Jane Lacey Crane comes to the blog today with her debut story that uncovers secrets long buried in this woman’s fiction title. Please read on for my review of
Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s
Rosie Lee’s is a teashop, just outside the renewed and regentrified area in the East End of London, a place that hasn’t changed much since it opened and served basic coffee, tea, cakes, and a place to chat and gather. Abby has owned the little shop since inheriting it and the flat abovestairs from Rosie and Tom, an older couple who provided stability, friendship and comfort when her life went topsy turvy. A difficult relationship with her mother, her daughter soon to leave for university, and a determination to ignore/stay away from all romantic entanglements, Abby has plenty of resentment, issues and a not so healthy tendency to overthink situations and choices before half-heartedly committing to a plan of action. In her mid-thirties, Abby was frustrating, contradictory, afraid of change, moody and often far too willing to be snappy and churlish when she felt threatened or questioned- a situation that happened often.
But an unexpected encounter with her first love at an event she catered dessert for her best friend’s new venture fueled her frequent forays into ‘what I lost’ land’ – a serious list of difficult moments, choices and secrets that would affect her life for years. With her father’s disappearance with no explanation when she was fifteen, followed closely by her mother’s breakdown and two year isolation, her grandparent’s aggrieved approach to ‘watching out’ for Abby and her older brother Matt, and the obvious whispers. Abby was in the middle of a family crisis, those angsty teen years, and then, Jack her best friend and first love, leaves without explanation and never contacts her again.
So yes, Abby had plenty to deal with, from a tense and defensive relationship with her mother, a café that is barely making a profit, her daughter soon leaving for university, her best friend Liz pushing her to meet a man and date, and then Jack back in the picture. She deals with all of this by ignoring the big issues, staying busy, and pushing any questions she had out of her consciousness. But her mother’s sudden death, followed shortly by the return of her long lost father, also dead, shed some ‘light’ on the piles of secrets I this family – most that had been kept from Abby to “keep her safe”. It was no wonder that emotionally she was more fourteen than closing in on forty – and that combination of emotional cluelessness combined with some erratic choices, almost non-existent self-esteem, and the here and gone Jack, with some not so vague threats from an ‘associate’ of her more than slightly criminal father – the issues were many, and often felt as if coals were coming to Newcastle. Each question brought more clarifications, more justifications for Abby to be how she was, and for her frustration with everyone ‘taking care’ of her: even as some did a crap job of it – intentions be damned. Not a laugh a minute story, even as there are situations and some commentary from Abby that does bring a laugh – but it was the length of time between meeting Abby and finally starting to see the secrets come to light that made the first half of this book feel far longer. Then the answers and the ‘adult’ back and forth with Jack, his feeling for her and hers for him, more secrets and threats, questions and regrets – all came one upon another in waves of information – it was no wonder she started to have anxiety attacks,. But, the steadiness of friends (Liz, Flo) and her brother Matt, as well as a solid and quite lovely relationship with her daughter did show that, despite her determination and occasional (or not so) strops, Abby is well-loved and cared about – even when that caring goes to levels of secrecy that were unhealthy for all.
Crane’s writing style is very conversational and easy to enjoy – and this debut was a challenging one with the multitude of questions, secrets, issues and personalities, and she managed most in ways that felt both appropriate to what we come to understand is Abby, and still give readers the answers so needed. Full of ‘one more thing’ moments, there were times when yet another issue made me want to scream- but, like life is like that sometime- and showing Abby doing her best at the moment with the hand she was dealt, supported and loved by her friends and family, that was the takeaway from this story. I’m curious to see more from this author, hoping that her next characters will encourage similar emotional reactions to Abby.
Title: Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee's
Author: Jane Lacey-Crane
Genre: Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Romantic Elements, Setting: Britain
Published by: Aria
Published on: 1 May, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ Kobo ♦ Google
Welcome to Rosie Lee's cafe in the heart of the East End - where there's not an avocado, slice of sourdough or double-shot no-foam soy milk caramel latte on the menu!
Rosie-Lee's owner Abby is a woman without a plan... and her beloved little cafe is a business with a serious lack of customers. The Rosie Lee's fry-up is legendary, but cooked breakfasts alone - however perfectly sizzled the bacon - aren't going to pay the bills.
Fast approaching forty and fighting a serious case of empty nest syndrome, Abby realises it's not just her menu that needs a makeover. And when Jack Chance, her The One That Got Away, saunters through the cafe doors and back into her life things definitely look set to change...
Abby has always believed a cup of strong builders tea makes everything better, but Jack's reappearance is a complication even the trusty sausage sarnie can't resolve...
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.