Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.
Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.
When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that.
Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?
I really enjoyed Jessica Redlands’s 2017 Christmas books, Charlee and the Chocolate Shop and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, so it was a delight to be back on Castle Street in the seaside town of Whitsborough Bay for another festive season.
Tara has appeared briefly in the previous Christmas on Castle Street books, so it was interesting to learn more about her. And, my word, what a story she has to tell!
With a past full of loss, betrayal, grief, anger and deep sadness, there’s a lot more to Tara than I ever imagined. She’s certainly seen more than her fair share of heartbreak, and it’s no wonder that she no longer lets anyone into her life, preferring to keep other people at arm’s length.
Tara’s life revolves around her successful business, the gloriously named Chocolate Pot Café, and around her housemate, Hercules the giant house rabbit. Yes, you read that right. When I was little, we had a giant rabbit and he was adorable, so I could well picture Hercules, and I loved that Tara shared her home with him. She certainly needed someone to talk to and confide in!
Don’t think, though, that this book is all angst and hand-wringing, because it’s not. Far from it. There’s plenty of the warmth and humour that have become Jessica Redland’s trademark. Tara goes on a journey of discovery that is uplifting and joyful to see, and she’s supported along the way by a whole host of characters that are all too ready to welcome her into their lives, if she’ll only have the courage to let them in.
There is a gentle romance simmering in the background, but this story is about far more than that. This is a story of a woman who has been let down, deceived, and has suffered terrible loss, learning to open her heart again and trust in people. A perfect story for this special time of year.
A truly heartwarming and deliciously festive trip back to Castle Street. I hope we’ll be invited back again next Christmas!