Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Fate can be written in a tea bag too.
Mark Johnson is hitting his forties and is stuck in a rut.
He’s had the same boring office job for ten years, with no motivation or inclination to change it. The same crumbling house for ten years, with no cash or know-how to fix it. And the same Facebook status for five years—it’s complicated. It isn’t. He’s single. He just doesn’t want to correct it. That would be admitting defeat.
The day a tea bag splats onto his face whilst he’s emptying the dregs of his morning cuppa at Macy’s Tea Shoppe is the one that makes him question each of his current life choices…the tea bag and that the shop is currently being run by one rather friendly, rather hunky, but rather young Australian named Bradley Summers.
Tea has never tasted so good. The very best part of this book Mark’s inner musings. He is pretty much a mess – stuck in a job that is going nowhere, in a house that is falling apart around his ears, listening to a mother who is just vile, and really only having one really good thing he can depend on. Tea. “Tea. There was the answer to everything. Everything.” It is this good thing that leads him to Macy’s Tea Shoppe, owned by his one real friend in the world, Macy.
“Macy was possibly the only one in Mark’s life who seemed to accept him for who he was.” He is 39 and sometimes talks like he is 79. “…services we have to offer such a young whippersnapper like yourself.”
When he finds out his roof has to be fixed and he doesn’t have the money to do so, he sets off for Macy’s to drown his sorrows in tea. After basically venting his spleen to Macy in the back of the shop, it turns out the one listening isn’t Macy, but her young cousin, Bradley. Bradley, the Australian Adonis who is covering for Macy while she is with her parents and who happens to be a stripper. A 21-year-old free spirit stripper. The Adonis who forgets to take the tea bag out of the cup he serves Mark, which splats onto Mark’s face. And so they meet.
Most of the story is Mark trying to find reasons why he can’t be with Bradley, why Bradley doesn’t really want to be with him, why friends only is the way to go and how he can ignore the longings of his own heart. Someone has done a real number on Mark and he has lost all self confidence and sense of self worth.
Bradley is sunny, sweet and YouTube famous as a stripper. He believes in reading tea leaves, of all things and he is all about adventure and living life to the fullest. He is also in England short term. Mark doesn’t want to have anything with Bradley. Especially when he remembers Bradley is Macy’s cousin. It’s complicated.
Some times Mark just made me laugh. His fear sent him to the attic of his house to confront some old ghosts, after having sex with Bradley. “It seemed for the second time that evening he was going to enter into a hole that scared the utter crap out of him.”
As secondary characters, Macy is really supportive and likeable but Damian steals the show. He and Mark have a physical history but now are just friends and Damian is a good one. He styles Mark to get him out of the frump and pushes him to understand how good he is. I really hope Damian gets a story, he deserves one.
Mark’s parents are complicated beings, Dad lost all their money gambling in a mid-life crisis and Mom does whatever necessary to maintain appearances. One of the most poignant scenes I’ve read in recent times is Mark’s conversation with his dad about dad’s regrets. It was so heart breaking.
The ending is very rom-com and was very sweet and funny, if over the top.
Cover art is really pretty spot on with the blond Adonis and the tea loving Mark.