more. It’s got humor as well as darkness. This one digs deep into how people can be conditioned into accepting second best and how exhilarating it can be to finally find your voice and break free.
Amy Knowles is nice. She’s always been nice, accommodating and unwilling to make waves. Let’s face it – many women are. We’re trained to smooth over, calm things down, keep the peace, smother our feelings and go along rather than speaking up for ourselves. Amy’s got a double dose of that because she’s always been the plain, chubby one to her friend Julia’s blonde pretty. But then Amy’s only got her cantankerous Gran and not many true friends to risk losing so even if Julia sometimes acts like a cow or snags all the male attention with her practiced flirting, Amy bites her inner thoughts back. She knows, though … she knows how the world sees her.
Josh Wilson is slightly odd. Well he’d have to be in order to agree to live in the rundown caravan (trailer for us USians) on the Monkpark Estate. He works with his birds of prey and quietly slides around the edges of life, trying to avoid drawing any attention to himself despite what could be passably good looks if he’d clean himself up. Josh has his reasons for this and for his terror at the thought of small, dark spaces (TRIGGER WARNING). His birds give him a taste of the freedom of the sky and he’ll stick with them over people.
Both Amy and Josh have been batted around by life. Amy’s chunky and used to playing second fiddle when Jules is in hot pursuit of a man. She’s the type of woman who men’s eyes just slide off of and who knows a man is usually just trying to get into her knickers thinking she’ll be grateful for the attention. Josh is the one though with the hints of darkness around his edges. From dropped hints it becomes clear why he needs open spaces, and light, and why he doesn’t like to think of birds in cages.
Neither Josh nor Amy are stupid. Amy realizes that the plans – mainly hers and with no thanks – that the posh new estate manager is implementing will help everyone keep their jobs and their subsidized housing. This is especially important to her since she has Gran to look after. She’s also fighting against generations of class differences, having been brought up by Gran to “not get above her station.” Josh might not have quite as much bone deep loyalty as those who have been brought up on the estate or are children of those who worked there before the family turned it over to the Trust, but he needs this job both for himself and for his birds.
I like how we alternately get into Amy’s and then Josh’s head. Since it’s dual first person POV, secrets can be kept. But I really get to know each of them as they awkwardly get to know each other. Their reasons for the way they feel and act are part and parcel of who they are, the experiences they’ve had and how they’ve been raised. I never felt their actions seemed false or betrayed the backgrounds they’d been given. They are two people who don’t expect much from life and are surprised when they find more. Love, however, doesn’t solve everything. There’s no insta cure, no everything’s alright now since we’ve found each other. It still takes a lot for them to reach for what they’re afraid, based on past experience, they’ll not get. They have to be sure that the other isn’t settling for someone safe and undemanding.
The romance here is definitely two steps forward and one back. At times I held my breath and wanted to urge them on but that would never work for these two. Josh is like his birds in that his trust must be gained, little by little, and he often returns to “bloke silence” rather than saying much even in the face of seeing a lot. Amy won’t believe flowery promises and won’t let the wool be pulled over her eyes by anyone. Finding love in the face of past betrayals takes courage and that, they discover, they both have underneath it all. I wanted them to pull this off, I wanted happy and better than that, I got hope as well. Watching the – three dimensional – people in their lives stand behind them when it counts was a cherry on the top. A
And this time the kiss was stronger, more urgent. As though his previous kiss had broken some kind of barrier and now he knew how things went. His mouth was on mine with no tentativeness, his arms went around behind me and held me in close and I felt a surge of desire that burst up through the layers of me that they’d been submerged beneath. The layers of lack of self-worth, the duty, the knowing that I was always going to be second best, they all shattered as I kissed Josh back, burning from the core of me with wanting. Fighting with myself not to panic him, not to push him, just to take that kiss as it was offered, and losing myself in the feel of his stubble tickling my skin into an almost unbearable arousal. ‘Don’t rush it,’ I whispered. ‘We’ve got time, we’ve always got time.’