Cafe Tropicana – Belinda Jones

Ana Langston has dreamed of opening her own cafe and finally musters up the courage to bid on what would be her ideal location for her cafe, only to be outbid at the last moment. However, opportunity arrives in the form of her estranged father, who has recently got married without inviting his own daughter to the wedding. He offers her the chance to run her own coffee shop in Costa Rica, the chance of a lifetime, but there is a catch…Soon Ava has to contend with the moody Santiago, one of her father’s employees, and a romantic distraction in the form of extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan. For so long, troubles in life and love have made her focus on what she truly wants out of life – can she find it in Costa Rica?

 

For me, this is one of Jones’ weaker reads. I thought that the attempt to psychoanalyse Ava and Kiki’s lives based on their childhood was a bit odd and not executed properly. The ending still doesn’t resolve all these problems. Some of the business planning was a bit tedious and slowed down the pace of the story. I did like the romance between Santiago (although he still remained a bit of a mystery by the end of the book) and Ava, which played out well. Ollie was a humourous character too, I wish he was in the book more! 3 stars

The California Club – Belinda Jones

It has been some time since they have last seen each other but the Brighton Belles are reuniting! It starts off with Lara, Zoe, Sasha and Elliot (plus one unwanted girlfriend) meeting at the airport as they are about to embark on a trip to the sunny shores of California. Things have changed since they last met: Zoe craves celebrity stardom, Sasha is confused as to whether she is more than a pretty face and struggling to find any meaning to her life, and Lara has been in love with Elliot for 10 years and counting. However, Elliot is getting married to the highly strung Elise…Lara is also contemplating wehther to sell her mother’s cherished B and B, which holds fond memories for her and her friends.

When the four meet fifth member Helen they are amazed at how much she ahs changed from the practical and serious woman to the carefree and content Californian chick that now stands before them, and it is all thanks to the California Club, Helen hints at mysteriously. Soon the four friends and Elise are intrigued and get involved with the California Club, which forces them to face us to their problems, and realise their dreams…

I thought that this was a hilarious and sassy read, and Lara made a fantastic main character, although her B and B story felt a bit misplaced. The bonds between the five friends are so strong and believable that it really adds to the story. I also liked Joel: cocky, arrogant but kind, and I thought he would have made a better fit for Lara rather than Elliot, a guy who has been so blind for the last 10 years (and counting) that his best friend harbours feelings for him. He later confesses that he had feelings for her but his explanation that he wanted to get the “bad relationships” out of the way before he declared his true feelings for her was a bit bizarre. Elliot makes a nice friend but as a romantic hero, he was quite cowardly and irritating.

From the two novels by Jones that I have read, both set in California, the emphasis is on the heroine ending up with the man who she has always loved, rather than any prospective partners that crop up along the way. In California Dreamers, although it was strange, I embraced the reunion of Jonathan and Stella, but here, I was wanting Lara to move on from the man she has wasted 10 years over only to get nothing during that time. However, I am growing to admire Belinda Jones as a writer – her style is great, striking a perfect balance between tenderness, emotion and humour without being too crass. The California Club was another great read of hers although I didn’t like the ending. 4 stars (despite Elliot).

California Dreamers by Belinda Jones

Stella is nursing a broken heart after boyfriend Jonathan chooses the Navy over her. Unable to let go of the past, she is offered a make-up artist job for famous actress, Marina Ray, in California, and the two of the become good friends. Yet, can leaving her old life really help her to move on, and does Stella really want to move on in the first place?

This is a great, witty story with a very likeable main character in Stella, and you really want her to find happiness as she starts her journey to find out what she really wants from life. It could be argued that she never moves on from her past relationship, but in the end, her journey leads her to find out what is most important in life, and it is truly interesting to read. California Dreamers provides a great insight into the world of Hollywood, the pressures of enlisting in the Navy and how a love so strong can withstand any barriers. The characters that Stella meets are fascinating too, especially Bodie the dog! My only gripe is the sudden change in Milo, who changes from dream guy who seems to genuinely have feelings for Stella to a drunken playboy only interested in a fling. This change seems very sudden, and paves the way for a predictable, although lovely, ending.

All in all, California Dreamers is a dream of a story! 4 stars!