Successful chef Rosie gives up her job and life in London after her marriage falls apart, drunkenly buying a bright pink campervan with all her savings. Deciding to be spontaneous for the first time in her life, Rosie decides to join the campervan community and take her van, “Poppy”, around the UK, paying her way by turning it into a travelling tea shop.
Now, I’m really fond of the “girl packs in her big city life and sets up some form of a teashop/cafe/chocolaterie/bakery in the British countryside and finds love along the way” subgenre of romance, and I always read about fifteen on my summer holidays every year. However this one just didn’t hit the spot.
‘Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop’ really disappointed me, and it wasn’t just because of how weirdly preoccupied with details of preferred campervan routes the author seemed to be. It’s a bit like how the Star Wars prequels spend more time on trade negotiations than on believable character development or worthwhile portrayals of women – except in this case there’s just a tonne of detail on how to find Facebook groups about owning a van. Perversely though, despite the torrent of niche traffic advice specifically for campervans, when it came to the cooking (I also read this genre for the recipes — some authors put whole sections at the back so you can recreate those mentioned in the books!), the descriptions of Rosie’s chosen recipes, and how she balances them in her tiny kitchen, is just bonkers level unrealistic, even for a wish-fulfilment genre! This upsets me doubly because the author’s surname (I’m assuming it’s a pen name) is ‘Raisin’, and I feel that she should therefore know better.
The romance was unfulfilling and clunky, and there’s a totally unncessary catfishing storyline which just meant that the most unconvincing romatic hero was left as the only viable candidate. This genre often has a solid storyline of the heroine getting out from under the thumb of an oppressive ex-boyfriend and finding her own independence, both financially and emotionally, with the romance then as a happy bonus. Rosie, however, goes from her husband being mean to her, to a new guy who is also mean to her, but he’s outdoorsy and vegan and therefore it’s all ok. I really resented the message that Rosie just had to find the right man to tell her what to do to be happy, and it flies in the face of everything that I love this genre for. Rosie would have been better off driving off into the sunset with her friend Aria, rather than ending up with an insufferable character who spends the entire book bullying her into doing things his way.
Speaking of Aria, her travelling romance bookshop was actually quite an engaging idea, despite her sentimentally miserable backstory. Unsurprisingly perhaps, I think there is a sequel that focuses on her instead which has just come out, but knowing that just makes this one feel even more unsatisfactory: you can tell when a book is just there to hook the reader into buying more than one (this is also echoed in the prices). I’m all for formula fiction if it’s done well, but I hate the cynicism of using it to cash-in on readers looking for a familiar fix. There needs to be a balance between commercial savviness and taking joy in the mechanics of the genre, and this book felt overly mercenary.
I was just really disappointed in this book, especially since Raisin has published quite a few books and I had hoped she would be a new, fun source of my summer holiday fuel. But sadly, that is not to be. Rather than being openly bad, ‘Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop’ just lacks substance and any joy in the story, riccocheting wildly between dry (but often bizarrely incorrect) details and high melodrama,with the occasional wild lurch for “adorkable” humour.
You can buy it here, but you’d probably get the same effect by reading some questionable cake recipes and then looking at a map of campsites in the U.K.
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