REVIEW: A Bicycle Made for Two by Mary Jayne Baker
Chock-full of colourful characters, bawdy wit and a bit of love and passion for good measure.
In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme tourist trap restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village.
But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro-cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything.
Dear Ms. Baker,
The blurb for “A Bicycle Made for Two” sounded cute. A little bawdy, a little sweet and a small town village that doesn’t have a cutesy name or a cupcake baking heroine? Okay, I’ll try that. The blurb sold me with a wisecracking Lana and a sweet acting Stewart.
Our Lana and her brother Tom are keeping their Italian immigrant father’s pride and joy going even as their beloved father is dying of cancer. “Here Be Flagons” – a medieval themed restaurant – keeps them busy and from thinking about how little time they know they have left with him. One evening after Lana cinches herself up in her leather corset and assumes wench duty, a local celeb makes a prat of himself. His mild mannered cousin catches Lana’s eye and sets her stomach butterflies in a tizzy by asking her out. After a wonderful first date and a promise to call her however, Stewart Mclean disappears from Lana’s life for a year.
Just after Lana and Tom bury their father, two things happen. Stewart reappears acting as if nothing happened and just wanting to be friends and Lana has a brainstorm about trying to increase business in their small village by trying to get the Tour de France to cycle through it in a once in a lifetime event. The route has to go somewhere through Yorkshire so why not there? While a lot of the villagers might be skeptical, Lana manages to sell the idea to the village council. Then she brainstorms the hook that might win them the route and since it turns out to have been an unknown passion her father also tried to accomplish, she and Tom feel it their duty to join the cycling committee and see his dream accomplished.
Stewart, now in business directly across the street from them, has joined too as well as a host of colorful village characters. Though enthusiasm might initially be wan, once they finally get on board, it’s everyone on deck and all hands to the pumps. Can they raise the money needed to fund the thing they hope will capture the tour organizers’ interest? Will shy Tom work up the nerve to approach the handsome lad in the chippy shop? And can Stewart explain just what the hell happened a year ago and get Lana to listen to him?
Even though this is a first-person POV story as told by Lana, it really feels as if it’s about all the village. Each character comes alive from the main through the secondary ones. Favorites for me are Deano the whacko but brilliant chef of “Flagons” and the husband and wife duo of Gerry and Sue – Lana and Tom’s uncle and aunt who love each other to bits yet relish taking the piss out of each other on all occasions. At first I wasn’t sure about Yolanda – or Yo-Yo as she’s called – but she avoids being portrayed as too much the cougar and a bit more as an older woman who relishes her sexuality.
I enjoyed watching the village come together and work hard to raise the money needed. Everyone and his husband might have done a nudie calendar by now but watching them get their kit off for the cause then reading the cheeky headings Deano chooses for each month is fun. The environmentalist opposed to the project comes off like a demented hag which saddened me and the way the fundraising winds up seems a bit too easy after all the hard work.
Stewart has reasons for why he never called but I’m glad that Lana makes him work for her. I get tired of characters tossing away legitimate hurts after the cause of said hurt voices a quick apology and whoosh, all is forgiven. Tom’s romance has its starts and stops but seems realistic for two shy people. Props to Tom for his proposal though I agree that it’s maybe not the most romantic ever portrayed in a novel.
I was all set for a slightly higher grade until the very end when Something Is Done to secure the Tour route that ticked me off. Okay it worked but I’m with the main member of the committee in frowning on the ways and means used. Sure this little village won but another who had worked just as hard got stiffed.
The characters were fun to meet, I loved how the Yorkshire dialect was such a part of their speech, the two romances made me happy but there were a few things about the Tour efforts that could have been handled better. B