BLOG TOUR: The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett - REVIEW

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is the new novel from Lilly Bartlett, author of The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square and The Big Dreams Beach Hotel. Lilly is the pen-name of bestselling author Michele Gorman, whose books include Single in the City, The Curvy Girls Club and Weightless (which is one of my favourite novellas). Michele is a fabulous writer and so I feel honoured to be taking part in the blog tour!

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 Second Chance Cafe is the second in the Carlton Square series, following on from The Big Little Wedding. I actually haven't read the first book, however there were no issues in starting with the second. The book can be read as a standalone novel, though after reading Second Chance Cafe I'm going to be reading the first book immediately as I would love to read more about the cast of characters in Carlton Square!

Emma Billings is determined. Being a mother of two young twins, life is already demanding, but Emma insists on putting the degree, that she worked very hard for, to use. With the help of her in-laws, Emma has secured the lease on an old pub in Carlton Square, which she plans to turn into a cafe, and helping to at-risk youths in the community by taking them on as trainees.

After some rather unique (and hilarious) interviews, Emma finally hires two new teenage staff - the sweet yet overly-confident Joseph and the secretive and feisty Lou, who has already been in trouble with the law. Emma's intention is to provide the teens with work experience, and customers with a lovely cafe to have tea, coffee and cake.

With a host of helpful family and friends, getting the cafe ready for opening is going well. With its outside flowers courtesy of her mother-in-law, gorgeous cakes by local supplier Cleo, and the staff ready and raring to go, the Second Chance Cafe looks set for a successful venture. But when the grand opening pulls in no new customers, it appears that something's wrong.

Someone isn't happy with the new cafe on Carlton Square, and is out to destroy Emma's hard work. It's up to Emma, her loyal staff and her friends to try and save her beloved cafe from a competitor who will stop at nothing to put the new cafe out of business! Meanwhile, Emma is finding it hard dealing with the twins as well as the work that the cafe brings, and wants husband Daniel to take more responsibility. But broaching the subject can be harder than it seems...

The Second Chance Cafe on Carlton Square is an absolutely wonderful read. I read it in a day, as it's quite hard to put down. It has a host of wonderful and funny characters, including Daniel, Emma's friends (including fellow mums Emerald and Garnet and their hilarious sibling rivalry), and of course, Joseph and Lou. I especially loved Lou's story. Emma is a great heroine; ambitious, kind, caring, a hardworking wife and mother. She sticks up for herself, and for Lou. Basically, she's the kick-ass heroine that we all need.

Packed with Michele's usual humour and lovable characters, The Second Chance Cafe is a feel-good novel about not just focusing on family and romance, but also the importance of friendship and community.

Rating: 5/5

About Lilly Bartlett

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

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