Review: The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts

tea shop on lavender lane by sheila robertsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Life in Icicle Falls, #5
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: July 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When it comes to men, sisters don’t share!

After a fake food poisoning incident in L.A., Bailey Sterling’s dreams of becoming a caterer to the stars collapse faster than a soufflé. Now Bailey’s face is in all the gossip rags and her business is in ruins. But the Sterling women close ranks and bring her back to Icicle Falls, where she’ll stay with her sister Cecily.

All goes well between the sisters until Bailey comes up with a new business idea—a tea shop on a charming street called Lavender Lane. She’s going into partnership with Todd Black, who—it turns out—is the man Cecily’s started dating. It looks to Cecily as if there’s more than tea brewing in that cute little shop. And she’s not pleased.

Wait! Isn’t Cecily seeing Luke Goodman? He’s a widower with an adorable little girl, and yes, Cecily does care about him. But Todd’s the one who sends her zing-o-meter off the charts. So now what? Should you have to choose between your sister and the man you love (or think you love)?

My Review:

I always enjoy visiting Icicle Falls, no matter who is being romanced. This small-town feels like a great place to visit, and the town it’s based on, Leavenworth, Washington, is not just real but really close to Seattle.

In addition to the chance to go back to Icicle Falls, The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane also provides the opportunity to catch up with the Sterling women. Samantha Sterling and the Sweet Dreams Chocolate Factory got their HEA in Better Than Chocolate (reviewed here), but now it’s her younger sisters Cecily and Bailey’s turns to find their own happiness.

Better than Chocolate by Sheila RobertsCecily has been working at Sweet Dreams since the first story; she’s found her niche as head of the marketing department. Her successful campaigns have helped to put Sweet Dreams and Icicle Falls back on the map, and into the black, in spite of the recession.

The one part of her life that Cecily hasn’t found a plan for is her love life. She’s attracted to two eligible men in town, Luke Goodman and Todd Black. Luke really is a good man, he’s the factory manager at Sweet Dreams and a loving single father. His first marriage was a success, but enough time has passed since his wife’s death that he is ready to try again, and he wants to try again with Cecily.

But as much as Cecily likes Luke, she can’t help but be attracted to bad-boy Todd Black, owner of the testosterone soaked local bar, the Man Cave. Todd’s been chasing Cecily ever since he hit town, and he’s decided that it’s time to make his move.

Cecily (and Samantha’s) younger sister Bailey throws a spanner into everyone’s plans. Bailey returns to Icicle Falls with her tail between her legs, after her attempt to run a catering company in LA is wrecked by one starlet’s food-poisoning publicity stunt.

Bailey needs a job. She needs more than that, she needs a way to get her confidence back. And she needs to work with food again, to get back on the horse that threw her.

It just so happens that Todd Black is much more of an entrepreneur than anyone, especially Cecily, gives him credit for. And he just so happens to own a property in central Icicle Falls that would be perfect for a Tea Room, with just a bit of sweat equity and repair.

Todd has just what Bailey needs. Except that Cecily has decided that he has just what she needs, admittedly in a much more personal way. So while Todd and Cecily are trying to take their relationship to the next level, Todd and Bailey are discovering just how much fun they can have building a business together.

Meanwhile, Luke Goodman is watching from the sidelines, hoping for his chance to convince Cecily that they belong together after all.

Escape Rating B: As is usual in the Icicle Falls series, the romance (or romances) take a backseat to the small town/family story.

We have more than a love triangle in this one, we have a love quadrangle. Luke loves Cecily. Cecily can’t make up her mind between Luke and Todd, to the point where everyone in town is confused about which one she’s dating. Then Todd starts falling for Bailey, and vice-versa.

Part of Cecily’s romantic confusion is that Luke is the steady and sensible man she should want, while Todd is the bad-boy that every girl wants to reform. Or at least that’s Cecily’s perception.

The reality is that Todd isn’t nearly as bad a boy as he seems. That Cecily can’t figure that out is proof positive that they aren’t meant for each other. However, Todd and Bailey’s mutual attraction brings out the possessive bitch in Cecily. Cecily has so many insecurities, particularly about Bailey, that she doomed the relationship before it had a chance to begin. Which it shouldn’t have.

The fallout makes the town choose sides, and causes a family rift. It isn’t until Luke finally sweeps Cecily off her feet that the sisters are able to make peace. The romance in this one is very messy.

There’s an intended message here, that men may or may not stick around, but sisters are forever. I think there was a second one about listening to that little voice that tells you something is not a good idea. Cecily knows that Todd isn’t right for her, but she can’t resist the lure. At the same time, she won’t let herself move the relationship forward, because there are just so many things about him she wants to change.

Bailey likes Todd just as he is. It helps that she sees all of him, the entrepreneur and the hard worker, and not just the bad boy image he projects. Which may be another message about falling in love with the real person, and not thinking you’re going to change them.

It was great to see the Sterling sisters get their own HEAs, and it’s always a treat to visit Icicle Falls. I can’t wait to go back in The Lodge on Holly Road!

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