The one thing you can always rely on Lancashire-born author Trisha Ashley for is her ability to put a big smile on a reader’s face. Continuing the feel-good formula that’s made her previous rom-com novels so popular, The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is a charming story about discovering who you really are and where you belong – topped off with a hearty sprinkling of mouth-watering baking and irresistible romance.
Transporting readers to the Yorkshire moors and the town of Haworth where the Brontë sisters famously lived and wrote their novels, the story centres on Alice Rose, a woman who’s always struggled to find a place to call home. Mourning the sudden loss of her fiancé in a tragic accident, Alice unexpectedly inherits some insurance money which enables her to make a much-needed life change.
Moving back to her birthplace – where she was a foundling discovered high up on the harsh moorland – Alice buys a rundown café on a whim without even inspecting it first. Suffice to say, the business and flat above it are more than a little neglected, and Alice quickly realises she’s been swindled. Rising to the occasion like a hardy Yorkshire lass, Alice throws herself headfirst into renovating the café with the aim of turning it into a high-class tea emporium, where she can put her love of baking to good use.
Soon enough, Alice is making new acquaintances in Haworth, including her Adonis-like neighbour, Nile Giddings, who owns a curiosity shop across from her. The two get off to a rocky start – Nile is highly sceptical of Alice’s idea of opening a luxury afternoon tea establishment – but they soon find common ground and Alice becomes friends with the lively Giddings family, who welcome her into their home with open arms.
With recipes to test out, the teashop’s grand opening approaching and a dark fairy tale novel to finish (there are segments of Alice’s dark fantasy writing throughout), multi-talented Alice is also on a mission to discover who she is and solve the long-forgotten mystery of who left her on the moors as a newborn. However, this is one mystery that someone is desperate to keep in the past, and they have no intention of coming forward to claim the baby who was abandoned.
“In my imagination I’d cast my infant self in many roles, so much more comforting than searching out the truth: I’d been Moses in the Bulrushes, the baby princess abandoned in the forest to die, the child left as a sacrifice to the gods on a blasted heath…”
Reading one of Trisha Ashley’s books is always something to look forward to and The Little Teashop of Lost and Found doesn’t disappoint. It’s filled with loveable characters, from Alice herself – a capable and adaptable woman who knows her own mind but is terrified of getting her heart broken – to standoffish Nile whose initial cynicism only makes Alice want to prove him wrong. The Giddings clan are such an endearing bunch that you’ll wish they were your own family, complete with rambling old house and an openhearted matriarch who never turns anyone away and loves to feed people.
Alice’s search for her birth parents is a touching one; she just wants to know where she came from and the circumstances of her abandonment so that she can have some closure. Ashley begins each new chapter with a journal-like entry written by, who we assume to be, Alice’s birth-mother, describing the night the child was left on the moors and leading up to her panic at an adult Alice returning to Haworth. The coldness of these short passages is the complete antithesis of the Giddings family, who shower Alice with warmth despite having only just met her.
The descriptions of all the tasty treats that Alice bakes are delectable and the Yorkshire moors setting gives the story a quaint, backwards charm. There’s a real feel of traditional family values and simple life pleasures, many of the things people yearn for but neglect. By the end of the novel I was almost entirely convinced that I should move to Yorkshire and open a teashop (god-like man also welcome).
Best enjoyed with a cup of tea and piece of cake (maybe one of the actual recipes included in the book), The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is heart-warming, humorous and undemanding. It’s a delightful novel from one of Britain’s best romantic comedy writers.
The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is published by Bantam Press on 9 March 2017