Today's my blog tour stop for The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones. I loved how charming this book was, and I really think you will too.
However, a warning: you're going to want to stock up on snacks while you read, because there's no way you're going to be able to read about Laurie, Pamela and everyone's adventures, without wanting some of their delicious-sounding treats.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Berkley (first published May 22nd 2014)
Laurie Davis has always followed her passion. After escaping family drama to start a new life in New York City, she’s up for whatever challenges life brings. So when an opportunity arises for her to use her travel industry expertise and serve as an assistant and tour guide for her idol, Pamela Lambert-Leigh, star of television’s Tea-Time with Pamela, she jumps at the chance.
But Laurie’s exciting adventure ends up entailing a lot more than scouting locations for the cake queen’s new cookbook when Pamela’s sassy mother and sulky, rebellious daughter tag along for the trip. As they cruise around bakeries in New England trading local delights like Red Velvet Cake and Whoopie Pies for British specialties such as Victoria Sponge and Bakewell Tarts, more secrets than recipes are revealed.
Now, in between rediscovering romance, learning to forgive family, and finding the best dessert on the East Coast, Laurie, Pamela, and the gang might find there’s nothing a nice cup of tea, a sweet treat, and a little bit of friendship can’t heal…
As someone who has lived on and off in London for her entire life, it's pretty much impossible for me to not want to read a book with the words "tea shop" in the title. Throw in the fact that The Traveling Tea Shop is also a book about cake AND four women learning how to empower themselves, I kenw I had to read this book immediately.
Beloved British author Belinda Jones introduces us to Laurie, a British ex-pat who has moved to New York City to start over. When given the chance to work with her long-time idol (and British baking queen!) Pamela Lambert-Leigh, Laurie absolutely jumps at the chance.
What follows is a hilarious, complicated roadtrip across several New England states - in a double-decker bus, no less! - as Laurie, Pamela, Pamela's spry and charming mother, and Pamela's stroppy teenaged daughter, all learn how to adjust to the trip, work on past issues, while enjoying some of the best cake recipes that New England has to offer.
Belinda has hit on the perfect balance of friendship, relationships and baked goods in The Traveling Tea Shop. When we first catch up with Laurie, we quickly learn that she's a go-getter with a great attitude, but she's also experienced a lot of hurt in her past. She's the perfect sister soulmate for Pamela, who has also had a lot of pain in her past, only her misfortunes are typically spread across the pages of international tabloids.
Thanks to Belinda's cheerful, irresistable writing, she clearly shows just how these two women balance each other - even if Laurie has driven mad by the vagueness of Pamela's planning process sometimes! - and how they need what the other one has to offer, especially when it comes to Laurie's ability to conspire with Pamela's mum Gracie, and her refusal to let Ravenna - Pamela's daughter - dictate terms.
As they progress on their trip, Belinda does a great job of showing how something comforting like cakes can help bring out the best in others, including opening kitchens and hearts and minds to virtual strangers. I loved the little details that Belinda added on the cooking process - e.g. the history of the cakes, mouthwatering baking and decorating tips, and the fact that many chefs only share recipes with fellow chefs - and how all of this served to add to the personal journey that all the women were going through.
While there were the obvious romantic moments in Traveling Tea Shop, including a dashing driver and his son who both seemed just too perfect, they shouldn't be taken as just standard chick-lit love interests. Instead, both men offer valuable opportunities for both Laurie and Pamela to grow, and make the trip an even more emotional, well-rounded journey in the end.
Bottom line: this is a delightful, charming book. And man, I'm hungry now!
Belinda has clearly sprinkled a lot of love and joy into writing Laurie and Pamela's story, and it clearly shows on every page, as we meander carefully across several states in our favorite double-decker bus. Even though Belinda does approach many issues with a light touch - e.g. Pamela's personal problems - the truth is, that's what I and any reader just need in a book like this.
If I understand correctly, Traveling Tea Shop is Belinda's first US book deal, ever. But with such a sweet, heartwarming story, I think I can almost safely say that it certainly won't be her last. I highly recommend this book for fans of warm-hearted contemporary fiction, and for readers who just need a little pick-me-up in their lives.
About the author:
Following ten years as a magazine journalist and travel editor, Belinda Jones began writing novels inspired by her adventures, including The California Club, I Love Capri and the prequel to The Traveling Tea Shop - Winter Wonderland. She has visited more than twenty-five countries and hopes to write her way around the world by the time she’s done! Originally from the U.K., she currently lives on the magical island of Coronado, California with her American dog, Bodie.