Reading a tasty Trisha Ashley novel always makes you greedy for her next… and not just because each story delivers a feast of delicious recipes.
Romance, humour, insight and characters so lovable and quirky that you want to live next door to them are just some of the many reasons why Ashley’s cosy but clever rom-coms always fly off the bookshelves.
Ashley, whose novels have twice been shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan award for Romantic Comedy, hails from St Helens and always employs her typically dark Lancashire brand of humour in adversity with joyful aplomb.
The Little Teashop of Lost and Found, a gorgeous, warm-hearted and original new tale set amidst the rolling hills of Yorkshire’s stunning Bronte country, has all those favourite ingredients but with an extra thick layer of intrigue and mystery.
Alice Rose is a foundling. She was discovered on the Yorkshire moors above the famous Bronte village of Haworth as a newborn baby but was adopted soon after and moved to Shropshire.
Born with a harelip, Alice’s kind and loving adoptive father wrapped her in ‘a soft-spun fairy tale’ which her now mended lip was a bad fairy’s spell that ended with Alice turning into the prettiest princess in Yorkshire.
But the reality is that Alice’s adoptive mother never liked her and since her father’s death, the secure wall he built around her has collapsed and she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.
Alice has made a partial career out of writing dark, contemporary novels with a fairy tale theme but fears she is destined never to have her own ‘happy ever after ending.’
Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home so it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again and takes over a run-down little teashop.
As she invests all her energies into turning her newly named café, The Fat Rascal, into an upmarket afternoon tea emporium, she soon makes new friends, including her Greek god-like neighbour, Nile Giddings, who owns the next-door antiques shop.
But Alice is consumed by another mission… to stop running away from her past and find out who she really is and the identity of her birth mother.
With several unexpected twists in the dark fairy tale of Alice’s life set to be revealed, will Haworth finally be the place she puts down roots and can she banish forever the bad spell that has dogged her hopes for a happy ending?
Ashley is such a warm, wise and perceptive writer, unafraid to explore the darker side of the human psyche whilst delivering her seductive and entertaining feel-good, funny novels.
And Alice Rose is an adorable leading lady, a tough, feisty, young woman who tackles her triumphs and disasters with a level head, a dash of optimism and a stoicism that comes from her Northern roots.
But there are also plenty of bouquets for Alice’s charming supporting players, including the dapper but cynical Adonis Nile Giddings and The Fat Rascal’s memorable waitressing double act Nell and Tilda.
Add to the mix a mouthwatering baking bonanza, a few pantomime-style baddies, the enchanting, dark-edged fairy tale motif running throughout and the slow unravelling of of Alice’s secret heritage, and Ashley fans will find plenty here to savour.
(Black Swan, paperback, £7.99)