Series: Carlton Square #2
Published by HarperCollins UK on June 23rd 2017
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Romantic Comedy, Holiday, Clean & Wholesome, Humorous, General
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Also by this author: The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square
‘The perfect blend of sweetness and substance, with plenty of laughs along the way’ Debbie Johnson, bestselling author of Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe
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?
The fabulous Michele Gorman has taken on a new moniker – Lilly Bartlett – and she’s started a new book series. The Big Little Wedding In Carlton Square was released a couple of months ago and the follow-up The Second Chance Cafe At Carlton Square is out now, with a third book due out in August. It is such a fun series, filled with Michele’s warmth, witty writing, and everything you expect from such a rom-com genius. I absolutely loved The Second Chance Cafe at Carlton Square and I have everything crossed that book three will see us back with Emma and Daniel and everyone else, because there’s a real community vibe to Carlton Square, the kind of vibe I wish other places had, where the community comes together as one to help each other out.
The only thing I had trouble with, when I started The Second Chance Cafe In Carlton Square was the time-jump. It’s set a couple of years after The Little Big Wedding In Carlton Square, but it’s only been a couple of months since I read book one, so it was a bit discombobulating that Emm’a suddenly a mother of twin toddlers (unless that’s how the last book ended and I’m just forgetful). The cafe she talked about in the first book (I THINK, God my memory is pants) is suddenly coming to fruition and Emma plans to help troubled teens, hiring them for her cafe, training them up for six months and repeat, to help kids get on the ladder and maybe get on the straight and narrow, too, if she can. It’s a noble cause and everything at the cafe seems to be going well… Until her milk gets pinched, her flowers are murdered (I am not being dramatic, RIP flowers) and leaflets smearing the Second Chance Cafe’s name go up on lampposts all around Carlton Square. Someone’s trying to take down Emma’s dream, unless Emma has something to say about that…
Second books in a series are always tricky, depending on whether it’s the last of a duology, the second of a trilogy (aka the filler book before the massive ending where everyone dies #spoileralert), or just the second of what will become a long-running series (I am on book nineteen of Stephanie Plum and appear to have hit a wall). However, Gorman has pulled off The Second Chance Cafe at Carlton Square so well. I loved the book, I loved how Emma seemed a bit more mature (she lied less to her in-laws, anyway which was a bonus) and I liked reading about how she was juggling motherhood (which sounds hard) and her own small business (which, despite the sabotage, went laughably smoothly, and I say that as a struggling small business owner, either that or we are just in the wrong location or I’m just bitter). I got a bit annoyed at her a couple of times when she whinged about Daniel not pulling his weight as a dad, but then turned around, whenever he offered her the chance to sit down or have a bath, and told him she could “do it better/faster”. MAKE YOUR MIND UP WOMAN. You either want him to pull his weight or you don’t, but you can’t give him mixed messages. I really, really like Emma though, and Daniel. I like that they’re happily married (mostly) and that there’s no big arguments where they storm off from each other and that thing with Leo was no big deal, whereas it might otherwise have been.
I really loved The Second Chance Cafe at Carlton Square. I loved Joseph and Lou, the two recruits Emma takes on, and I didn’t want either of them to go when their six months were up, because they really added to the cafe in their own ways, I loved how Joseph was just giving himself all these random job titles whereas Lou was strong and stable and just got on with everything. I loved the community vibe, that made me want to move to East London immediately, to find these people and make them adopt me. I loved Emma and Daniel and the twins. Just everything about this book was spot on. I can’t wait for more from Carlton Square, because it has such a community feel and such wonderful characters, it feels like coming home.