2 September 2014

Book Review: The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

"Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.

Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again.

When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other.

With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves?

An enchanting, witty novel about the unexpected situations life throws at us, and how love and friendship help us through. Written with heart and infused with the seductive scents of bergamot, Indian spices, lemon, rose and caramel, it's a world you won't want to leave."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Tea Chest as a paperback or an eBook now.

I hadn't heard too much about this book before I started reading it, and sometimes I like going into something with my eyes open but having no opinion about it one way or the other. I hadn't heard of author Josephine Moon either, and it turns out she's an Australian author, and this is her first book. I loved the cover for this book, it's really sweet and suits it perfectly, and although I'm not a fan of tea (in fact, I  hate it!) I decided this book sounded good and gave it a try!

Kate is happily plodding along in her life as wife, mother and works in a tea shop too. She loves her work, she loves making bespoke tea blends for people, and is pretty good at it, attracting return custom for the shop. When the opportunity arises to start up a new branch of the tea shop in England, Kate makes the touch decision to leave her family behind and head over there to start the shop. She recruits new PA Leila, and new worker Elizabeth, and sets to work making the shop as much of a success as she can. There's lot up against them but the three women are determined to fight against the odds and keep the Tea Shop going... but will it work?

I'll be honest and say that when I started the book, I struggled to get into it. It was quite slow, and I felt it got bogged down too much in the detail of the shop and what Kate does, rather than getting the reader into the story and hooked on what was going on. I decided to persevere with it, sure that it would pick up and I'm really pleased that I did because it did get much better. There was an awful lot in the book about tea, as you can probably guess from the title of it, and while I found this interesting, it wasn't my favourite part of the book. I don't like tea, and although it was interesting, I found at times it got a bit too detailed for me and my interest did wane slightly at parts. However, it was the story of the set-up of the shop that really hooked me, and I loved that part of the book.

Kate was an interesting character. As a mum, I couldn't fathom leaving my child on the other side of the world for a job, and carrying on as normal without them. Therefore, I did find it hard to understand her actions, and when she was missing her boys and her husband, I found it hard to sympathise with her because in my mind she chose that, and therefore she had to live with the consequences of her actions. Leila was another strange one, in love with someone at work but keeping it a secret, she moves on and accepts a job with Kate, but seems a flighty and fancy free to me. Elizabeth was the most normal of the bunch I think, she left Australia after a betrayal but her husband so her sister brings her back home and here she meets Kate and also begins work. The characters work well together in the book, bouncing off each other and their stories are all interesting, and they certainly made it worth reading on.

The book does jump around a bit with flashbacks, and I did find it hard to keep up with at first because they aren't always massively clear to the reader which was a bit of a shame. But I soon got into the pattern of the book and began to settle into it. I still feel it needed to broken down in a clearer way, because the use of flashbacks was good for the story but the way it was set out wasn't defined enough for me and led to the confusion. The challenge of building the shop up was the best bit about the book, the work that goes into it, the struggles the women face, and also some of the terrifying realities they have to face, which I have to say are so well written, I felt like I was in the middle of it. This was a very good novel, well written if a little bogged down in the details at times. It's a slow-burner, but once you're into it, it's a great read. Enjoyable and recommended.

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