Thursday 27 April 2023

Guest Review: Summer at the Ice Cream Cafe by Jo Thomas

A dream home
Beca Valentino is ready to escape the city. When she sees the perfect house for sale in her hometown, it seems like fate. Is this her chance to build the foster family she dreams of, on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast?

A big mistake?
Returning home isn't as easy as she thought, however. Her family's beloved ice cream café is gone - turned into a soulless wine bar by her hateful ex-boyfriend. Reconnecting with her oldest friend, fisherman Griff, isn't straightforward either. And when, instead of the children she expected to take in, two wary teenage boys appear on her doorstep, Beca fears she's made a terrible mistake.

A recipe for change
But an old family recipe book is just the inspiration she needs. Soon, with a little help from friends old and new, Beca is selling mouth-watering homemade gelato from a pop-up café on the beach.

Then disaster strikes. Will the Valentino family legacy be lost forever? Or can Beca create a new recipe for happiness?

Review: I have been looking forward to reading this new book from Jo Thomas. Her stories never fail to pull me in and fire my imagination as I am transported to a new location and usually learn about a craft on the way. This book is set in Wales and, as the title would suggest, taught me something about making ice cream, or, as I learned, gelato. 

The narrative centres on Beca Valentino, who is returning to the Welsh seaside town she left over twenty years ago, tired of the gossip following a painful break-up. She has made enough money from her successful business in London to buy the farmhouse that she always dreamed of owning. Her ambition is to settle there and foster children in need of a home. A lot has changed in the town, but most important for her is that her beloved grandparents’ ice cream parlour has been bought by her former boyfriend and turned into an upmarket bistro. Fortunately, her childhood friend Griff is still living in the town and they rekindle their friendship. When her first charges turn up, they are not quite what he had envisaged. Instead of younger children, she is presented with two unrelated teenage boys who have been in the system for some time and each have their own problems. When sorting out some of her grandparents’ possessions, Beca comes across their gelato recipes, giving her the idea of recreating the delicious products they used to sell in their parlour. She, Griff and the boys set out to perfect the gelato and add some interesting new flavours, turning an old boathouse into a pop-up ice cream cafe by the beach. However, it appears that somebody in the town doesn’t want Beca to succeed, and even the weather is against her. Can she and her friends bring the old Valentino’s gelato back to the town against all the odds?

This was a really enjoyable read, filled with interesting characters and situations. Jo Thomas’s wonderful descriptive writing once again captivated me as I was carried off to Beca’s farmhouse where I could hear the sea lapping on the shore but also the whispers of the local people wary of the newcomer and her charges. I felt for the teenagers who turned up at Beca’s door, fearful of being moved on again at a moment’s notice. They were indeed lucky to have landed at a home where they were to be included in a new venture where their input was valued. Of course, as an ice cream lover, I was intrigued to learn about the process of making gelato, and my mouth was watering at the mention of some, but not all, of the flavours. All was not plain sailing for Beca in this book, the twists and turns introduced by the author adding even more interest to the story. I think it is a mark of a really good story when you miss the characters once the book is finished. That is certainly the case here; I would love to know what happened next for Beca, Griff and the boys. This is definitely a book I would recommend, preferably read with ice cream!

To order your copy now, just click the here!

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