Monday 14 July 2014

Guest review:The Travelling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones

Laurie loves a challenge. Especially if it involves anything beautiful, baked and frosted. The brief is simple: With three other women, Laurie will board a London bus - kitted out as an English tea shop - on a deliciously different road trip of the USA.

Their mission: To bring home-grown classics like Battenberg, Victoria sponge and scones to the land of cupcakes, whoopie pies and gold-leafed chocolate sundaes.

And to show them how a real cup of tea is made. All of the women have their own secrets and heartaches to heal. As well as a grand appreciation of cupcakes, there's also the chance for romance...

But will making whoopee lead to love?

All aboard for: New York - Connecticut - Rhode Island - Massachusetts - Maine - New Hampshire - Vermont

Review: Gosh, it sounded as if this book had all the best things - cake, a road trip in the USA, a bit of romance and a bit of drama. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, it failed to live up to my expectations. It read mostly like a travelogue of New York and New England, with the characters as tour guides. I'm sure that Belinda Jones must have put a lot of effort into researching the topics covered, and what fun she must have had discovering suitable locations and magnificent confections, but, for me, the story dragged along a bit.

The road trip has been organised by Laurie, who, along with her best friend, Krista, runs a travel company in the USA. Laurie is a former travel agent and Krista a one-time magazine journalist. Their company specialises in tailor-made vacations, and has a girlie travel-planning website with special features that may interest its readers. The purpose of this particular trip is for a British chef, Pamela, to tour around part of the USA collecting recipes for a book. The transport for the trip is a specially-adapted red London bus, reminiscent of the one featured in the Cliff Richard film, Summer Holiday. Pamela is bringing along a driver for the bus, and this turns out to be her mother, who is elderly in years but definitely not in outlook. At each stop on the tour, Pamela is to learn about a cake/dessert originating from that area and swap the recipe for something similar from the UK. When Pamela turns up to begin the tour, she is somewhat stressed and frazzled and, to Laurie's surprise, is accompanied by her grumpy and difficult 20-year-old daughter. Along the route, we gather a few more characters and finally a bit of romance creeps into the story.

As I said in the beginning, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I anticipated. There is a diverse cast of characters, some of whom are instantly likeable, but others are definitely not and I felt like giving some of them a good shake at times.  All of them have interesting stories of their own going on in the background, and they are cleverly all knitted together. There is a secret running through the story that the reader is introduced to fairly early on in the book and I was just aching to get it out there in the open.  There are plenty of descriptions of fascinating places they stop on the tour, and mouthwatering descriptions of cakes. Definitely not a book to read when you are already hungry! I even think I might return to Boston, having missed out on Boston cream pie the first time round. 

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