Reviewed by Zarina de Ruiter
The moral of this novel is: when life gives you lemons, you should make a delicious lemon drizzle cake to cheer yourself up. As we meet the main characters, they are all at a low point in their lives and are struggling find any joy in it. Yet, as if by magic – or it may very well be the alluring smell of a freshly baked pie – over the course of several days they all wander into the new teashop in Spring Hill Square for a cake-shaped pick-me-up. They are warmly welcomed by Leni Merryman who, just like her last name, brings some much-needed merriness into these lost people's lives in the form of delectable home-baked goods, lively literary discussions and an unexpected friendship.
Will Linton has just lost his business and with it his money-obsessed wife and all his worldly possessions. With his positive attitude he doesn't find it a problem to start at the bottom of the ladder again. However if he ever wants to make it as a builder he needs to overcome his newly found fear of heights, or he will never be able to climb a ladder again – literally and figuratively. Carla Pride thought she couldn't feel worse after her husband Martin suddenly passes away, but at his funeral she discovers that he had been hiding a huge secret from her for many years and as a result she has to start all over again as well. And then there is the elderly Molly Jones, who has also never been lucky in love. When her ex-husband suddenly re-appears, charming as ever and claiming he wants to make amends because he's about to die, she has to decide whether she can possibly forgive him for the terrible way he hurt her in the past.
While I own quite a few novels penned by women's fiction author Milly Johnson, as the stories sound right up my alley and the inviting covers always makes me want to stroke them in appreciation, I have not actually read any of her books yet. Until now that is. And boy did I love this one! So as soon as I can free up some time, I will grab that stack of unread novels and have a proper Milly Johnson weekend (there will, of course, be cake involved).
It did take me a few chapters to get The Teashop on the Corner and I actually started to doubt that it would live up to its inviting title and gorgeous cover illustration with dainty cupcakes, but all of a sudden I felt myself being completely drawn into it. I don't remember the exact point where this happened, but it was after the various storyline strands of the characters started coming together in that gorgeous literary cafe. They were no longer a random bunch of people, each with their own unconnected story to tell, but a close-knit group of friends sharing happiness, heartbreak and a lot of very special moments.
While I loved the characters and I felt myself getting really involved in their lives (and feeling quite emotional towards the end) the absolute best part of this novel was The Teashop on the Corner itself. The literary cafe sounded like a utopia to a book and cake lover such as me. Filled with the alluring smell of freshly baked goods and offering a plethora of geeky bookish gifts (I need everything Leni so carefully sources in my life), I desperately want to make a visit myself – and possibly never leave again. Why is this enchanting place fictional?! Fingers crossed someone is inspired by the wonderfully inviting descriptions of the cafe in this book and will create their own little piece of bookish heaven. I will definitely make a pilgrimage to that teashop when it opens its doors!
Filled with a wonderful mix of characters the reader will quickly fall in love with – not to mention a wealth of literary baked goods, must-have gifts and interesting debates – this is the perfect novel to enjoy on a relaxing Sunday afternoon with a freshly brewed pot of chamomile tea and a big slice of homemade cake.