Blog Tour: Extract - The Cosy Teashop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts

Today on Becca's Books, The Cosy Teashop in the Castle blog tour stops with me! I'll be sharing with you an extract from Caroline's delightful novel, which I hope you'll enjoy.

Available on Goodreads Amazon UK | Amazon US


Title - The Cosy Teashop in the Castle
Author - Caroline Roberts
Publication Date - February 25h 2016
Publisher - HarperImpulse

Blurb
Can Ellie bake her way to a happy ever after?

When Ellie Hall lands her dream job running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy.
When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew. But cupcake by cupcake she wins the locals over, including teashop stalwart, Doris, and Ellie’s showstopping bakes look set to go down in castle history!
Now all that’s missing in Ellie’s life is a slice of romance – can Joe, the brooding estate manager, be the one to put the cherry on the top of Ellie’s dream?

Extract

1
Ellie
Talk about flying by the seat of her pants. She hadn’t really expected an interview. The ad had caught her eye in the Journal, and well, she’d been fed up, felt messed about by her twat of an ex, her bore of a job and fancied a change – of life, scenery, postcode, you name it.
So here she was, driving her little silver Corsa up the estate driveway that was lined by an avenue of gnarled-trunked, centuries-old trees. Her stomach did a backward flip as the castle came into view: blonde and grey sandstone walls with four layers of windows looking down on her – Claverham Castle. Did people really live in places like this? Did people really work in places like this? She felt like she’d driven onto the set of Downton Abbey or arrived in some fairytale.

The woman at the huge arch of an entrance did not look like someone from a fairytale, however; huddled in a huge fleece, dark jeans and wellington boots, and having a sneaky fag. She popped the offending item behind her back when she spotted Ellie pulling up on the gravel, but the wispy trail of smoke in the cool March air gave her away.
Okay, breathe, Ellie, breathe.

A quick check in the rear-view mirror. She hoped she still looked half-decent. She found her lippie and interview notes in her handbag, and tried to convince herself exactly why she was the right person to take on these tearooms as she popped on a slash of pale-pink gloss. It had all seemed such a good idea two weeks ago when she’d spotted the ad in the local press: ‘Leasehold available for Claverham Castle Tea Rooms for the Summer Season.’ A place to escape, and the chance to achieve the dream she’d harboured for years, running her own cafĂ©, baking to her heart’s content, and watching people grin as they tucked into fat slices of her chocolate fudge cake or strawberry-packed scones. A chance for change. So this was it! She sooo did not want to mess this up.
Her heart was banging away in her chest as she opened the car door. She stepped out with a pretence of confidence, aware of the woman still standing at the top of the steps. Sploosh! She felt a gloopiness beneath her feet, looked down. Shite! Her black suede stilettos were an inch-deep in mud and an attractive poo-like blob had landed on the right toe area. So much for first impressions.
She tried a subtle shoe-scrape on the grass verge, plastered a smile on her face and made her way to the castle entrance. A biting wind whipped at her honey-blonde hair, which she’d carefully put up in a topknot back at home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne this morning. Her black trouser-suit teamed with silky lime-green blouse was no match for the freezing cold. She hugged her arms around herself and headed for the door: a vast wood and iron creation – no doubt designed to keep out hairy, aggressive Border Reivers centuries ago.

The lady raised a cheery smile as Ellie approached, ‘Hello, you must be here for the interview with Lord Henry.’
‘Yes.’ She reached out a trembling hand in greeting. ‘Yes, it’s Ellie Hall.’
‘Nice to meet you, Ellie. I’m Deana.’ The woman shook her hand warmly. She had a kind face, looked in her early fifties, with grey hair that hung in a grown-out bob. ‘I’m Lord Henry’s PA, well dogsbody really. S’cuse the attire, casual at the moment till the open season starts again. It gets bloody freezing here. Come on through, pet.’
Ellie relaxed a little; she seemed friendly. She followed Deana through the massive door to a stone inner court yard, the sky a square of azure above. Wow – it was like some Disney set. And then into a circular stairwell that wound its way upwards – Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel could well be at the top of that.
‘There’s no guests here at the moment,’ Deana spoke with a gentle Northumbrian lilt. ‘We close until Easter. So it’s quiet. Come the spring, it’ll be buzzing again. Well, kind of crawling,’ she added with a wry grin, as though visitors were a necessity to be put up with rather than welcomed.
Ellie was offered a seat on a chair with a frayed red-velvet pad, positioned outside a closed door, which she imagined must be for Lord Henry’s office. She could hear muffled voices from inside, formal tones.
Deana asked if she’d like a cup of coffee while she waited, said she wouldn’t be long, and then disappeared back down the stairs. Ellie gathered her jacket and her nerve; it was bloody draughty there in the corridor.
Various artefacts stared down at her from the stone walls: black-and-white photos of the castle, the stuffed head of a weasel, or so she thought – ginger, hairy, teeth-bared, it looked pretty mean – a pistol in a glass case like something Robin Hood might whip out: ‘Stand and deliver’. This was so unlike her white-walled, MDF-desked insurance office, she felt she’d been shuttled back through time.
A scraping of chairs brought her out of her reverie.
Footsteps, the door opening, and out came a plump middle-aged lady, dressed smartly in a Christmas party jewelled jumper kind of way, thanking the gentleman for his time, adding she hoped she would be back soon. She smiled confidently (almost smugly) as she spotted Ellie sitting there. Lord Henry, for that’s who she thought the man must be, was smiling too. ‘Yes, lovely to meet with you again, Cynthia. I’ve been impressed with your work for us in the past, and we’ll be in touch very shortly.’ His tones were posh and plummy, the vowels clearly enunciated. It all seemed very amicable, and very settled. Ellie felt her heart sink. Was she just being thrown in the applicant mix as a token gesture?

Deana appeared at her side with a tray and coffee set out for three – perhaps she was staying for the interview. She ushered Ellie into the wood-panelled office.
Well, this was it. Ellie took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Now that she sensed she hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting the tearoom lease, she suddenly realised how very much she wanted it. It was what she’d been dreaming of for years whilst stuck answering call-centre queries for insurance claims in a vast, impersonal office. She absolutely loved baking cakes for friends and for family birthdays. Her football party cake for her Cousin Jack had gone down a treat, and a champagne-bottle-shaped chocolate cake that she did for Gemma, her close friend at work, had led to a flurry of special requests. Oh yes, she’d offer to fetch the doughnuts and pastries for the office at morning break, standing in the queue at the baker’s savouring the smells of fresh bread and cakes, wishing she could be the one working in the bakery instead.
Deana set the coffee tray down on a huge mahogany desk, which had a green-leather top. It looked big enough to play a game of snooker on. She smiled encouragingly across at Ellie, then left the room.

Lord Henry had a slightly worn, aristocratic appearance. He looked in his sixties and was dressed in beige corduroy trousers, a checked shirt and tweed waistcoat. He stood to greet her from the other side of the desk, offering a slim hand, shaking hers surprisingly firmly, ‘Lord Henry Hogarth. Please, have a seat, Miss . . .’ he paused, the words drifting uncomfortably.
Great, he didn’t even know her name. ‘Hall, Ellie Hall.’
‘Well, Ellen, do make yourself comfortable.’
She was too nervous to correct him.

He poured out two coffees and passed her one, pouring in milk for her from a small white porcelain jug. She took a sip; it was rich and dark, definitely not instant, then she sat back in the chair, trying to give the air of cool, calm and collected. She was bricking it inside. She hoped her voice would work normally. As Lord Henry took his seat on the other side of the immense desk,
she tried out the word ‘Thanks’. Phew, at least she could speak, though she noted that her pitch was a little higher than normal.

‘So, how long have you worked in the catering industry, Miss Hall?’ He leaned towards her, rubbing his chin, his brown eyes scrutinising.
She froze, ‘Ah . . . Well . . .’ About never. Seat of the pants didn’t even cover it. What the hell was she doing here? ‘Yes,’ she coughed into her coffee, ‘Well, I’ve had a few years’ experience.’ Baking at home, for friends, birthday cakes, cupcakes, Victoria sponges and the like, not to mention her ‘choffee cake special’. And, yes, she made the tea and coffee regularly at the insurance office. ‘I have worked in a restaurant.’ Saturday-night waitressing as a teenager at the Funky Chicken Express down the road for a bit of extra cash. ‘And I have managed several staff.’ Where was this coming from? She had trained another waitress in the art of wiping down tables. Though, she had filled in that weekend for her friend Kirsty at her sandwich bar, when Kirsty’s boyfriend went AWOL.
Ellie thought that had planted the seed. She’d loved those two days prepping the food, making up tasty panini combinations – her brie, grape and cranberry had been a hit. She’d warmed to the idea of running her own company after that, spent hours daydreaming about it, something that involved food, baking ideally, being her own boss. That, and her nanna’s inspiration, of course, lovely Nanna. Ellie remembered perching on a stool in her galley kitchen beating sponge-mix with a wooden spoon. Nanna had left her over a thousand pounds in her will – it would give Ellie the chance to cover this lease for a couple of months. Give her the time to try and make a go of it. She was sure Nanna would have supported her in this venture. Ellie would have loved to have turned up at her flat for a good chat about the tearooms and her ideas to make the business work, over a cup of strong tea and a slice of homemade lemon drizzle. But someone else was living there now, the world had moved on, and Nanna too. She really missed her.

Ellie managed to smile across at Lord Henry, realising she ought to say more but not quite sure what. How did you capture those dreams in words?
‘And if you did take on the lease for the tearooms, Miss Hall, how would you propose to take the business forward?’

‘Well . . .’ Think, think, you’ve been practising answers all night, woman. ‘I’ve had a look at the current income and expenditure figures, and I’m certain there’s room for improvements. I’d bake all my own cakes and scones. I’ll look carefully at pricing, staffing levels, costs and the like, offering good-quality food at a fair price for the customer, and keeping an eye on making a profit too. But, most of all, I want to give people a really positive, friendly experience so they’d want to come back . . . And, I’d like to try and source local produce.’
Lord Henry raised a rather hairy grey eyebrow. It sounded stilted, even to her.
At that, there was a brusque knock on the door. It swung open. ‘So sorry I’m late.’ A man strolled in. Wow, he was rather gorgeous, in a tall, dark-haired and lean kind of way. He offered an outstretched hand to Ellie as he walked past her chair and acknowledged Lord Henry. He looked late twenties, possibly early thirties. ‘There was a problem with the tractor,’ he offered, by way of explanation, ‘She needs a major service, but I’ve got her going again for now.’
He had a firm grip, long fingers and neat nails.
‘Miss Hall, this is Joseph Ward, our estate manager.’
‘Hello.’ Ellie smiled nervously. Another interrogator.

The younger man looked back at her with dark-brown eyes, his gaze intent, as though he were trying to suss her out. Then his features seemed to soften, ‘Joe, I prefer Joe.’ A pointed glance was exchanged between the two men. Ellie sensed a certain tension, which had nothing to do with her. Joe sat down, angling his seat to the side of the desk. There was something about him that reminded her of the guy off Silent Witness, hmm, yes, that Harry chap, from the series before, with his dark-haired English-gentleman look. He must be over six foot, on the slim side, but not without a hint of muscle beneath his blue cotton shirt, which was rolled up to the elbow and open at the neck. He looked smart-scruffy all at once.

‘Sorry if I interrupted you there. Please carry on where you left off.’ His voice wasn’t upper class despite his appearance, having the Geordie lilts of her home town. He smiled at her.
On closer inspection she noted that his eyes were a deep brown with flecks of green. Her mind had gone blank. What the hell had she been talking about?
‘Local produce?’ Lord Henry prompted.

‘Oh, yes, I’d certainly look to use the local farmers’ markets and shops to source good local food.’
‘Hmn, sounds a good idea,’ Joe nodded.

‘Well, Mrs Charlton, the lady who’s been running the tearooms announced her departure rather suddenly,’ Lord Henry took up, ‘She’s had the lease here for the past twelve years and we were rather hoping she would be back to start the season again in a month’s time. With Easter being at the end of March this year, we would need somebody quickly. Would that be a problem for you?’
‘No, at least I don’t think so. I’d hand my notice in at work straight away. I’m meant to give a month, but the company owes me some holiday, and I believe they are usually quite flexible.’ Did that actually mean Lord Henry was interested in her? What about Supercook Cynthia from earlier?
‘So, what is your current position, Ellie?’ Joe looked right into her eyes as he spoke, unsettling her. He wasn’t going to miss a trick, was he? Damn, and it all seemed to be going so well.
Deep breath, how to phrase this one? ‘Ah-m, well, I have been working as an insurance administrator. But, as I was explaining to Lord Henry, I have been building up my experience in the catering industry over many years. My friend owns a bistro, where I regularly help out.’ Fill in sandwich bar here. ‘And I have worked at a local restaurant.’ Funky Chicken, as a waitress, the heckler in her mind added. She was losing her nerve rapidly.
‘I see.’ Joe was mulling her words over, rubbing his fingertips across his chin, definitely unconvinced.

‘Ah, right. Well then. I see.’ Lord Henry was cooling too.
‘And what formal qualifications do you have in catering, Ellie?’ Joe.
She began to feel sick. None, I have none. Her voice came out small, ‘I haven’t anything formal other than the standard health and hygiene requirements.’ Liar, liar pants on fire. Well, she’d be getting those as soon as possible. ‘Much as I’d have loved to, I haven’t trained professionally as a chef.’ A lump stuck in her throat. She knew she shouldn’t have come, what had she been thinking? The dream was slipping away . . .

‘But,’ she had to grasp at something, tell them how much this meant to her, ‘I want this more than anything. The admin, the insurance role, that’s just a job, a means
of earning money. But I’m passionate about my baking. I cook fabulous cakes and pastries and scones. That’s not just me saying it, either, my family, my friends are always asking me to bake for them. I can make soups and quiches. I’ve wanted to run my own tearooms since I was a little girl.’ The words were gushing out now. ‘Just give me a year. Give me this season and I’ll show you. I can turn the business around, pay you a good lease, and attract more people to the castle to do the tours that I notice you do. We could plan themed open days. I could cook medieval-style food,’ She wasn’t even sure what kind of food ‘medieval’ might be. ‘Try cream-tea afternoons. Link up with local charities, host a fundraiser, a summer fete. Halloween, why not? It looks spooky enough here.’ She ran out of steam then.

Joe was giving her a wry smile. She wasn’t sure if he liked what he heard or was thinking that she was totally bonkers. Where had all that come from? She hadn’t actually thought of any of it till now; it certainly wasn’t what she’d been rehearsing in her head all night. Some last-ditch chance at getting hired, probably. A final fling at her dream or else it was back home. Home wasn’t so bad, to be fair. Her mum and dad were great, but it was a narrow life, living in a brick-built semi in Heaton, and working in an office block in the suburbs of Newcastle. She couldn’t afford her own place. Well, not now anyway. That particular dream had been ransacked by
Gavin-bloody-tosser-Mason. She needed this so badly, this new start. And a castle, surely, wasn’t a bad place to begin.


If you love baking, romance, and following a part of life belonging to one woman who is striving for her dreams, then The Cosy Teashop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts is the book for you! Full of delicious cake, one dreamy man, and a stunning castle setting, I adored this book. My full review will follow very soon, but until then, I hope you enjoyed the extract!

About the author

Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make me smile. I love writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. I also like to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of flirty fun too! I believe in following your dreams and working hard towards them, which led me to Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and a publishing deal (woop!) after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is my home – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that have inspired my writing.

You can find Caroline Roberts on Twitter | carolinerobertswriter.blogspot.co.uk








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